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Conversation: Nigeria's New President Sets Priorities

4 MINS READJun 4, 2015 | 20:23 GMT

Sim Tack: Hi, I'm Sim Tack, analyst at Stratfor. And I'm joined here today by Mark Schroeder, our vice president for international operations and Africa analysis. We're going to be talking about President Buhari, the newly inaugurated president of Nigeria. So Mark, we've seen Buhari kind of jump head first into his presidency, immediately making some indications of policy directions and taking trips abroad. How do you see Buhari shaping those initial days and what's the course we expect him to go on just very generally?

Mark Schroeder: Sure. So it's been roughly six days since he's been inaugurated and clearly he has come out running in favor of demonstrating national security as his initial priority. He has meet with his service chiefs and he has already conducted a visit to the neighboring countries to Chad and Niger to ensure military cooperation with these neighboring countries and their support of the counterinsurgency effort against Boko Haram. And just to re-establish that this is his priority, you know six days into his government, he hasn't addressed economic issues. He has not begun to name his Cabinet. But he is clearly made moves to affect the battlefield in favor of the Nigerian government.

Sim: So Buhari, of course, has a history in Nigeria. He is a former leader of the country and a more military leadership kind of role. So, do we see Buhari focusing strictly on the security element? Because some of the things on his agenda in the near future will be attending the G7 summit, which has less of a security focus, and then another declaration by Buhari has been about him taking a much more direct control of the oil ministry in the country. So where do we put that distinction between his security approach and the other elements?

Mark: That's really a great question to get at the issue of multiple priorities that really face the new Buhari administration in Nigeria. And you absolutely correctly point out that he does bring a military background to his position as president of Nigeria. You know he was military ruler of Nigeria in the 1980s. And he was a general who rose up through the ranks in the army. And so he aligns his constituencies clearly supportive of military efforts, military leadership, restoring Nigeria's territorial integrity and national security after the previous administration maybe did not provide as much support in the counterinsurgency efforts against Boko Haram as Buhari now is indicating he will. But all that being said, there are other priorities that he has to address. And the economy of Nigeria that still faces considerable austere financial conditions, this is another very top and important portfolio that he has to address, though these are difficult policy decisions that he must make. And he is demonstrating through the time he's already spent in Nigerian government to say he's going to address these issues deliberately, but not rush into it. These are difficult issues such as how to balance the next Nigerian budget that is still being held up in the National Assembly; how to address things like the fiscal regime based on oil prices that are still decreased; how to support policies like the fuel subsidy that are commonly popular among the Nigerian population. But again these are much more difficult and complicated decisions that will generate political opposition and can kind of bring an end to the honeymoon that he experiences right now, whereas a national security priority is not whatsoever so controversial and clearly aligns with his constituency.

Sim: Considering all the advantages Buhari could bring in the security field, does this mean Boko Haram is something of the past, or does the threat really remain?

Mark: No, that's an excellent note to make to say that Boko Haram still remains a credible threat on the battlefield. And it has transitioned away from a pitched style of warfare to an asymmetric style where it more conducts some suicide bombings and some improvised explosive devise plantings against mobile forces. And Boko Haram has continued to deploy those tactics against Nigerian military forces and civilians in northeastern Nigeria. So yes, Boko Haram is still a threat, but one that the Nigerian forces will be building their confrontation on.

Sim: I see. Sadly, that's all we've got time for right now. If you wish to find out more on this issue or other issues, please visit stratfor.com. Thank you very much. 

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