Why Nigeria holds the aces in Niger polls



Why Nigeria holds the aces in Niger polls


By Tasie Theodore


As the people of Niger head to the polls on December 27th, it is clear that its bigger but embattled brother, Nigeria is not standing idly by.


Though there is no formal indication of a Nigerian government position in the contest, it is however being widely discussed in informed circles that given the closeness between the incumbent governments of the neighbour nations, the easiest way to view the matter is from the prism of ‘the friend of my friend is my friend.’


Should this scenario pan out, then chances are that the adopted candidate of the outgoing President Mahamoudou Issoufou, Mohamed Bazoum is also the favoured candidate of the Nigerian presidency.


Bazoum, a long-standing political player who has served as Minister of the critical Interior Department, a position that had given him wide leverage in helping to manage Niger’s cross-border relations with Nigeria is also being seen in several other circles as the front-runner in the contest.


And to cement the Nigerian link, his campaign is said to have recently received a quite hefty donation in cash and kind from the reclusive and controversial Katsina billionaire businessman, Dahiru Mangal. At least 100 branded campaign vehicles is said to be part of the donation.


On his part, Issoufou had served as one of the prime facilitators of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCFTA and is leaving office after completing his stipulated two terms in office. If successful, the elections will also be producing the first successful civilian transition in the land-locked country that has been wracked by coups, jihadist violence, famine and poverty.


Nigeria shares land borders with Niger and both nations are involved in a number of infrastructure and energy deals at the moment.


With Niger being a far less populated country than Nigeria – with just 22.4 million people – and with its poverty rate hovering at over 41 percent of the population, alongside widespread illiteracy to boot, the thinking is that any real outpouring of cash into the electoral process would make a huge dent in the fortunes of whomever would win at the end of the day. And that, analysts say, could very well be what the huge stash of resources reportedly rolling in through the Nigerian border state of Katsina may be intended to achieve.


The closest rival to Bazoum, the opposition gadfly, Hama Amadou had already been disqualified by the Constitutional Court, on the suspected but unstated ground that he had been involved with a child trafficking ring that ferried children from Nigeria into Niger through the same land borders that the presumptive President-in-waiting, Bazoum had been superintending over. He has since denounced his disqualification as politically motivated but both the courts and the Electoral Commission are moving on.




Niger’s President, Mahamoudou Issoufou




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