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Letter from Africa: How ‘cheating husbands’ are linked to Sudan’s protests

In our series of letters from African journalists, Zeinab Mohammed Salih explores how women in Sudan are using a Facebook group about love to expose alleged abuse amid anti-government protests.

Unprecedented numbers of women are taking to the streets to join daily nationwide protests that erupted in mid-December.

Despite a violent crackdown by the security forces and reports of sexual harassment, they remain undeterred.

More than 50 people are thought to have died at the hands of security agents and many have been tortured, rights groups say.

Yet women make up 70% of marchers at some protests, observers say, defiant in the face of the repressive laws of the conservative, Islamic state.

Zeinab Mohammed Salih quote: "NISS agents have started to wear face masks in an effort to avoid identification and ostracisation"

They all wear headscarves in compliance with the country’s Public Order Act, which regulates what women should wear – they can, for example, be flogged for wearing clothes such as trousers that are considered indecent.

Hair cut with razorblades

But a 23-year-old graduate told me how her headscarf was ripped off when she was detained on 31 January by security agents at a protest in the capital, Khartoum.

“They cut the bun off my head with a razorblade and they threatened me with rape when I was taken in their truck from downtown Khartoum,” Jode Tariq said.

What happens inside Sudan’s secret detention centres?
What happens inside Sudan’s secret detention centres?

A 24-year-old related a similar incident in Khartoum earlier in January.

“They cut my hair along with another woman at an unknown location used as a detention centre,” Afraa Turky said.

Female journalists Shamael al-Nnoor and Durra Gambo, who were both arrested for covering the protests over the last month, said some young women they met while in custody told them they had been sexually abused by security agents.

And dozens of other women thrown into jail have not been heard from since their detention.

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Sudan’s Public Order laws

  • The law is Article 152 of the Criminal Code and applies to “indecent acts” in public
  • This can include wearing an “obscene outfit” or “causing an annoyance to public feelings”
  • Women must wear a headscarf and cannot wear trousers
  • Between 40,000 and 50,000 women are arrested and flogged every year by public order police because of their clothing
  • Women have also be charged under this law for being alone with a man
  • People can also be charged for drinking alcohol under these laws
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But women are fighting back against these alleged abuses using a private all-women Facebook group that was set up three years ago to identify cheating husbands and follow their crushes.

Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) is behind the brutal response to the demonstrations that started in the eastern city of Atbara initially in response to a hike in bread prices.

Now photos taken at protests of suspected NISS agents are shared in the group, called Minbar-Shat, which in Sudanese Arabic means “Extreme Love”.

If anyone is able to identify or knows anything about them – they share these details, sometimes even giving names, addresses and phone numbers. This has led to some protesters writing graffiti on houses saying a known NISS agent lives there.

‘Don’t look at me’

The Sudanese authorities have tried to block social media in the country, but the women bypass the blockade by using Virtual Private Networks (VPN), which can hide a user’s location.

A Sudanese protester carries a portrait of President Omar al-Bashir with Arabic writing that reads "Down and that is all" during an anti-government demonstration east of the capital Khartoum on 9 February 2019
Protesters angered with rising prices want President Bashir to step down

So successful has the strategy been that NISS agents have started to wear face masks in an effort to avoid identification and ostracisation.

Some protesters have told me that when they were arrested they were forced to look down towards the ground for hours.

One said, “I was beaten on my head with a stick because I accidentally looked up and he told me, ‘Do you want to take my pictures to Minbar-Shat? Don’t look at me.'”

The protesters themselves also have to wear masks but for different reasons.

They get them from pharmacies to avoid the bad smelling tear gas usually thrown at them during the protests.

Minbar-Shat is now active in posting on Toyota’s Facebook page informing the company about the use of their cars in Sudan by NISS members to arrest and sometimes run over protesters.

U-turn over dress laws?

Sudan’s poor record on women’s rights is well documented, with Human Rights Watch saying the security forces have often used sexual violence and intimidation to silence women.

Women protesters in Omdurman, Sudan
Many protesters now wear masks too because of the tear gas

Ten days ago a group of women were raped by a government militia at a camp for internally displaced people in northern Darfur, where the UN says rape has been used as a weapon of war during the conflict that began more 13 years ago to demand greater political and economic rights for communities in the region.

According to the No To Women Oppression group, thousands of women get arrested and flogged each year by the police for wearing indecent clothes or simply for being out with men.

President Omar al-Bashir holds his arms aloft in Sudan while addressing supporters
President Bashir, seen addressing supporters last week, has led Sudan for nearly 30 years

Interestingly, President Omar al-Bashir, who has led a hardline administration since coming to power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has softened his language about the Public Order laws.

The 75-year-old sees their harsh implementation as the reason for the protests and says they are too strict an interpretation of Sharia.

This is indeed a turnaround as he defended the law vociferously in 2010 when there was an outcry over a video on social media showing a woman screaming as she was whipped for wearing trousers.

But his words, spoken during a recent meeting with newspaper editors, seem unlikely to be able to douse the flames.

Ms Tariq and Ms Turky, who both had their hair cut by agents last month, insist they will not stop protesting until Mr Bashir leaves office.

Nigeria election 2019: Who benefits from poll delay?

“Ad hoc observers”, like these in Adamawa, will have to be in place for the rescheduled election

Nigeria is to hold a delayed presidential election this Saturday after the initial vote was rescheduled in a dramatic overnight press conference, five hours before polls were due to have opened.

The last-minute cancellation surprised the country and inconvenienced thousands of Nigerians who had travelled a long way to cast their votes. It has also cost the economy $1.5bn (£1.15bn), according to the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) has given several reasons for the delay, including attempted sabotage and logistical issues such as bad weather and problems with delivering the ballot papers.

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Election in numbers

  • 84 million registered voters
  • 51% of the electorate under the age of 35
  • 73 registered presidential candidates
  • 120,000 polling stations
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The governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and its main challenger, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have both condemned the postponement and accused each other of trying to manipulate the vote.

So does the delay favour anyone?

In a statement issued on the day of the postponement, the APC alleged the PDP wanted to halt the momentum of its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP, whose presidential contender is Atiku Abubakar, on the other hand said Inec had delayed the election to create “the space to perfect their rigging plans”.

According to Idayat Hassan, from Abuja-based think tank, the Centre for Democracy and Development, the week-long extension is too brief to have a significant influence on the result of the presidential vote.

President Muhammadu Buhari (l) is expected to face a strong challenge from Atiku Abubakar (r)

She compares the latest postponement to the one in 2015, when the PDP – in government at the time – pushed the election back by six weeks, blaming the Boko Haram insurgency in the north-east. That postponement, she says, ended up favouring the APC because it cast the PDP in a negative light – as a party that would pursue “power at all costs”.

She believes this year’s delay could slightly benefit the APC as it would increase voter apathy in most areas except those with historically high turnouts – “the north-west and the north-east… both strongholds of President Muhammadu Buhari”.

Nigerian men examine a newspaper after the postponement

The postponement took the Nigerian press and public by surprise

Other analysts say the postponement is likely to harm both parties equally, as their supporters who had travelled home to vote last week will be unable to make another journey this weekend.

Another view holds that the delay will harm Mr Buhari’s chances, as the electoral commission’s un-readiness reflects poorly on him. The commission’s chief, Mahmood Yakubu, was appointed by Mr Buhari in 2015.

Will the election definitely take place this Saturday?

Inec says there will be no further delays, but some observers have questioned whether the elections will go ahead on 23 February. Festus Mogae, a former president of Botswana, told the BBC’s Newsday programme that he was doubtful that all the preparations would be completed.

“It’s a great deal of work yet to be done,” the head of the international election observation mission said.

“I don’t know whether that can be managed or not, I am not in a position to judge but it makes me apprehensive.”

Supporters of President Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria

It is unclear if the delay will help or hinder Mr Buhari’s chances

And the former vice-president of The Gambia, Fatoumata Tambajang, said she too had doubts about whether Inec could meet its new deadline.

“One has to be realistic given the enormity of the activities that are supposed to be taken care of,” she said.

The PDP’s Atiku Abubakar has complained about the delayed vote – as has his rival

As well as overcoming logistical hurdles, she said popular enthusiasm for the electoral process would have to be restored to where it was until last week’s cancellation.

What does the election commission say?

For Inec, keeping to the new date is central to maintaining the public’s trust. Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the resident electoral commissioner for the capital, Abuja, told the BBC there would be “pandemonium” if election materials were not deployed in time.

“People will just think that Inec has hidden them deliberately, so we can dock some of the results,” he said.

Voters here discussed the election last week, but will they be as excited about the rescheduled vote?

The business community has also stressed the importance of avoiding further delays, with the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry warning that economic activity would not pick up until the election had been held.

What happens next?

The first task is to reconfigure some 180,000 card readers that are being used to validate voters’ identity cards and check their biometric details. The dates on the readers need to be changed to the new election date.

In a statement, Inec said this process would take five to six days, and is due to be completed by Thursday 21 February.

Some sensitive election materials, including ballot papers, have been returned to the Central Bank of Nigeria for safekeeping. These are scheduled to be deployed around the country by Friday 22 February, at the latest.

Election staff, including an estimated one million so-called ad-hoc staff, will also be travelling then. It is unclear what happened to the staff and volunteers, including members of the country’s youth corps, that had already been deployed last Friday.

By law, all campaigning must end 24 hours before polling stations open. After initially saying that the ban imposed last week would remain in force, Inec went back on its decision on Monday, allowing political parties to resume campaigning this week.

APC issues 6 queries to INEC, denies calling for staggered elections, in Nigeria”:

The ruling All Progressives Congress APC has issued six queries to the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC following the postponement of the general elections by the electoral umpire.

From left: Mr. Remi Ibirogba, 

Commissioner, Information and Strategy, Gov. Babatunde Fashola of Lagos and Mr. Lateef Raji, Special Adviser on Information and Strategy, during the Governor’s Press briefing on Ebola Virus, at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos. Photo: Bunmi Azeez

This was as the party denied allegations by the Peoples Democratic Party PDP that it was pressuring the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC into staggering the general elections.

The position of the party was disclosed during a news conference addressed by its Director of Election Planning and Monitoring, Babatunde Raji Fashola and that of Contact and Mobilization, Hadiza Bala-Usman Sunday evening in Abuja

Both directorates had met at the Buhari Campaign Council headquarters to fine-tune its strategies in the face of the postponement of the polls by INEC.

Addressing the media, Fashola threw several posers at the electoral umpire.

“As a result of the common pain shared by us all, we, the Directorate of Election Planning and Monitoring, and Contact and Mobilization on behalf of APC Campaign Council, demand greater openness and transparency in the Commission’s preparations ahead of Saturday 23rdFebruary 2019.

“We believe that members of the public should know what steps INEC have taken with CBN to assess, take inventory of materials and brief the public about what their condition is;

“The status of INEC’s plans to procure and provide materials for election and in particular let Nigerians know if all materials required are in country and if not what plans the commission has to ensure that they are.

“INEC’s plans to re-deploy and distribute materials ahead of Saturday 23rd 2019.

“The specific problems INEC encountered in the failed attempt of Saturday 16thFebruary 2019 and measures it has taken to overcome them?

“What transport logistics and further materials INEC require in terms of vehicles, boats, trucks, airplanes, helicopters, manpower and funding INEC requires to execute the elections of February 23rd and March 9th.

“Confirmation that the configuration of the card readers will be completed in readiness of Saturday 23rd 2019.

“In addition to all of these, we believe that INEC should brief Nigerians daily on an ongoing basis until this process is concluded. This is one way to elicit the buy-in of Nigerians that INEC is serious and this will replace disappointment with enthusiasm”, he stated.

Fashola added that APC’s “disappointment is doubled due to the fact that unlike some who were apparently privy to this postponement in advance, we found out alongside the public a few hours before the polls opened.

“To the stranded youth corpers we empathise with you. To the voters and volunteers who have travelled at great cost to cast their votes, we empathise with you. To party agents and our party faithful we empathise with you.

“Our sympathies go to all those people and we urge them not to despair. However, we Nigerians are a determined and resilient people and we will not let the shortcomings of INEC deter us from exercising our franchise”.

Tackles PDP

On allegations that the APC was coercing INEC to stagger the elections, Fashola said; “I think that is not a responsible and credible allegation to make. APC does not conduct elections. We go by the rules as set by the electoral umpire”.

On his part, Chief Press Secretary to the National Chairman of APC, Simon Egbebulem said the ruling party would wait to punish the PDP at the polls.

“That is the height of irresponsibility and desperation on the part of the PDP to make such stupid allegation. The entire world was at the venue where the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole expressed his disappointment very sincerely before the chairman of the INEC over the postponement of the election. President Muhammadu Buhari did the same.

But we will not dissipate energy in responding to the PDP allegation because we await them at the polls. We all were in this country when under the PDP government the then President ordered the Chairman of the INEC to postpone the election. But in this case we saw a situation where the INEC decided to postpone election on their own based on the excuses they enumerated.

APC can never be like the fraudulent PDP which is the root of the problems which the APC led administration is cleaning up”, he said.

Why I kicked against my wife’s third term — TINUBU. In Nigeria

NATIONAL leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu has revealed how some influential members in the Lagos APC Governor’s Advisory Council, GAC, upturned one of his critical decisions not to return his wife, Remi, for a third term in the Senate.

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu addressing his guests during the events to mark the 10th Bola Tinubu Colloquium that commemorates the 66th Birthday celebration of Asiwaju Tinubu at the Eko Hotel and Towers, Victoria Island, Lagos. Photo by Abayomi Adeshida 29/03/2018

Tinubu, explained that the “coup” was hatched prelude to the conduct of the last primary elections across the 245 wards of the 20 Local Government Areas in the state, last year.

He said this while addressing party leaders and members at a stakeholders’ meeting, prior to the postponed Presidential and National Assembly polls, at Police College, Play-Ground, Ikeja in Lagos.

Tinubu, who was reacting to the allegations  of imposition levelled against him, said some of his decisions are also being influenced by leaders in the party.

He said: “Let me tell the story of how Bayo Osinowo, APC Senatorial candidate for Lagos East emerged (displacing incumbent Senator Gbenga Ashafa). I was still thinking on the way to go for the primaries.

“I told them, we will not follow the third term syndrome. No candidate will go for a third term which also affected my wife Remi. I did not want her to go for a third term. But Prince Tajudeen Olusi, leader of the GAC and some members led the coup against that decision. I told them I wanted my wife back at home but they insisted that I must listen to them. And after much argument, I conceded and said I will obey you. That was how Remi got the APC third term ticket.

“Now coming to the East, (where Ashafa was also bidding to go for the third term and eventually lost out to Osinowo) I was contemplating on who could be our candidate when Kaoli Olusanya led leaders from Ikorodu to my house saying they have resolved to send Bayo Osinowo to the Senate for the East Senatorial District and that was it.”

He said the clarification became necessary following series of allegations of imposition of candidates levelled against him in some quarters, particularly, from the opposition parties.

To achieve victory at the poll, Tinubu announced the setting up of a Special Taskforce to take public complaints, mobilization, and monitoring of the exercise.

Tinubu, also urged the special taskforce, executives of the party to embark on final reconciliation of all aggrieved members through series of meetings in order to have a consolidated electoral victory across board.

Liberia gold mine collapse: Dozens arrested at ‘lawless’ rescue site”:

Liberia is rich in mineral deposits – and full of illicit mines

More than 60 miners, some armed, have been arrested at an illegal gold mine in north-eastern Liberia where around 40 people remain trapped in a collapsed pit, officials have told the BBC.

They “resisted” a team sent to restore order at the site, said Archievego Doe of the disaster management agency.

Another official described the situation as “lawless”.

Rescuers have so far retrieved seven bodies after the walls of the pit caved in on 10 February.

Liberian authorities deployed a team comprising the army, police, immigration and drug enforcement agency officials to the gold field in Nimba county, a major centre for illicit mining.

The immigration services were involved in the operation because some of the illegal miners are foreigners, Mr Doe said.

Thousands of people are believed to work in the mine, near the town of Tapeta.

Aubrey Wehye, the district superintendent of the Tapeta region, said the situation was “lawless”, adding that some of the illegal miners were in possession of “Guinean-made shotguns that they fire all night”.

The illegal miners fear that the government wants to shut down their operations, says the BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh, who is in the capital, Monrovia.

Poverty and a weak economy mean there is no shortage of Liberians willing to risk death in illegal gold mines, our reporter says.

Map of Liberia, showing Nimba county

Miners have been searching for the dead and any survivors using their bare hands. Authorities now plan to use an earthmoving machine to widen the path to the mining pit so that an excavator can reach the site, Mr Doe told the BBC.

He said the number of fatalities was likely to rise.

Zimbabwe flooding: Nine rescued from Kadoma mine shaft”:

The men are reported to have had water up to their necks while they waited in hope of rescuers

Nine illegal miners have been rescued from a gold mine in Zimbabwe days after a burst dam flooded two shafts.

They are reported to have survived by finding higher ground and waiting while up to their necks in water.

Dozens are feared to have died 40m (130ft) underground since the accident happened on Tuesday night.

The government has declared the accident near the town of Kadoma, south-west of the capital Harare, a national disaster.

Miners say those trapped are mostly under the age of 24.

A video taken by a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reporter showed a rescue team cranking a cable system by hand to pull one of the men out, tied to a rescuer.

Hopes for the missing miners had waned during the four days since flooding started, as rescuers had to pump out large amounts of water, slowing their progress.

“We are yet to assess and find any more people down there who are still alive,” government deputy chief mining engineer Tapererwa Paswavaviri told reporters.

ten men carrying one rescued miner past a crowd of onlookers

Nine people were pulled from the mine

The company that owns one of the mines, Rio Zimbabwe, says people entered the shafts illegally to look for gold. Illegal mining accounts for a large part of the country’s gold output.

Heavy rains on Tuesday night then destroyed a dam upstream and caused flooding in the soft ground.

Anxious family members at the scene became frustrated with the slow pace, with one telling Reuters news agency that it was “so painful” to see many rescue workers present but no successful rescues.

Previous mine disasters in other parts of Africa have cost the lives of numerous unauthorised miners.


The miners had entered the shafts illegally to look for gold


Some mine entrances were completely flooded


Rescuers built wooden platforms over unstable and muddy entrances


Family members and other female locals watched the rescue effort

Nigeria election 2019: Appeal for calm after shock delay”:

Electoral commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu announces the move Nigeria’s president and leading opposition candidate have appealed for calm after the shock move to delay elections for a week. President Muhammadu Buhari said he was “deeply disappointed” but urged people to refrain from “civil disorder”. Main rival Atiku Abubakar called for patience but accused the administration of “anti-democratic acts”. Election officials cited “logistical” reasons for the 11th-hour delay in presidential and parliamentary polls. ▪ Atiku Accuses Buhari of Stoking Violence, in Nigeria”:Buhari Mourns Ejoor, Describes Ex-Army Chief as Man of Positive Character”: in Abuja: In a press conference on Saturday, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec), Mahmood Yakubu, said the decision to delay had “nothing to do with political influence”.

How have the political parties reacted?

The two main groups, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), both condemned the move and accused each other of trying to manipulate the vote. President Buhari, of the APC party, urged Nigerians to “refrain from civil disorder and remain peaceful, patriotic and united to ensure that no force or conspiracy derail our democratic development”.
Atiku Abubakar was disappointed but appealed for patience His main rival, Atiku Abubakar, called for calm over the next seven days saying: “I’m appealing to Nigerians to please come out and vote and I’m asking them to be patient about it.” In a tweet he said the administration was trying to disenfranchise the electorate. The chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondu, said the delay was “dangerous to our democracy”, accusing Mr Buhari of trying to “cling on to power even when it’s obvious to him that Nigerians want him out”.

And the voters?

In many cases they reacted with disappointment, frustration and anger. In the northern town of Daura, Musa Abubakar, who had travelled 550km (342 miles) from Abuja to take part in the election, told the BBC that he “couldn’t believe” what had happened. Hajiya Sa’adatu said she was “greatly disappointed” to learn of the delay when she came out to cast her vote in the northern city of Kano.
Nigerians like Hajiya Sa’adatu learned of the news only when they woke up “We spent all night without sleeping hoping to vote today,” Auwolu Usman, a voter in Maiduguri, told Reuters. Oyi Adamezie, in the city of Warri, told Agence France-Presse: “I see this postponement of the election as a ploy to rig.” Yusuf Ibrahim, in Abuja, told Associated Press: “I came all the way from my home to cast my vote this morning… I am not happy, I’m very, very angry.” Election officials bore the brunt of the anger:

So why was voting postponed?

The electoral chief, Mr Yakubu, said: “Our decision was entirely taken by the commission. It has nothing to do with security, nothing to do with political influence.” He said the delay was down to problems with the transportation of electoral materials – ballot papers and results sheets – to some parts of the country. He had earlier said the decision was made because of a “determination to conduct free, fair and credible elections”.

In the past two weeks several Inec offices have been set alight, with thousands of electronic smart card readers and voter cards destroyed. Nigeria has seen violence in the run-up to the elections and on Saturday 11 people were killed in an attack by Boko Haram militants south of Maiduguri.
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Recriminations mixed with patience

By Fergal Keane, BBC Africa editor, Abuja Suspicions of skulduggery, rampant rumour-mongering – and a pre-disposition to suspect the worst based on past experience – are hallmarks of Nigeria’s election season. It is not surprising that some voters expressed their fears that a fix was being organised. The election commission chairman has denied this, citing bad weather and the challenge of getting the necessary resources to the right areas. But as recently as last Wednesday he was assuring Nigerians that the commission was ready for the elections. Recriminations began soon after the announcement. The opposition claimed there was a government plan to create a low turnout that would harm its candidate. But there have been no calls for street protests from the opposition, which is prepared to wait for the polls next Saturday. Importantly, the two main contenders have appealed to their supporters to remain calm.

What happens next?

The presidential and parliamentary votes have been rescheduled for Saturday 23 February. Governorship, state assembly and federal area council elections have been rescheduled until Saturday 9 March. The contest between the two main presidential contenders is expected to be tight. Presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 were also delayed.

How important is this poll?

The future of Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy is at stake.
Nigeria election 2019: Father and daughter discuss the poll Whoever wins will have to address power shortages, corruption, security problems and a sluggish economy. There are 73 registered candidates in the presidential election, but campaigning has been dominated by President Buhari, 76, and Atiku Abubakar, 72. Mr Buhari says he has built a strong foundation for prosperity, but his rival says Nigeria is not functioning. Both men are from the mainly Muslim north of the country. While both are in their 70s, more than half of Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters are under 35.

Breaking News, What happened to APC?

Today, Nigerians go to the polls to give their referendum on the four-year stewardship of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

The party which came on board in 2014, with many promises captivated Nigerians to the extent that for the first time in Nigeria’s political history, an opposition party was able to unseat a ruling party at the federal level. And remarkably, the party was barely two years old when it accomplished the task of unseating a party that was 17 years old and 16 years in power. It was even romantically labelled as the Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC!

How the APC has been able to manage its success will be pronounced at the end of today’s voting.

The APC’s 2015 success was the product of some of the best planned political conspiracies achieved at the highest level. It was laid with much intrigues and careful planning done in meetings in Nigeria, Dubai and sometimes in Saudi Arabia.

When Atiku Abubakar won the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and a week or so after, resorted to Dubai, it bespoke a deliberate strategy of following the APC’s plans before 2015.

When Atiku’s running mate, Peter Obi, Senate President Bukola Saraki and other key strategists of the PDP campaign including some national officers joined up in Dubai in November, it was enough to raise apprehension in the ranks of the APC.

Not surprisingly, when Atiku finally returned to the country on November 13, one of the imaginative strategies of the administration was to search the plane perhaps in anticipation of finding the blueprints of what some APC operatives had taunted as the PDP’s Dubai Strategy.

The plane search was as with some other actions, revealed that the APC had lost the ideological nuances and puritanism that it once espoused.

Such acts as the denial of venues for campaign rallies to opposition parties and the hailing of the use of “remote” technology during elections as Osun were indications that the APC had lost its original motif.

Clear evidence of the loss of bearing was manifested by the defection from its ranks of some of the principal collaborators in its 2015 success. Besides Atiku, the exit of the two presiding officers of the National Assembly, that is Senator Bukola Saraki, and Speaker Yakubu Dogara clearly showed the nadir to which the party had gone.

While the party lost people like Saraki, Dogara, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Alhaji Buba Galadima and such like, it replaced them with people like Senator Godswill Akpabio, Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala among others.

In no time the internal contradictions began to resonate here and there. Party members have called one another thieves, thugs and thrown missiles at one another.

Even more provoking was the renunciation of past principles and precepts that had been enunciated. When Speaker Tambuwal defected from the PDP in November 2014 to the APC, it was hailed as an advance in Nigeria’s democratic culture. It was more so given that both in the United States and Britain that presiding officers of the House of Representatives and parliament are not necessarily from the ruling party.

However, when four years later Saraki defected from the ruling APC to the PDP, the APC considered it as a democratic aberration needing crude intervention to redress. One of the rude responses was the invasion of the National Assembly premises last year by agents of the Department of State Services, DSS, itself a slur on democracy.

Even before then, the party did not see anything wrong with the snatching of the mace of the Senate by thugs working in cahoots with one of its finest legislators!

It is perhaps a thing of irony these days seeing one of the greatest heroes of the fight for democracy in the nineties, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu sitting in conclave with the apologists of dictatorship. Tinubu as governor of Lagos State fought for true federalism using one of the country’s best legal minds, that is Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Not long ago, APC chieftains were in the habit of calling the PDP a party of thieves, but these days such accusations have been severely tempered. After the incident at the party’s presidential campaign rally in Abeokuta earlier this week, and the heated exchanges among party members here and there, there is little energy left to engage the PDP.

Indeed, the joke among some PDP operatives when taunts of the PDP being a haven of looters is to say that the thieves have all left to join the ruling party.

Whether the PDP or the APC can be trusted with power is neither here nor there. The choice for every Nigerian today is to look at candidates at every level and judge for competence, capacity and carriage.

Breaking: Commonwealth,AU, EU, ECOWAS observers hold secret meeting.

Following the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC’s) decision to postpone the 2019 General Elections, the international and local observers for the polls met on Saturday, at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

The meeting, which started at about 11.00am, was held inside the Plateau Ballroom of the hotel.

The meeting, which had in attendance Commonwealth Observer team, EU Observer team, AU Observer team and ECOWAS Observer mission, and others, lasted for about an hour.

Some of the leaders of the local observer groups sighted by newsmen included Mr Clement Nwankwo, Convener, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and Ms. Idayat Hassan, Director, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD).

Others were Mr Auwal Musa-Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Mr Samson Itodo, Executive Director, YIAGA AFRICA, among others.

Shortly after the meeting, correspondents approached the Head, ECOWAS Election Observation Mission and former Liberian President, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, on what the meeting was all about and her reaction to the election postponement.

Johnson-Sirleaf, however, declined to comment saying that newsmen would be briefed later.

”I cannot say anything now. We are still on talks. I will brief you later,” she said.

A copy of the meeting agenda gotten by NAN was titled: ”Meeting of Heads of International Election Observation Missions in Nigeria.”

The agenda read: ”Opening remarks by H.E. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Head of ECOWAS Election Observation Mission and H.E. Hailemariam Desalegn, Head of AU Election Observation Mission.

“Discussion on the issue of postponement of the elections and update on the current political situation.

“Discussion on the way forward; and Any Other Business (AOB).”

Many international and local observers had earlier converged on Nigeria to have independent assessment of the country’s polls and give reports.

Reports have it that INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had, few hours to the Presidential and National Assembly elections, announced the decision of the commission to shift the elections by one week.

Yakubu, who shifted the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Feb. 23, also postponed the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls to March 9.

Five things about Nigeria: The superpower with no power

More than 84 million Nigerians are geared up to vote on 16 February, but what do you know about Africa’s most-populous nation and largest economy?

1) Afrobeats – one of its greatest exports

Nigerian musicians are touring the world and picking up awards at the forefront of the global craze for Afrobeats. This is not to be confused with the late, great Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat (without the s) – Nigeria’s soundtrack to the 1970s and 1980s, which mixed traditional rhythms with funk and jazz.


One of Africa’s richest musicians, Wizkid began singing at the age of 11 in a church choir

These new stars, including Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage and Jidenna, are proving to be some of Nigeria’s biggest exports – so much so that global music giants such as Universal Music Group and Sony have set up offices in the country. Davido’s Fall, released in 2017, is the most popular Nigerian music video ever – clocking up more than 100 million views and counting on YouTube.

“This West African phenomenon is not only dominating the sound of the continent, it has flown into club festivals and radio playlists across the globe,” DJ Rita Ray told the BBC. “Afrobeats is also influencing genres from grime to RnB and music makers from Ed Sheeran to rappers Drake and Stefflon Don, who have all embraced Afrobeats in recent releases. And that’s not to forget British-Nigerian singer, songwriter MNEK, whose writing and production credits include Beyoncé, Dua Lipa, Madonna, Diplo and countless more. Add up all the hits and he’d have more than a billion views on YouTube.”

The sound evolved from Nigerian and Ghanaian Afro-pop music, incorporating genres like hiplife, azonto and dancehall – and it was D’banj’s track Oliver Twist that launched the Afrobeats bandwagon in 2012, getting to number nine in the UK charts, she says.

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Other Nigerian talent to look out for include Afrobeats musicians such as Yemi Alade, Tekno, Falz, Olamide, Simi, Mr Eazi, Mologo and Patoranking. “What makes Afrobeats so compelling is rhythm – Nigerians have always been hot on rhythms, it’s the driving force of their music. Afrobeats takes this forward by stripping back to one of the component parts of their rich polyrhythms,” says Rita Ray.

2) Acclaimed authors

It’s not just music where Nigeria packs a cultural punch – it also boasts some of the world’s greatest writers. Top of the list comes the late Chinua Achebe whose debut novel, Things Fall Apart, has become a classic of post-colonial literature selling more than 20 million copies since its publication in 1958. It has also been translated into 57 languages. Wole Soyinka became the first African to be awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1986 and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road won the coveted Man Booker Prize in 1991.


Chinua Achebe is regarded as the father of African literature

And contemporary writers like Chigozie Obioma, Helon Habila, Chibundu Onuzo Sefi Atta and Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani are keeping up the tradition, to name just a few of those scooping up prizes.

“Nigerians love to be seen and heard. There are probably hundreds of Africans telling amazing stories all over the continent, but Nigerians are getting most of the attention because we are bold and loud,” Nwaubani told the BBC. “We aim to be at the top in everything we do. We make sure that everyone knows whenever we enter the building. Even those of us based in our home country, where there is a dearth of adequate publishing structures, are succeeding in commanding the attention of publishers and readers across the globe.”

Given that Nigerians have a proverb to hand for every occasion, it is no surprise they are such fantastic storytellers, while the country’s thriving multi-million dollar film industry, known as Nollywood, is testament to their love of a dramatic plot. Nigeria’s multitude of ethnicities also adds to the creative mix.

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3) Set to overtake the US

You’re into dangerous territory in Nigeria if you try to establish which ethnic or religious group has the biggest population as it brings to the fore a multitude of rivalries – and tensions over money as the larger a state’s population, the greater the budget allocated by the central government.

Yet there is no denying that Nigeria’s population is growing at a dizzying speed. By 2047 it will have overtaken the US to become the world’s third-largest nation with 387 million people, according to UN projections.

Bar chart showing Nigeria's expected population growth compared with that of the US

It is also a very young nation with more than 40% of the population of 196 million under the age of 14. And young people are set to play a huge role in this election with more than half of registered voters under the age of 35.

The huge growth presents an opportunity for the country with its entrepreneurial spirit as it could in theory take advantage of the economic dividend that a young dynamic population can bring. This is especially true as the workforce in more developed nations is getting older. But it is also a challenge for policy makers.

Young graduates can frequently be heard complaining that there are not enough high-quality jobs available, and many speak about hoping to leave the country.

Looking at population growth in Africa in general, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has warned that without proper planning it could become a political catastrophe.

4) Lots of oil, little electricity

Some would argue that the real soundtrack of Nigeria is not Afrobeats, but the din of diesel generators as most Nigerians, even if they are connected to mains electricity, have to rely on them because power cuts are common. Some areas can go without power for weeks.

This is despite the fact that Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer and currently pumps out around two million barrels a day. The tax revenue the government receives from the industry and the foreign exchange it gets from its export are vital to the economy. Though many Nigerians would be quick to remind you that much of its oil wealth has been squandered over the years.

Make-up artists used phone lights during Lagos Fashion Week in October when the power failed

At one stage Nigerians used to joke that the old state-run power provider Nepa stood for “Never Expect Power Always”. In a bid to overhaul the industry, the state firm was split up and privatised – a process that was completed in November 2013. Yet complaints about unfair billing and blackouts remain constant.

Electricity production has steadily increased since 2000 but it has struggled to keep up with population growth, according to the International Energy Agency. Electricity supply per Nigerian has barely changed since 2005 because the population has grown in that time by approximately 57 million, which is the current population of South Africa.

Just more than half of all Nigerian homes have mains electricity, but there is a big urban-rural divide. More than four out of every five homes in towns and cities have mains power while only a third of homes in the countryside do, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. As well as being the continent’s biggest oil producer, it is also its largest economy, but its power problems have hampered growth.

5) Home of Boko Haram

The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls brought the world’s attention to an Islamist insurgency led by Boko Haram militants. Their kidnapping in 2014 of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, in north-eastern Nigeria, underlined the heart of their cause – opposition to Western-style education.


To date 112 Chibok girls remain missing

The group was founded in 2002 in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where local residents dubbed it Boko Haram, which loosely translated from the region’s Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden”.

Historically, the Muslim rulers of northern Nigeria had resisted direct British colonial rule. But Andrew Walker, author of a book about Boko Haram, “Eat the Heart of the Infidel”, says it has even deeper roots. “There is a long history of Islamic radicalism in northern Nigeria, where two caliphates preceded colonialism,” he told the BBC. “More recently, the notion that corrupt politicians were not Islamic became the springboard for Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf to found Boko Haram.

“The political culture of northern Nigeria, where local politicians court groups like Yusuf’s hoping they can aid them in their political ends, incubated the group in its early days. Even before Yusuf and his followers turned to violence, the Maiduguri establishment worried about the mixing in of a charismatic preacher and his poverty-bound devotees to the pot of corrupt electoral politics.”


Boko Haram released many propaganda videos when it was at its strongest militarily

Mr Yusuf’s death in police custody nearly a decade ago led the group to launch military operations to create an Islamic state. Many thousands of people were kidnapped and recruited into its ranks, and at one stage the group controlled swathes of territory across three state, imposing strict Sharia. At its peak, in 2015, Boko Haram was ranked the world’s deadliest terror group by the Institute for Economics and Peace.

But in the last four years, the military, with international support, has managed to take back control of much of this land and rescued many of those taken hostage. Yet the militants are still proving deadly, with fighters from a Boko Haram faction loyal to Islamic State being behind an upsurge in violence ahead of the elections. And 112 of the Chibok schoolgirls are still missing.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI (APC)Embattled and determined leader

Born in 1942 to a Muslim family in northern Katsina state
Former soldier, led military regime in 1980s, remembered for strictness
Tardy civil servants had to perform frog jumps in public
Won 2015 presidential election, the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent, with promise to beat corruption and Boko Haram insurgents
Told wife she belonged in kitchen after she complained in a BBC interview about his government
After long absence from illness, had to deny rumours that he had been replaced in public by a lookalike

ATIKU ABUBAKAR (PDP)Tycoon and veteran power-broker

Born in 1946 in northern state of Adamawa
Co-owner of multinational oil services company that started life in a Lagos shipping container
Oversaw privatisations during two terms as vice-president.
Fought against corruption charges, describing them as politically motivated
Founded American University which gave scholarships to some of the “Chibok girls” that survived Boko Haram kidnapping
His father, a devout Muslim, was briefly jailed for trying to stop him from attending a Western-style school