Israel's Top Ally in Africa Loses in Elections

Goodluck Jonathan, who revolutionized Israel ties, replaced by Muhammadu Buhari, Muslim former military ruler thought to have Islamist bent.

Ari Yashar ,

Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan
Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, a staunch ally of Israel, was defeated in elections on Tuesday by his his contender Muhammadu Buhari, in a turn of events feared to have a negative impact on Nigeria's support for the Jewish state.

Buhari's All Progressives Congress (APC) won in the elections, racking up 15.4 million votes as opposed to 13.3 million for Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The 72-year-old Buhari was formerly the military ruler of the African nation between December 1983 and August 1985, reports Al Jazeera, and is a Muslim from the north of the country as opposed to Jonathan who is a Christian from the south.

Some have criticized Buhari for alleged human rights abuses during his stint as ruler, although others say his harsh crackdown cleaned up corruption. In the current elections fears have been raised that he may intend to pursue a radical Islamist agenda.

Many fear that the change of rule in Nigera may spell problems for Israel, given that since Jonathan took power in 2010, Nigeria has transformed into Israel's strongest ally in Africa.

In late December of last year the Nigerian abstention in the vote on the Palestinian Authority (PA) unilateral bid for statehood recognition at the UN Security Council is seen as being responsible for defeating the move, leading the PA to angrily criticize Nigeria.

Jonathan visited Israel in October 2013, becoming the first Nigerian president to visit the Jewish state. During that visit, Nigeria and Israel signed an agreement allowing direct air travel between both countries.

Thanks to the flourishing relations under Jonathan, Nigeria is in the top 20 destinations for Israeli exports. Between 2012 and 2013, Nigeria’s exports to Israel rose from $165 million to $276 million.

Since 2010, when Jonathan took office, Israel has committed to partnerships with Nigeria in healthcare and agricultural development. In January 2013, Israel’s Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir and his Nigerian counterpart Dr. Akinwumi Adesina signed a declaration for greater agricultural cooperation between the two nations. 

In a further sign of the cooperation between the two states, Israel last year sent two anti-terror experts to Nigeria to join the search for a group of schoolgirls who were kidnapped by terrorists from Boko Haram, which recently swore loyalty to Islamic State (ISIS).



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