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By Democracy, Press ReleaseNo Comments
By Prof. Okechukwu Ibeanu & Idayat Hassan

The 2023 elections will be the seventh consecutive elections since the return to democracy in 1999; making a 23-year period of unbroken democracy, the longest in the country’s short history. The presidential election is scheduled to hold on 25 February 2023 and will not feature the incumbent president for only the second time, while governorship and other subnational polls will hold on 11 March. More than 95 million Nigerians have registered to cast their ballots with key issues for the leading presidential candidates likely to Centre around the economy, prevailing insecurity and corruption. Ironically, these were the same issues that defined the 2015 general election that brought the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari, to power.

This strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis assesses some of the key factors and actors that will shape the 2023 polls. These include a review the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and how it is working within the newly passed legislation that ostensibly provides a more robust legal framework for the conduct of the polls. It also offers a review of prevailing insecurity in all the six geo-political zones of the country and how this is likely to impact voting. Finally, attention is drawn to some of the leading candidates and their main support bases in the country. Whilst not ignoring the issues that are likely to come up in the campaign, this piece looks at issues of religion and misinformation that are likely going to be equally critical in shaping electoral outcomes.

The 2023 election will be conducted with a new electoral framework but with the same leadership of INEC as in 2019. INEC continues to push for increased application of technology to election administration and the new Act provides the legislative backing for a more transparent and robust voting and results management processes, if applied judiciously. But the credibility of the 2023 general election will also depend on the degree to which citizens can vote freely and unencumbered. Insecurity remains a critical issue, particularly in the northwest and southeast. Further challenging this operation are the prevailing structural, infrastructural, and cultural ecosystems in which the polls will take place. Prompt release of the full INEC budget could help in mitigating some of these.

Finally, the role played by the security agencies, and subsequently by the judiciary, may be as important in determining the credibility of the election as that of the election management body. Nigeria is currently facing an epidemic of insecurity. Violence led by bandits, terrorists and secessionists has been recorded across its six geo-political zones, further dividing the country along ethnic, religious and political lines. Holding credible polls in this context that guarantees the security of voters and INEC personnel will be a major challenge. The ability of INEC to conduct continuous voters registration has already been questioned as insecurity has prevented the Commission from deploying to all wards across all electoral districts. The challenge of citizen access to electoral infrastructure will remain constant throughout the campaign and during the voting period. This is particularly true for those that have been displaced internally by conflict.

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OPERATION SAFE CORRIDOR: The Deradicalisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants

By Democracy, Human Rights, PublicationNo Comments

Idayat Hassan, Centre for Democracy and Development & Dr. Laura Routley, Newcastle University


This report presents some preliminary findings of the de-radicalization and reintegration program, aimed at Boko Haram ex-combatant undertaken as part of the federal government of Nigeria’s Operation Safe Corridor (OSC).  The research looks to explore how these processes of deradicalisation, and rehabilitation are understood to have worked by asking key questions about:

  • How staff and clients of the program conceive the de-radicalization programs they are implementing/undertaking? And how successful they have been? 
  • What kinds of changes staff are looking to achieve and perceive they have achieved in detainees?
  • What practices/program/interventions they perceive to be effective in achieving these changes?
  • What they see as the constraints on their ability to reform/de-radicalize detainees?

Understanding how this program is supposed to effect change can encourage discussions about improving these processes and ways in which others can learn from the program’s successes and failures. It also provides insights into how the Nigerian government, and the other agencies involved, comprehend processes of deradicalisation and reintegration.

In the process of undertaking the research the focus shifted not only to the camp itself but to the communities that deradicalized ex-fighters were to be reintegrated.  As Clubb and Tapley (2018) have highlighted it is reintegration which is both a key measure and driver of the success of these kinds of deradicalization programmes.

 A Note on Methodology

The findings of this report are based on interviews and focus groups conducted between July and December 2019 but are shaped by CDD’s long engagement with transitional justice in Northern Nigeria (for example see Hassan and Tyvoll 2018). 

Interviews were conducted with thirty-three ex-combatants, seventeen of whom were currently in special holding and sixteen of whom had been reintegrated into their community.  These interviews explored their experience of the programme and of reintegration.  As well as how they thought their views and behaviours had been reshaped by the programme.  Staff involved in the programme were also interviewed with five of interviews being undertaken with staff implementing the programme this included those engaged in the deradicalisation, administration and oversighting of the Initiative at the Advisory Committee level. These explored how they understood the programme to work what changes they were looking for in clients and the conditions and activities they considered would achieve these.  Members of thirty communities where ex-combatants have been reintegrated were also interviewed.  Through these interviews we aimed to understand further what communities considered to be necessary to consider an ex-combatant as deradicalised / reformed.  All the interviews have been anonymised

In addition, six focus groups were conducted with stakeholders including members of Operation Safe Corridor Advisory Committee, community leaders (both religious and traditional) from communities where ex-combatants were being resettled, Civilian Joint Taskforce (CGTF) among others were held across the three most affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.  These were aimed at understanding more broadly community perceptions of how the deradicalisation process takes place and the effectiveness of reintegration.


The activities of the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, have caused an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 deaths and displaced over 2.3 million people since 2009. Between 2009 and 2015, the group took control of extensive territories in north-eastern Nigeria, including the Borno state capital Maiduguri, devastated the lives of millions; and constituted a significant threat to the integrity of the Nigerian state.  Boko Haram’s increasing military raids and attacks in territories of Nigeria’s neighbours led to the formation of the joint neighborhood military response force in early 2015: The Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).  Supported by the United States, France, and Britain through the provision of training, advice, and intelligence, the MNJTF came to include the military forces of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Benin, in addition to those of Nigeria. Boko Haram lost control of much of its territory from 2015 onwards but despite factionalism that led to a formal split and government declarations of victory, the insurgency continues to kill thousands of people yearly, with about 2,733 people killed in 2019 across the most affected communities in the Northeast, Nigeria. In the last years, the terrorist group has varied its recruitment strategies; most new members have been forcefully conscripted, abducted, or blackmailed into the group. There are also older members who left and even fled their communities when the group made its transformation from dawah (the proselytizing of Islam) to destructive jihad (the spread of Islam by unholy war).

In 2015 Muhammadu Buhari was elected president. In fulfilment of one of his campaign promises, he set up Operation Safe Corridor (OSC) in September 2015. OSC is a custodial program undertaken under a Presidential Directive, with the major aim to deradicalise, rehabilitate and reintegrate repentant ex-combatants into society. Its focus is those who surrendered during the military onslaught, those who were conscripted to the Boko Haram insurgency against their will and those who felt disenchanted with the activities of the leadership of the group.

President Buhari has publicly reiterated his government’s commitment to the scheme on several occasions. In granting amnesty to repentant Boko Haram members in April 2018 he said, “we are ready to rehabilitate and integrate such repentant members into the larger society”.4 With increased military pressure, tightened borders, diminished supply routes, internal division in the group and the desire of forcibly conscripted members to escape, the numbers of Boko Haram fighters surrendering themselves to the military has continued to increase with over 1500 ex-combatants as at December 2019. Since the onset of OSC, a total of 800 ex-combatants have passed through the program.

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Democracy in Two Decades, 1999-2019: Reflections on Nation-Building
and Development in Nigeria

By DemocracyNo Comments

Democracy, in its most general conception as a system that guarantees popular participation,
transparency and accountability, represents an ideal towards which most political systems aspire.
The circumstances of developing countries of the global south where basic issues of human and
social existence – viable statehood, national cohesion, security, poverty, disease, employment,
literacy, and so on – are problematic however make democracy a difficult road to travel. Indeed,
for a long time when the ‘prerequisites of democracy’ perspective, whose adherents argued that
only societies that had reasonably high levels of socioeconomic development were the most
viable candidates for democracy held sway, the prospects for(liberal) democracy in developing
countries were considered low. The preponderance of authoritarian regimes all over Africa, Asia
and Latin America, the seeming imperviousness to democratic change that followed repeated
failures of demilitarization, re-civilianization and other popular modes of democratization in the
1970s and early 1980s, and the avowed suitability and successes of ‘developmental dictatorship’
(also called modernizing or developmental oligarchy) as a Third World model, provided some
empirical validation for this view. All that was before the ‘global democratic revolution’ of the
late 1980s and 1990s swept through the bastions of authoritarianism in Eastern Europe, Asia, and
Africa, and produced in its wake, the diffusion of democracy all over the world.
The ‘revolution’ offered the opportunity for scholars to revisit conventional wisdom on
democracy and democratization. From an African and Nigerian point of view, perhaps the most
important strand of the reexamination, and one which challenged the sequential assumptions of
the prerequisites of democracy perspective, had to do with the democracy-development nexus.

For Richard Sklar (1987), one of the leading lights of the new thinking, democracy as a political
means, is a facilitator of development, and socioeconomic development is not a necessary
condition for democracy. To think of democracy this way is to give content and meaning to the
aspiration and struggles for it in the global South. In other words, the drive towards democracy is
not simply to fulfil an ideological aspiration (such as democracy for its own sake), but to build a
meaningful capacity for development, one that enables the free rein of participatory rights,
creative energies and entrepreneurship, and above all, accountability. Another important strand,
which complemented the emergent utilitarian conception of democracy nicely, was the argument
that democracy entailed a lot more than elections. The point of the argument is not to deny the
centrality of the franchise and free and fair elections, and the fact that elections provide a
barometer for gauging the quality and growth of democracy, but to avoid the ‘fallacy of
electoralism’ or the tendency to focus on elections as the most important aspects of democracy
and equate successful elections especially those in which incumbents lose with democratic
growth, at the expense of the larger contextual and utilitarian dimensions of democracy (Karl,

These ‘new’ ways of thinking encouraged a conception of democracy that emphasizes its
problem-solving and utilitarian value and benefits, what are now more popularly referred to as
the ‘dividends of democracy’. The persistence of state fragility that reduced capacities to deliver
on basic functions and obligations and sent some countries into desperate intensive care mode
further reinforced the emancipatory and empowering expectations of democracy. The dividends,
measured in terms of the value added to the material wellbeing and security of citizens, social
cohesion and national integration, institution-building, conflict management, anti-corruption
drives, and the like, have gained traction in assessments of fledgling and emerging democracies
for the simple reason that, as is becoming increasingly clear, it is when democracy can
demonstrably make a positive difference in the conditions of the state, government and wellbeing
of citizens that it stands a good chance of being sustained, defended, and consolidated (cf.
Przeworksi et al, 1996 for ‘what makes democracies endure?’). The social, economic, electoral,
and legal-constitutional reforms that have become instruments and concomitants of democratic
governance are to be seen in the light of giving material content to democracy a la dividends.
These are the kinds of complexities, challenges and expectations that make democracy
such an engaging subject for Nigerian and African scholars. They provide a useful backdrop for
reading this edited volume and locating the analyses in its 28 chapters. The book ties democracy
to nation-building and development, and the various contributors assess the journey so far in the
first twenty years of the latest phase of Nigeria’s democratic experience. The fact that this
experience has been the longest and most enduring offers the opportunity to ask the empirical
question posed by Przeworski et al: ‘why has democracy endured? in the Nigerian context. If, as
the contributors believe, the twenty years have witnessed debilitating pathologies ranging from
economic mismanagement, vote buying, corruption and weak institutions to exclusion of women
and youth, electoral violence, anomalous party politics and judicial infractions, the question of
why democracy has endured becomes even more apposite. Perhaps there is something in
Nigeria’s democracy that has worked in spite of the numerous problems. We may not find all the
answers in this book, but the editors do well to not only acknowledge the challenges, but to offer
problem-solving pathways to the future by exploring areas where the country still needs to
improve as it moves into a third decade.

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