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Transfers of Power: Nigeria vs. Honduras

Monday, Feb. 15, 2010

I couldn't help but notice the stark difference between reactions to last week's transfer of power in Nigeria (not a peep) and reactions to last year's political crisis in Honduras (hemisphere-wide condemnation). Say what you will about the optics of how Honduras' former President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office, but in constitutional terms, it was by the book. Compare that to Nigeria, where the parliament's vote to transfer presidential powers to Vice President Goodluck Johnathan was clearly extra-constitutional. For now, opposition to the move, both within the executive branch and among the opposition, has been contained. But given the overtones in terms of ethno-sectarian politics, that could change.

For obvious reasons, violent but legal is a tougher sell than peaceful but illegal. The international community's agenda also played a role, in the sense that Honduran instability was clearly containable, whereas Nigerian instability threatened U.S. national security interests as well as the oil industry's fragile peace in the "oil delta." But the inconsistency is apparent, all the same, and doesn't help those who argue for global governance over realist power politics. Since I see the value in both sides of that argument, it doesn't much affect my line of analysis. But for folks with more scruples, it should be food for thought.