TIME Nigeria

Nigeria Voting Extended Amid Technical Problems and Violence

Voting in some spots was disrupted by violence

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria has extended voting to Sunday after problems occurred as millions turned out Saturday to vote in a presidential election that analysts say is too close to call between President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari.

The polling will continue Sunday in some areas where new machines were not reading voters’ biometric cards, said Kayode Idowu, spokesman of the Independent National Electoral Commission. The areas where voting will be extended include Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city on the Atlantic coast.

In other areas, vote counting has already begun, he said.

Nearly 60 million people have cards to vote and determine the outcome of the first election in Nigeria’s history where an opposition candidate has a realistic chance of defeating a sitting president. The vote takes place amid an Islamic insurgency in Nigeria’s northeast in which thousands have been killed.

Boko Haram extremists waving guns forced voters to abandon polling stations in three villages of northeastern Gombe state, witnesses said. The militants have vowed to disrupt elections, calling democracy a corrupt Western concept.

Two car bombs exploded at two polling stations in southeast Enugu state but did not hurt voters, police said. Police detonated two other car bombs at the scene of the first explosion, a polling station set up at a primary school, said Enugu state police Commissioner Dan Bature. Boko Haram has been blamed for many car bombings but was not immediately suspected in the southeastern blasts far from its northeast stronghold.

President Goodluck Jonathan denied the attacks, saying the state governor told him there were no blasts.

The oil-rich and heavily populated south is deeply contested and has become a political battleground since the main opposition parties united in a coalition two years ago, causing dozens of defections from Jonathan’s party.

The official website of the Independent National Electoral Commission was hacked but was quickly secured, said officials who said the site holds no sensitive material.

Thousands of people forced from their homes by the Islamic uprising lined up to vote at a refugee camp in Yola, capital of northeast Adamawa state, which is hosting as many refugees as its 300,000 residents.

Registration to vote began late in most places, delaying the scheduled start of voting in the afternoon. Men and women formed separate lines at many polling stations.

Earlier, officials rushed across the country delivering ballot materials by trucks, speedboats, motorcycles, mules and even camels, in the case of a northern mountaintop village.

Good humor turned to anger and altercations as people waited hours and temperatures rose up to 100 degrees (37 degrees Celsius) to be registered to vote, only to find that machines were not reading new biometric voting cards.

Even the president was affected. Three newly imported card readers failed to recognize the fingerprints of Jonathan and his wife. He returned two hours later and was accredited without the machine using visual identification. Biometric cards and readers are being used for the first time to discourage the kind of fraud that has marred previous votes.

Afterward, Jonathan wiped sweat from his brow and urged people to be patient as he had, telling Channels TV: “I appeal to all Nigerians to be patient no matter the pains it takes as long as if, as a nation, we can conduct free and fair elections that the whole world will accept.”

Jonathan cast his ballot later in the day.

Social media was abuzz with the problem. One tweeter said they solved their issue by having an official remove the protective plastic film from the screen to read a fingerprint on the card reader.

Voting began promptly in a Christian neighborhood of northern Kaduna city though voters’ privacy was not respected. An AP reporter watched as people milled around a booth where a voter is supposed to be alone. Then, voters handed unsealed ballots to an official who put the papers into the ballot box. Voters are supposed to put their own ballots into the box.

Jonathan and Buhari are front-runners among 14 candidates in the high-stakes contest to govern Africa’s most populous and richest nation. In addition to the Islamic uprising, Nigeria is beset by militants demanding a better share of oil revenues who attack petroleum installations in the south and deadly land disputes across the middle of the country between semi-nomadic Muslim cattle herders and mainly Christian farmers.

“We need many changes in Nigeria,” government worker Lawal Dahiru said in Buhari’s home town of Daura. “We have security problems, no job opportunities, we need infrastructure like roads, electricity, water supply, and to mechanize our agriculture.”

This is only the eighth election since Nigeria’s independence from Britain in 1960. In a country steeped in a history of military coups and bloodshed caused by politics, ethnicity, land disputes, oil theft and, lately, the Boko Haram Islamic uprising, the election is important as Africa’s richest nation consolidates its democracy.

Nervous foreign investors are watching as Nigeria is Africa’s largest destination for direct foreign investment though its oil-dependent economy is hurting from slashed petroleum prices.

Nigeria’s military announced Friday it had destroyed the headquarters of Boko Haram’s so-called Islamic caliphate and driven the insurgents from all major areas in northeast Nigeria. There was no way to verify the claim, which seems unlikely. Critics of Jonathan have said recent military victories after months of ceding territory to the Islamic extremists are a ploy to win votes — a charge the presidential campaign denies.

The failure of Jonathan’s administration to curb the insurgency, which killed about 10,000 people last year, has angered Nigerians in the north.

International outrage has grown over another failure — the rescue of 219 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram nearly a year ago. The extremists have abducted hundreds more since then, using them as sex slaves and fighters.

The Islamic uprising has exacerbated relations between Christians like Jonathan, who dominate the oil-rich south, and Muslims like Buhari who are the majority in the agricultural and cattle-herding lands of the north. The population of 170 million is almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Some 1,000 people were killed in rioting after Buhari lost to Jonathan in the 2011 elections. Thousands of Nigerians and foreign workers have left the country amid fears of post-election violence.

In 2011, there was no doubt that Jonathan had swept the polls by millions of votes.

Now the race is much closer. The game-changer that transformed Nigeria’s political landscape came two years ago when the main opposition parties formed a coalition and for the first time united behind one candidate, Buhari.

TIME movies

Watch James Bond Return in the First Spectre Trailer

007 faces a formidable set of villains in the new movie

The long-awaited first teaser trailer for the next James Bond film, Spectre, premiered Friday night.

SPECTRE, fans will recall, is the evil organization behind attempts at world domination in classic Bond films like Thunderball and You Only Live Twice (That name? It’s an acronym: Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion). The new film will presumably reveal some of SPECTRE’s origins as Bond encounters it for the first time.

Ralph Fiennes takes over as the new M in the new movie, set for release Nov. 6, as Bond hunts down a cryptic message from his past to discover the shadowy organization.

Sam Mendes, who helmed Skyfall, will direct the film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser, Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Andrew Scott as Denbigh.

Read Next: Here’s Why the Next James Bond Film Is Called Spectre

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME viral

This Black-and-White Footage of the Teletubbies Looks Like a Horror Film

Warning: You may never see the Teletubbies the same way after watching this clip set to the rock band Joy Division

Who knew that the Teletubbies in black and white would look like a shot from an Ingmar Bergman-directed horror film?

A grainy black-and-white image of the Teletubbies, those lovable, huggable children’s television characters, has been circulating the Internet for a few days. While many Twitter users have noted that the image of the huggable furries devoid of their technicolor hue is strangely haunting, verging on horrifying, others commented that the photo looked like a still from the Anton Corbijn-directed music video for “Atmosphere” by post-punkers, Joy Division.

YouTube user Christopher Brown latched on to that idea and ran with it. He took footage of the fuzzy little tubbies, stripped out the color, and soon enough Tinky-Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po were frolicking through a bleak post-apocalyptic wasteland. Add in the downbeat Joy Division soundtrack, and the result is a wildly weird, strangely avant-garde, creepy video that feels equal part Bergman, David Lynch, and Disney cosplay. Clearly it’s a must-see.

If Joy Division isn’t your cup of tea, someone also made an Aphex Twin version.

(h/t Vanyaland)

TIME A Year In Space

Liftoff! A Year in Space Begins

Scott Kelly and his crewmates take off for the International Space Station

You’d think you’d have trouble deciding how to spend your last day on Earth if you were about to leave it for a year. But the fact is, you’d have nothing to decide at all. Every bit of it would be planned for you—literally second by second—as it was today for cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko and astronaut Scott Kelly, in advance of their liftoff at 1:42:57 AM local time. Kornienko and Kelly are set to be aboard the International Space Station for the full year; Padalko will be there for six months.

The three men were instructed to nap until nine hours before launch, or precisely 4:42:57 PM in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where the Russian launch facilities are located. They left their quarters exactly one hour later, at 5:52:57 PM, settled into the space center ready-rooms and began their pre-flight preparations at 6:52:57. And on the day would tick.

For the families, all those hours were a much more ambling business—time they had to contrive to fill on their own. As Kelly was getting his final hours of mandated terrestrial sleep, his daughters, Samantha and Charlotte, 20 and 11, his partner Amiko Kauderer and his twin brother Mark—a retired astronaut—visited Baikonur’s outdoor market in a hunt for spices Kauderer and the girls wanted to take home. Mark, who had arrived in Baikonur yesterday still wearing his characteristic mustache—the only thing that allows most people to distinguish between him and Scott—had shaved it off this morning.

“Do I look like my brother now?” he asked, and then added mischievously, “Maybe I am…”

Kauderer, who works as a NASA public affairs officer and has witnessed her share of launches as well as her share of spouses steeling themselves—at least outwardly—for the experience, carried herself with the same apparent calm. So did the girls, who have seen their father fly off to space three times before. As for what Scott himself was feeling, Mark was reasonably sure it was nothing terribly special.

“He’s been through this routine four times already,” he said. “Actually, when you count the times you don’t launch, it’s probably six or seven.”

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

That routine pressed on today regardless of what Scott might or might not have been feeling. At 7:52 PM, the crew, still clad in Earth-appropriate jumpsuits, left the ready-rooms for the 100-yard walk to the buses that would take them to the suit-up building. A rousing Russian song played over loudspeakers, while crowds were kept behind rope lines, both to prevent a crush and protect the astronauts who, though walking without surgical masks, were still under medical quarantine.

Once they were sealed inside their bus, however, the lines collapsed and the crowd surged forward. A child was lifted to touch the window. Padalko pressed both of his hands on the glass while a woman reached up and pressed hers opposite. In Russia—if not in the U.S.—cosmonauts are every bit the cultural phenomena they were half a century ago.

No one outside of flight technicians saw the crew again for another two hours—until they had been suited up and the families were brought in for a final goodbye—the men leaving the Earth on one side of a glass and the loved ones staying behind on the other, communicating via microphones. “Poka, poka”—Russian for “bye-bye”—Padalko’s daughters called to him again and again.

Mark, who made two visits to the space station on his shuttle flights, was less sentimental in bidding farewell to his brother. “I left some old T-shirts up in the gym,” he said. “Want to bring them down for me?”

“You look good without that mustache,” Scott answered.

“Yeah, I’ll probably grow it back on the flight home. I miss it already.”

Scott’s exchanges with Amiko, Charlotte and Samantha were less playful, more tender, and afterwards, when Roscosmos officials declared the five minutes allotted for the visit over, Amiko gathered the girls in a hug. “We have to hold it together,” she says. “That’s our job, to hold it together and to help him.”

Finally, family, media and space officials left the suit-up building and walked to the parking lot just outside. The crew emerged a few minutes later to a fusillade of camera flashes and walked to three designated spots painted on the asphalt. American, Russian and Kazakh flags fluttered behind them and Roscosmos officials stood before them, bidding them a final goodbye. Padalko, the commander, stood in the middle during the little ceremony, and he occupies the middle seat in the spacecraft as well. A Soyuz veteran, he has joked that he could fly the craft with nothing but a pair of cabbages in the seats on either side of him.

Maybe. But if he meant that in the months and years he was training for this flight, there was no sign of it on the night he left. The crew, who would depend on one another for their lives tonight, boarded their bus, drove to the pad and climbed into their spacecraft. Two and a half hours later, at the designated second, their Soyuz rocket’s 20 engines lit and they left Kazakhstan—and the planet—behind them.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME Germany

German Privacy Laws Let Pilot ‘Hide’ His Illness From Employers

Germanwings had no way to check even the basic details of Andreas Lubitz's medical history

For most of this week, Germanwings airlines has struggled to answer questions about the mental health of one of its co-pilots, Andreas Lubitz, who stands accused of crashing a plane full of passengers into the French Alps on Tuesday, killing everyone on board. But a stubborn set of legal barriers has hindered their search for information: Germany’s data protection and privacy laws.

Carsten Spohr, the head of Lufthansa airlines, the parent company of Germanwings, was not even able to answer basic questions about the co-pilot’s medical history during a press conference held on Thursday. He could not say, for instance, whether Lubitz had taken a break from his flight training due to illness. “In the event that there was a medical reason for the interruption of the training, medical confidentiality in Germany applies to that, even after death,” Spohr explained. “The prosecution can look into the relevant documents, but we as a company cannot.”

That is because privacy protections in Germany are among the most stringent in the world. Under their provisions, an airline has to rely on the truthfulness of its pilots in learning about their medical histories, and it has no legal means of checking the information the pilots provide.

“There is no general rule that obliges doctors of pilots to report medical conditions relevant to their ability to fly to the authorities,” says Ulrich Wuermeling, a Frankfurt-based lawyer who works on privacy law. On the contrary, a German doctor who reports such information could face criminal charges for violating his patients’ privacy.

The flaws in that system came into focus on Friday, when prosecutors accused the Germanwings co-pilot of hiding his mental illness from his employers. In his home in the city of Dusseldorf, prosecutors claim to have found a sick note excusing Lubitz from work on the day of the catastrophe. But the note had been torn up.

The identity of the doctor who wrote the note is still unclear. But under German law, only Lubitz – and not his doctor – would have had the legal right to disclose the details of his health to his employers at Germanwings.

“In practice, if you are sick and your doctor finds you unfit for work, he gives you an illness-based work exemption,” says Christian Runte, a German lawyer and expert on data protection. “It doesn’t say what the illness is. It just says you are unfit for work. And it is up to the patient whether they want to tell that to the employer or not.”

Based on the German prosecutors’ findings so far, it seems Lubitz decided not to use the work exemption on the day of the disaster and instead took his seat inside the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525. French prosecutors investigating the crash of that plane have since accused him of deliberately crashing the aircraft after the flight captain left him alone at the controls.

The incident has raised some troubling questions about lack of communication between Lubitz’s doctors and his employers at Germanwings. On Friday, the university clinic in Dusseldorf, where Lubitz was receiving care for an undisclosed condition, denied media reports that he was being treated for depression. But in describing their “preliminary assessment” of the evidence, the city’s prosecutor said earlier in the day that Lubitz “hid his illness from his employer and colleagues.”

In order to provide Germanwings with any details about Lubitz’s mental health, his doctors would likely have needed his express permission. “Therefore the doctor would not be in a position to inform the company directly even if he knows that this person is a pilot,” says Wuermeling, the lawyer in Frankfurt.

In some rare cases, doctors have been able to invoke the interests of public safety in trying to circumvent German privacy law. The Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt, for instance, even ruled in 1999 that a doctor was legally obligated to breach a patient’s confidentiality, because that patient refused to inform close relatives that he was HIV-positive.

But as a rule, when the German legal system is compared to those in the U.S. and other European states, Germany gives more weight to personal privacy than to public safety, legal experts say. Employers are even restricted in checking the criminal records of the people they are seeking to hire, as under German law, the employer must usually rely on the applicants themselves to provide such information voluntarily.

Part of the reason for this approach to privacy is rooted in Germany history. “In the end it probably goes back to the Nazi regime,” says Wuermeling. “The Nazis basically justified enormous infiltration into personal privacy with national security reasons.”

In communist East Germany, the secret police force known as the Stasi also practiced wholesale surveillance of its citizens. So as early as 1971, democratic West Germany enacted strict privacy protections, well before any such guidelines became the norm in other parts of Europe. The reunification of Germany in 1990 extended those protections to all German citizens.

In the wake of Tuesday’s air disaster, however, Germany may have to reconsider the way it balances privacy against security, at least in allowing airlines the ability to screen their pilots more thoroughly. Even a week ago, data protection authorities in Germany would likely have objected to a request from Germanwings asking doctors to reveal the details of their pilots’ mental health, says Runte. “But if you ask the same question today, I think the answer could be different.”

TIME movies

Jake Gyllenhaal Hits Hard in Southpaw Trailer

Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams and 50 Cent co-star

Jake Gyllenhaal can pack a punch in the first trailer for Southpaw, a boxing film directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter). Gyllenhaal plays a boxing champion whose violent behavior has grave consequences for his family.

Rachel McAdams, 50 Cent, Rita Ora and Forest Whitaker co-star in the film. The trailer also features a new song from Eminem. The film arrives in theaters July 31.

TIME space

Astronaut Scott Kelly Takes Off for International Space Station

A fiery display marks the start of a remarkable mission

It took Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Gannady Padalka less than nine minutes to drive to work on Saturday. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that Padalka won’t punch out for six months; for Kornienko and Kelly, it will be a year.

MORE: Watch the Trailer for TIME’s Unprecedented New Series: A Year In Space

Their office, of course, is the International Space Station (ISS). And their drive began at 3:42 p.m. ET Friday, or 1:42 a.m. Saturday in Kazakhstan, where their Soyuz rocket lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, en route to space. The 510-second sprint to low-Earth orbit will be followed by a six-hour chase, in which the Soyuz will slowly gain ground on the station, finally docking at about the same time people in Kazakhstan will be arriving at their decidedly more prosaic places of business.

TIME will be covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the trailer here.

TIME movies

How Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper Went Both Bad and Sad in Serena

Jennifer and Bradley together again. Sounds great — but not in this drama made in 2012, now getting a release that's really an autopsy

Bad movies: they can be tatty classics of crazed ineptitude, like Edward D. Wood’s Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space, or big-budget misfires like the 1987 Ishtar, a would-be comedy that sent Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman on a Hope-Crosby Road to Dystopia. Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, a “bad movie” that practically torpedoed its sponsoring studio, United Artists, is actually often a great one — anyway, much of it errs on that side — but in “gate” notoriety it’s up there with Richard Nixon’s Water-, Bill Clinton’s Monica- and Chris Christie’s Bridge-.

Connoisseurs of bad movies are looking for bold wrongness: the urgency of a child screaming its lungs out with what may be madness or a hint of genius. But another type of certifiably awful movie just sits in a corner muttering about issues that neither it nor any spectator can care about. Such a one is Serena, Danish director Susanne Bier’s DOA adaptation of Ron Rash’s 2008 bestseller. Filmed in 2012 and finally limping into theaters after a few weeks on VOD, Serena fails in ways that are fun neither to sit through nor to write about.

The picture would barely be worth an obit except for its leading actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. They made ideal wounded sparring partners (and ballroom dancers) in Silver Linings Playbook. They flirted with malicious intent in American Hustle. They’re big stars, frequent Oscar nominees and, from available evidence, decent people for whom one wishes the best. And somehow they stumbled into a muted kind of worst: the story of a North Carolina lumberman and his Colorado bride, in an effort that has star wattage up the wazoo but zero emotional voltage.

George Pemberton (Cooper) is a powerful rogue employing any means necessary to battle government regulations in the first years of the Great Depression. He must also cope with his new wife’s knowledge that, before they met, he fathered a child with a local girl (Ana Ularu). Serena (Lawrence) says that nothing in the past matters; but that’s just the cooing lie of a femme fatale — the type that Barbara Stanwyck brought to seductive life and death in Hollywood’s Golden and Noir ages.

Iconographically, Lawrence looks just right for the period. Platinum blonde, she instantly evokes such early-talkies actresses as Mae West. Toby Wing and Jean Harlow. Too bad she gets no help from Bier, who won a Foreign Film Oscar in 2011 for the Danish In a Better World after a calamitous foray into Hollywood drama with the 2006 Things We Lost in the Fire.

Foreign-born directors, from Billy Wilder to Alejandro González Iñárritu, can be the most acute observers of American ways and mores, but Bier lacks either the empathy or the simple competence to establish a forboding tone and bring the Serena story to pulsing, plausible life. The movie was shot in Prague, not in the American South, but distance is no excuse for disaster. The Anglo-Italian Anthony Minghella filmed a dark Carolina love story, the 2003 Cold Mountain, in Romania and still managed to extract plenty of Tar Heel kick from his Civil War epic.

In Serena, stuff happens, then nastier stuff, without ever engaging the viewer’s rooting interest or sick fear. Sometimes it’s a question of sloppiness on the set or in the editing room. In one intense scene with Cooper, Lawrence provides the money shot of a tear coursing down her cheek. In the next closeup, her face is dry, suggesting that no one noticed or nobody cared.

Behind this inert movie is the shadow of a better, or at least creepier, one. Serena was originally to star Angelina Jolie and be directed by Darren Aronofsky immediately after he made Black Swan — a movie that reveled in the display of a sympathetic woman going toxically bonkers. Black Swan shared some of those excesses, but its vigor gave it a liveliness he might have applied to the Serena project. Bier’s directorial timidity spells doom.

It’s like some fateful old Broadway tryout that should have closed in New Haven. In fact, Serena opened last Oct. at the London Film Festival. Lawrence graciously showed up, beckoning the audience to embrace the movie. “And if you don’t,” she added, “just don’t tweet about it.”

The more appropriate social medium would have been Grumblr, the Tumblr spinoff that, like Serena, suffered an early death in 2012. This weekend’s theatrical premiere marks only the sighting of a glamorous zombie — a movie that is a poignant subspecies of bad: just plain sad.

TIME Nigeria

Nigerian Army Takes Boko Haram Capital and Boosts Goodluck Jonathan’s Election Chances

President Goodluck Jonathan is finally leading a strong campaign against insurgents but battlefield victories may not be enough at the ballot box

The Nigerian army said on Friday that it re-taken the town of Gwoza where the Islamist militant group Boko Haram had maintained its headquarters.

“These successful operations have culminated in the dislodgment of terrorists from towns and communities in Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states,” military spokesman Chris Olukolade told the BBC. He said that Boko Haram fighters were seen fleeing to areas near the border with Camerooon.

The perception of military success might give President Goodluck Jonathan a better chance of beating his rival Buhari who has criticized Jonathan’s failure to take action against Boko Haram in the last six years.

When Nigeria’s presidential elections were postponed by six weeks in February for security reasons, many saw it as a thinly veiled attempt by Jonathan to gain time in a race that was turning in his rival’s favor. Had elections been held on schedule, Buhari might have had a very good chance of knocking the incumbent out of power in a first for Nigeria’s electoral history; the two candidates were equal at the polls.

Despite Jonathan’s best efforts to downplay an Islamist insurgency that had plagued the country’s northeast with massacres, mass kidnappings and a spate of terror attacks that has seen more than 11,000 killed during his time in power, his detractors successfully used the issue to raise wider questions about his abilities as leader of a country that is Africa’s economic fulcrum. So when Jonathan pledged to launch a military operation that would wipe Boko Haram from the map, it was widely interpreted as an effort to buff up his defense credentials in the face of a former military dictator who had made security the cornerstone of his campaign. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party was “aware that after an underwhelming electoral campaign, it needed to recover ground,” says Roddy Barclay, senior Africa analyst at Control Risks, a U.K.-based political risk consultancy. “The military offensive was considered necessary to restrict Boko Haram’s ability to destabilize the country in what was set to be a turbulent election. But it was also seen as a way to boost the PDP’s propaganda campaign, showing that it can manage national security.”


It was a risky tactic; failure, after all, would have made for a potent weapons in the hands of his opponents. But now that the Nigerian army, with the help of foreign mercenaries and a coalition of military forces from Chad, Cameroon and Niger, has managed to push Boko Haram out of all but three of the 20 districts the radical Islamists once held, many are starting to wonder if success on the battlefield will lead to Jonathan’s victory at the ballot box.

That question will be put to the test when Nigerians go to the polls on Saturday March 28. In the closest presidential race since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerians will be voting on several different issues. Chief among them will be the bread and butter basics that any voter around the world can relate to: jobs and the economy, or, in Nigerian parlance, eba and soup, the national dish of pounded cassava with stewed meat. Jonathan’s record is spotty on both: while Nigeria edged out South Africa last year as the continent’s biggest economy, the country’s vast oil wealth has not trickled down to the general populace. And the global decline in oil prices has hampered investment in a country where at least 70% of government revenue comes from petroleum exports. In addition to security, Buhari has campaigned hard on the issue of corruption, another Jonathan weakness.

So, when it comes to issues, Jonathan may have just succeeded in supplanting Buhari’s security credentials. On Wednesday March 25 Jonathan told the BBC that Boko Haram was “getting weaker and weaker every day…I’m very hopeful that it will not take us more than a month to recover old territories that hitherto have been in their hands.” It later emerged that Nigeria’s anemic army required the assistance of some 100 South African, Ukrainian and British mercenaries, (The Nigerian government acknowledged they are receiving “technical and logistical support” from “foreign contractors”) but what matters in the end is that Nigeria, with the help of its neighbors, now appears to have the upper hand over Boko Haram.

The military offensive has reset the balance of power in the northeast and dented Boko Haram’s confidence while boosting military morale in the lead-up to the elections. That will help government standing in the elections, but it will not be the main factor determining how people vote, says Barclay. While some voters may not want to go against the government just as it is gaining ground, others remain skeptical. After all, Jonathan had six years to do something about Boko Haram, only to act decisively when his reelection prospects were under threat.

In some ways, the fact that Jonathan has not been 100% successful against Boko Haram may also work in his favor. The insurgent group is still active in some areas, and it has promised to disrupt the elections. People in the north, a Buhari stronghold, may be scared to vote; depriving Jonathan’s rival a key vote block.

But the bigger issue is that Nigerians, particularly in the rural areas, still vote along ethnic, regional and religious lines, and in that context, Buhari and Jonathan are evenly matched. Buhari is also avidly courting the relatively small number of swing voters that may be persuaded to vote for Jonathan because of his successes against Boko Haram. Jonathan’s military defeats of Boko Haram “may make a difference to the intelligentsia, but to the grass roots voters it doesn’t make a difference,” says Adunola Abiola, a Nigerian political analyst who founded the UK-based Think Security Africa policy group. “There are many who don’t understand or care about the insurgency, and by and large they are the ones who turn out to vote.”

In the early days of the election, a Jonathan campaign strategist dismissed the insurgency as a significant campaign issue, noting that the majority of Nigerians were more concerned about eba and soup,” and that only those directly impacted by terror attacks would vote on security issues. Now that Jonathan has proved his security bona fides, his strategists may be wishing that Nigerians cared a little bit more about defeating Boko Haram, and less about the economy.

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