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Is time the only thing that Buhari needs to rebuild Nigeria?

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics

Muhammadu Buhari

Nigeria’s president inherited a multitude of problems from the previous administration. Does he have what it takes to overcome them?

Nigeria’s President, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari calls for time and space to achieve the objectives he laid out upon his election last year.

Buhari has openly declared his intentions for Nigeria’s future. He wants to build a country that future generations will be proud to inherit. This is rare in a continent where leaders frequently think in the short term – often selling off natural resources for instant personal gain, rather than investing in long-term solutions for Africa’s economic problems. Buhari’s Nigeria, he claims, is “for its children.” Whether these promises will materialize will depend on his ability to identify and build upon his past mistakes, and those of his predecessor.

Muhammadu Buhari comes from a large family; he was his father’s 23rd child, born in 1942 in Daura, Katsina state. He ruled Nigeria for 20 months in 1985 and has since lost three general elections to the People’s Democratic Party, which has dominated the political landscape in Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999.

Winds of Change for Nigeria

Buhari’s perseverance has paid off and after waning public support for Goodluck Jonathan, he became the first opposition candidate to de-throne an incumbent leader in Nigeria. The issues inherited from previous governments will not be easy to overcome however, and continuing President Jonathan’s battle to contain the Islamic militants in the north will be Buhari’s biggest challenge.

Originally from Nigeria’s Islamic North, Buhari has alienated many from the mainly Christian south of the country by giving his support to Sharia law. Subsequently, he has had to strongly deny having a radical Islamist agenda. Deep-seated suspicion regarding his religious background and suggested support of Boko Haram has been quelled by a recent failed assassination attempt that left 82 dead, apparently orchestrated by Boko Haram forces.

Boko Haram, unemployment and rampant corruption to fight

Boko Haram

Boko Haram

He was previously mistrusted by the voting populace in the south, but President Jonathan’s failure to overcome the jihadi militia left Buhari with an opportunity to exploit. The 276 Chibok girls missing since 2014 have piled local and international pressure upon Nigeria’s administration. The Boko Haram crisis has left more than 20,000 dead and over 2 million displaced since 2009. Since his inauguration there has been a lot of posturing and even claims to have “defeated” the militant group, but terror attacks, kidnappings and suicide bombings are still rife, particularly in the North of the country. With an agenda to meet, but what appears to be little structural planning, it will take more than time or crude military suppression to overcome “the most deadly terrorist group in the world.”

Boko Haram is unfortunately not Nigeria’s only crisis. Buhari will also have to tackle large scale unemployment and rampant corruption. Buhari’s Deputy Prime Minster estimated that 110 million of Nigeria’s 170 million inhabitants are living in extreme poverty. He also noted that the majority of the wealth is going into the pockets of the nation’s privileged few. For Africa’s most populous nation, these economic issues add stress to the fractures caused by religious extremism and recent spates of violence. Making progress with these issues may also be the key to undermining the militant support among the population, with rampant unemployment being a key factor in their recruitment campaigns.

Buhari: an incorruptible and converted democrat for Nigeria

His biggest election promise is to tackle the fuel shortages that have blighted the population and stagnated the economy over the last several years. His plans are to increase production and improve distribution, while renegotiating terms with the rebel forces. In 2009 President Jonathan’s government agreed to pay militants $400 per month to stop their attacks on the fuel supplies. Once the money inevitably dried up, the attacks recommenced and the supply problems are now worse than ever. On paper, Buhari seems to be well placed to handle this crisis: he was the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources in 1976 and during his tenure heavily invested in pipelines and created 21 new petroleum storage units across the country. But his ability to negotiate with the Nigeria Delta Avengers is in contention; his rigidity and stubbornness are well known within the administration and beyond. Striking a balance between tackling the underlying issues, negotiations and strategic military moves will be key to eradicating the extremist violence that have dominated the political horizon in Nigeria.

Buhari claims to be a “changed man” and a “converted democrat,” taking full responsibility for all that happened during his short military rule in the mid-80s, and the part he played in the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected leader, President Shehu Shegari. If Buhari’s “incorruptible” and rare reputation for honesty holds true, he may be able to usher in a wave of change, washing away the culture of injustice and corruption, both in businesses and in government. He has appealed for time and patience, but will this be enough, or will the multitude of problems he faces just be too much to overcome?

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Bint el Sudan, a fragrance across the sands of time

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

bint el sudan

A small factory on northern Nigeria continues to produce a legendary perfume despite the ravages of the jihadist group Boko Haram.

While the ravages of Boko Haram have shut down much of the industry of northern Nigeria, production of a legendary perfume continues uninterrupted at a small factory in Kano.

Bint el Sudan, known for nearly a century as the “Chanel No. 5” of Africa and once the best-selling perfume in the world, is known for its musky fragrance and oil, rather than alcohol base, which made the scent popular with Muslims.

Bint el Sudan means “Daughter of Sudan” and a girl wearing the traditional topless garb of 1920s Sudan appears on the label.

Most of the fragrance – about seven million small 12-mililiter bottles a year – is produced by a dozen workers from inside a larger, ultra-secure bunker of a factory that also manufactures pesticides, detergents and disinfectants.

Shipments across the northern Africa

About 80 percent of Bint el Sudan is produced in Kano for shipment to local markets across the region and as far away as Libya. Factories in Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe produce the rest of the perfume, primarily for sales in their own local markets.

That the Kano production continues is quite a feat, given the devastation Boko Haram has brought to the region. In Kano, once a great Nigerian industrial center and historically a hub of regional trade, most factories are shut down today, victims of waves of attacks by jihadists since 2012. As it is, business executives in the city have been forced to use armored cars and bodyguards for security.

Stephane Malaussene, owner of the Gongoni Company, which produces the perfume under a franchise arrangement with U.S. owner International Flavors & Fragrances, said production has actually increased from about 500,000 bottles 10 years ago. Production in Kano began in 1952.

“It’s a pride to produce and distribute this fragrance that crossed the sands and time,” Malaussene said.

Fragrance dates to 1920s Sudan

Bint el SudanBint el Sudan was created in the 1920s when, according to legend, fourteen leaders of Arab tribes approached a British traveler and adventurer, Eric Ernest Burgess, in Khartoum and asked him to create a fragrance. The perfume was developed in six months in the lab of Burgess’ employer, W.J. Bush & Co. in London.

Burgess also photographed the Sudanese girl who appears on the label, topless wearing a traditional elephant-hair red skirt and bracelets on her ankles and wrists and her dowry and purse around her neck. The girl also appeared on posters used to market the perfume throughout the region in what was the first advertising campaign for a perfume at the time.

It was sold in markets rather than stores at low prices and for a time was used as currency.

Staple for cosmetics and other uses

Widely used in courtship and circumcision rituals, Bint el Sudan became a staple of women’s cosmetics, especially after the wave of national independence and modernization that began in the 1960s.

With its mix of jasmine, lilac and lily scents, it is also used as a skin moisturizer and bath oil.

The fragrance is a top seller on the continent, particularly in western, central and northeastern Africa while women in the eastern and southern regions prefer western scents.

Boko Haram destroys local industry

The continuing production of Bint el Sudan belies the devastation of industry in Kano, Nigeria’s second largest industrial center and its largest producer of textiles, tanning, footwear, cosmetics, and ceramics.

Industrial activity was reduced by 50 percent since 2012, according to Ali Madugu Safiyanu, vice president of the Association of Industrial Nigeria. Boko Haram undermined the whole economic and agricultural ecosystem in the Kano region as well as Mali, Burkina Faso and the Central African Republic, Safiyanu said.

The region has seen bloody raids on markets, mosques and universities by Boko Haram, which is allied with the Islamic State, have left hundreds dead as well as abductions and forced marriages.

A military coalition of soldiers from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger has driven Boko Haram into the far northeast of the country but the group continues to attack.

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