By Christian Purefoy, CNN
Nigeria’s President was missing for three months. Over 700 lie dead from an Islamic uprising; an estimated 1,700 have been killed in ethnic-religious violence in the city of Jos. One-third of the country’s oil output was cut by armed militancy, and nearly $40billion disappeared from the excess crude account.
All of this has happened in Nigeria over the last four years, as the country has struggled with one crisis after another – symptoms of the country’s corrupt 2007 election.
Now Nigerians face another election in April.
Strategically, Nigeria matters: it’s the fifth largest oil exporter to the U.S. With 150 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and its economy is set to surpass South Africa’s as the largest on the continent in the next few years.
Nigeria sees itself as the ‘big man’ of Africa and the conventional wisdom holds that if you can get Nigeria right, the rest of sub-Saharan Africa will follow.
And yet, since a return to democracy twelve years ago after a history of successive military coups, Nigeria’s government has failed to deliver on its promises for the people.
Its average life expectancy is 47 years of age. 80% of the population lives on less than $2 a day. Education, healthcare and infrastructure have all collapsed. Despite its economic promise, the commercial capital Lagos runs on only a few hours of electricity a day.
A new chairman in the old chair?
The new Chairman for Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission – Attahiru Jega – has promised ‘free and fair’ elections in April.
If he gets it right, the new government may be more accountable to the people, improving security and investment in Nigeria.
In addition to overcoming logistical challenges, Jega must overcome peoples’ larger concern of corruption and rigging.
In the last state election held in January – widely regarded as a test-run for Jega’s reforms – CNN witnessed areas where no one was able vote. When asked why by CNN, Jega answered :
"No one is voting because in many areas people are taking the law in to their own hands - many of our officials have been attacked; many of our voting materials have been diverted in many of these places you are talking about so it cannot be our fault."
In April, Jega will not be overseeing one state election but the National Assembly, State and Presidential elections across thirty-six states.
At stake for the politicians involved is access to billions of dollars of oil money.
To put the level of corruption in Nigeria in some context – in Kenya, an estimated $3billion was stolen in 2009, according to the Ministry of Finance. Over the last four years, $40billion from Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account has disappeared in Nigeria. And despite record oil prices – no money has flowed back into the account.
Nigerian legislators are estimated to be the highest paid in the world, although no one knows exactly how much they earn. The Central Bank Governor recently suggested a quarter of the national budget is spent on the National Assembly, yet from 2009-10 the Senate has passed only 13 bills.
Perhaps most importantly, the Electoral Commission has been unable to keep in check party spending and this is by far the most expensive election ever held in Nigeria – perhaps Africa. Again, no one knows how much, but the cost likely runs into the tens of billions of dollars in monies paid and contracts promised to buy votes.
Challenge for the Challengers
The front-runner in the Presidential election is incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. He is the first President from Nigeria’s oil-rich, southern Niger Delta region. Once Vice-President, he assumed office after a constitutional crisis when, without any public information, the former president left for Saudi Arabia for 3 months to treat a kidney ailment and died last year.
But Jonathan’s decision to run for the presidency challenges Nigeria’s traditional powerbase – the north. A nebulous group of powerbrokers more clearly defined by the fact that northerners have ruled Nigeria for 38 of the country’s 50 year existence since Independence.
The April elections represent a potentially historic transfer of power from the north to the south.
But the north is not giving up without a fight. Jonathan’s main challenger is former military ruler, retired General Muhammedu Buhari. His party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), has populist support across the north running on a platform of anti-corruption.
In the south too, Jonathan is also challenged by the largest established opposition party – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and their candidate, former chairman of Nigeria’s anti-corruption commission, Nuhu Ribadu.
Together the CPC and ACN dominate both the South-West and North-West – regions with the highest number of registered voters.
If they can stop Jonathan winning the majority vote and the 25% that he needs in two-thirds of the country’s 36 states to win, then they force a run-off - something unprecedented, extremely divisive, and also unlikely. The incumbent very hard to out-spend.
However, the concern of a run-off is that pitting a northern Muslim against a Christian southerner would stoke dangerous divisions in a country where tens of thousands have died in sectarian violence over the past fifty years between the Muslim north and Christian south.
The 36 states
But Nigeria is so big and the Presidency so remote, that it is the state elections that matter most to the majority of Nigerians, with some states running budgets and populations comparable to small African countries.
And it is the state politicians that are largely responsible for the arming of local militias and stoking ethnic-religious divisions to support their political ambitions.
In 2003 and 2007 elections, politicians in the Niger Delta armed young men to help them seize ballot boxes, kill opponents and rig the election in their favor.
With no jobs and a sense of marginalisation, these armed young men began to kidnap oil workers and attack oil facilities in the region, cutting oil production by a third and demanding a greater share of oil profits - a dangerous situation for a country dependent on oil for 80% of its budgetary revenue.
President Jonathan’s rise to power is widely regarded as an attempt to appease this Niger Delta militancy. And for the April elections, the militants have largely united behind Jonathan - a man they see as one of their own - and they have threatened more attacks if they feel Jonathan is cheated out of the presidency.
The harnessing of the militancy against oil facilities to aggressively pursue power sets a dangerous precedent.
And the lesson, it seems, is quickly being learnt.
Political assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and violent protests have already marred this years election campaigns; the seizure of illegal weapon and bomb caches by security forces is regular news as politicians race to arms their supporters; and in the last two years a murky, but major Islamic militant group has emerged in the North – known locally as Boko Haram.
But for the stricter enforcement of Sharia law across the north, Boko Haram’s aims are unclear, but its targets are obvious – with the killing of politicians and government officials on an almost weekly basis.
Out with the old four years, in with the new four years
The last year has seen the rise of a small but vocal group of Internet activists spearheading attempts to bring transparency to the electoral system through their laptops and mobile phones.
Together with promises by the Electoral Commission Chairman that this will be a peaceful, free and fair election – it is hoped that the rot in the system can be reversed.
But the signs are not good.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party, or PDP has ruled Nigeria as a near one-party state since the country’s return to democracy 12 years ago. To keep itself in power it has overseen a succession of increasingly violent and corrupt elections. Come the April elections, those same politicians are unpopular and under threat
The scenarios for this election are on a sliding scale from wide-spread, localised violence to a peaceful election brought – or as some critics have suggested, bought – about by the mortgaging of the public treasury. Debts and favors owed that will hamper any serious future reform.
For the rest of the world – a stable election will help open for business a massive market of 150million people that will take the lead in developing West Africa. But a violent election will mean an unstable oil and gas ally that threatens to destabilize an already volatile region.
But for better or worse, like after the 2007 elections, the April elections look set to be a dramatic upheaval that will set the stage for another turbulent four years.
The CPC and the ACN are not the dorminat parties in th South East of Nigeria nor do they have the largest registered voters here. The PDP and APGA are the dorminant parties here.
Please cross-check your facts.
Hi Kenneth and Chinedum – thanks for pointing out the "South-East/North-East" error – it's now been corrected! (it's been a busy couple weeks!) cheers
Would be great to share this with the world! PDP is still a criminal in Nigeria!
just to coorect two wrongimpressions made here. First the Action Congres of Nigeria is not dominant in the South East. It is dominant in the South West. However, Nigerian voters are very sophisticated inthe South. Most in the South West are voting ACN at the State level but voting Jonathan for President. This also applies to the South East and Middle Belt regions. Secondly, the Presidency is not remote and right now in Nigeria is the single largest event Nigerians are wiating for and not any of the other elections. Please note the tempo when the parties were conducting their respective primaries. I believe that a cursory look at the result of the parliamentary elections on April 9 will advise people on the strength of CPC in the North.
Hi Chinedum – thanks for pointing out the "South-East/North-East" error – it's now been corrected! (as you can imagine, it's been a busy couple weeks!). With many government responsibilities such as education, infrastructure and healthcare now largely organised by the state governments – they often have a greater impact on Nigerians lives than decisions at the Federal level. thanks
There is a similar trend in the North West region. People have voted for individuals and not along party lines, which resulted in the CPS not bringing home so much votes. But make no assumptions, the CPC will record an enormous margin in the northern part of Nigeria come the presidential elections on Saturday. Reasons for PDP doing well last weekend were due to internal crises in the CPC wrt the party's internal primaries, the power of incumbency for the PDP, and mostly, rigging by the PDP, who have much more resources to bribe local policement and INEC officials, to name a few.
Do not expect the same trend on Saturday.
I share sadiq's view. I think we are about to witness the greatest political shocker in Nigerian political history. The odds at the moment don't seem to favour even the incumbent. The people come 16th April, 2011 will decide neither on the basis of political parties nor on ethnic or religious leaning, but largely on perceived personality of the contenders. The most prominent consideration is the fight against corruption. I believe Nigerians know better who can deliver the country from this hydra head monster.
I dont expect any shocker cos things are going to go the same way they ve always gone. The northerners are the least educated in this country and their electorate would vote for you as long as you are a muslim or northerner. But jonathan would clinch some part of the north and especially the south west which is something the other two parties cannot boast of. The east and south south is his domain so tell me how the opposition can win against him. No shocker in sight as far as i am concerned
I certainly agree with the last sentence – "But for better or worse, like after the 2007 elections, the April elections look set to be a dramatic upheaval that will set the stage for another turbulent four years." The incumbent is doing all that it could, by using its usual rigging mechanism to put this Saturday's election in its favor. A free, fair and transperent election will bring a more stable Nigeria!
Secondly, if you notice Mr. Purefoy, Nigerians have been voting for individuals irrespective of the Party. This shows that Nigerians no more consider Parties but individuals. This is as a result of PDP's bad governance for 12 years. Right now in Nigeria, it is how well the individual will do, and not how well the Party will. There is 'anger in the land' and people are tired of bad governance, embezzlement and nepotism. This Saturday, Nigerians will go for the 'best man'.
The system is broken...the same old hands are switching to different parties under the guise of 'change'. The government is corrupt. The people are broken; hope is a very strong expression in Nigeria. Basic and social amenities are non-existent. Thugs are easily hired and fired for peanuts. Inconsistency in the anti-corruption agencies raises a lot of doubts in the minds of the masses. Nevertheless, the youths of Nigeria will continue fighting for true democracy and a better Nigeria. The fact that it is for the good of all of us and nobody is exempt from its poisonous effects should be enough propeller to ginger and sustain us until we reach the 'promised land'!
This writer is a pure doomsday reporter. Factless reporting! Crap.
Well said my brother. The West has a stereotypical impression of African states and Africans generally. They never report anything positive about us. It's about time we all stood up to refute in strong terms, these derogatory and often negative stereotypes. CNN and other media do not have exclusivity of emitting news anymore. The news ought to be heard too, not from some blind-sided goon but from the people themselves, you and I. Thanks brother!
Christian I should comment on your attempt to analyse the Nigerian situation, but let me say something here and which is the feeling reverberating right across Nigeria- we are set for a change! And unlike other African countries we won't break into a civil war to make that change happen. And the parliarmentary elections held last saturday proves that. Nigerians will stand and defend their votes and this elections will certainly be for the better not for worse. There's change in our hearts like never before. We aren't dreaming about it. We will bring it to pass.
brother olushina i support your comment concerning the not very correct opinion express by the editor of the piece. Nigerians yearn for positive change through the ballot box and not through any other means. 2011 general election will come and go in peace, and a president of our choice will emerge peacefully.
Well spoken Olushina, there really is a yearing for change i our hearts, its just so sad that the options we have in this time of change appear so mediocre. lets face it, who really is an option to effectively replace the incumbent. Three weeks ago, i would have boldly said Gen. Buhari. but i was totally disappointing by his debate on NN24. he showed no articulated plans as to how he intends to tackle issues. Even issues as dear to his campaign as corruption, (and this is his third try at the presidency, you'd have expected him to have them at his finger tips). Ribadu was worse, loose mouthed and fidgety.
i feel so sad at the quality of men vying for the leadership of this nation. i sincerely hope its not a reflection of the quality of men in the Nation.
these are no leaders. they appear weak and unsure of themselves.
i believe in change, and believe its around the corner, but i don't believe in these men!!!
Baasey spot on. Unfortunately, NONE of the men running shows any quality. Very disappointing and is truly a sign of the mediocrity that has been allowed to run deep in the veins of our great Naija, but what can we do – elect we must! I hate to be a doom peddler but it looks like 4 more years of rot and stagnancy. I am usually very skeptical when western journalists like Christian report on Africa – lots of stereotypes and negativity – but this was ok I guess. Christian, you might want to get rid of your editor though, lots of typos and grammatical errors in here.
I feel sincerely the incumbent president,might not do so badly after all,the reverse psycology of he'll win,has stalled the mindset of Nigerians and would literally make most people who have contrary ideologies in personel of governance to come and vote,I also feel Mr christianfoy is doing a good job as a correspondent here,but should look at the goodthings happening in my country and gladly air them!weldone cnn
Last week, I witnessed an amazing drama unfold as a politician tried frantically to convince my neighbor to cast his vote for a party. When the politician realized that his effort was getting him nowhere, he decided to use the power in his pocket. He brought out a bundle of N200 notes and dangled it in my neighbor’s face, basically the way you would dangle some bait to an animal you are trying to catch.
“How much is your vote?” he asked, with a deceptive smile on his face.
My neighbor hesitated for a moment, and then he grabbed a piece of paper and began to scribble down something. When he finished writing, he handed the piece of paper to the politician saying, “This is the value of my vote.”
The politician went through the paper briefly and then squeezed and threw it away, in my direction. He hurried away, saying that my neighbor wasn’t being rational. My neighbor, realizing I was watching, picked up the paper and said, waving the paper at me, “Am I being irrational?” I collected the paper and took a quickly look at it. He had written on the paper the breakdown of his family’s expenses, which the government (according to him) had so far failed to provide or make available for its citizens. He then multiplied everything by four (4) years. Something like this:
Security – N20,000 per month x 12 months x 4 years = N960,000
Generator – N20,000 per year for 4 years = N80,000
Fuel for generator – N1,000 per day x 365 days x 4 years = N1,460,000
Potable water – N500 per day x 365 days x 4 years = N730,000
Healthcare Insurance – N10,000 per month x 12 months x 4 years = N480,000
Education – N5,000 per month x 12 months x 4 years = N240,000
Housing – N500,000 per year x 4 years = N2,000,000
Total – N5,950,000 (five million nine hundred and fifty thousand naira).
Well,” he explained as I continued to stare at his breakdown, “if asking for the basic necessities of life is not being rational, I wonder what is rational?” I wasn’t trying to be difficult,” he continued. “I believe this is a modest breakdown of expenses considering I have a wife and a kid. If you have a larger family, the value of your vote may be much higher than this,” he concluded.
This is the best mail I have ever read in quite a while. It should be on nigeriavillagesquare.
The election in nigeria this time around is going to be dramatic in view of the recent development base on the result of the parlarmentary election that was held on 9th april 2011.many people dont know where the victory song will be sang.But all i know is the best candidate wins.
this election is a make or break election for nigeria.if we dont get it this time we might be in serious trouble in this country.thanks to cnn for going beyond borders
In a country with approx. 140 Mio. inhabitants, comprising of 250 ethnic groups with different religious beliefs, the conflict pattern in Nigeria is the typical north/south divide. The Muslims in the north feel discriminated by the more educated and prosperous Christians in the south. Again natural resources prove to be more of a curse than a blessing to Nigeria. Since 1970's the world had seen the inabilitiy of the incumbents to distribute the nation's wealth equally and their mentality to enrich themselves as much as they can.
Of all the candidates, Jonathan is by far the most qualified to meet the "present" needs of Nigeria. Ribadu is an opportunist, while Buhari is simply not the man for us in this age. Shekarau on the other hand seems to have the needed intellectual capacity and realistic solutions to Nigeria's problems but lacks the political clout and platform to get the job done. Come Saturday, whoever emerges would have an authentic mandate from the people given that the elections so far have been widely adjudged to be free and fair. Therefore Nigeria in the next 4 years would witness increased accountability of its elected leaders.
Its heart breaking to read this analysis of our beloved country. It's easy to look down at 'the Nigerian Situation' and analyze and criticize (as we all do) but it really doesn't solve anything. The problems of our country date far back into the colonial era (as do most other African countries), Nigeria has had bad leadership right from conception to date, not just in the presidency and other political positions, but even in the various sectors and sub-sectors of the economy. corruption is a way of life and a means of livelihood for many -nothing is done about this as long as 'everyone's pocket is served'. It is this menacing virus, Corruption, in combination with failed leadership (and Followership) that has led this country down this path.
I earnestly pray that this year's election, should it be conducted fairly and freely, would reignite hope in Nigeria. This is 2011, we do not have time for empty promises and deception, we need positive change, implementation of carefully structured development agenda for every sector of Nigeria's economy, executed by God-fearing individuals who have respect for their compatriots. Most importantly, we need a change in the attitudes and minds of every Nigerian. We can't expect our leaders to be accountable to us, if we are not accountable to ourselves, we can't expect not to be cheated by our leaders if we keep cheating each other. I have lived in this country for 22 years and I have concluded that the ultimate problem with Nigeria is that we resent each other. There is SO MUCH hatred in Nigeria, and at the end of the day, nobody wins.
Another turbulent four years? Didn't you see last weeks parliamentary elections? And if you did, as I think you would, did you see the normal widespread rigging you predicted here?
Mr Purefoy, try getting your facts more correct next time before playing the all-knowing analyst of black character.
The last thing Nigerians need is another Conrad and his Heart of Darkness.
The reporter may have demonstrated a semblance of head knowledge of Nigeria and its nuances, but lacks objectivity. He ought to cross-check facts or myths before publishing what are clearly hear-say.
Even the blind could tell that, for a few glitches in some hotspots (Anambra, Akwa Ibom states, etc), the legislative elections were almost transparently free and fair. The Latin maxim, Res Ipsa Loquitur (the facts speak for themselves) applies here. Christian Purefoy does not live permanently in Nigeria and like what CNN represents – having no good tales to tell about Africa and Africans – he is most ineligible to report contrary-wise, what we all know to be a free and fair round of elections.
First of all, CNN does not have the best interest of Africans at heart to report objectively about events concerning us. They always focus on events that are on the negative side. The parliamentary elections were largely free and fair and the results show that a lot of Nigerians yearn for change. What I'm interested in is the $40billion that ha disappeared from the treasury under the nose of Mrs. Farida Waziri – obviously, the PDP is responsible for that. So I would plead with Nigerians not to vote for the PDP. Thanks.
Video evidence of massive rigging but the ruling PDP during last weeks elections Rivers State. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl5JSE1YrCs
What is the sign in that video that shows d rigging was done on behalf of PDP? or were you part of d rigging team? or is it because PDP won at d end?
Please don't use this medium as a means of deceiving people,get your facts before making conclusions on sensitive issues like this. Thanks
The challenge really is to keep hopes alive (after repeated failed promises from selfish and greedy leaders through the years) and remain optimistic that change will really happen this time. "Yesterday we hoped for a better tomorrow, but today we mourn the loss of a better yesterday". Irrespective of the outcome of tomorrow's election, I do hope the momentum so far generated across the country will be carried through the next dispensation in holding elected officers accountable.
fellow nigerians lets be sincer to our selves,our leaders have not been geting things rigth befor now ,bet lets say the truth & let the devil be put to shame,among the four main contender none of them is the messiah of our nation ,but who is better among them ,we are talking of individual record and ability not party,who do you think can break the jinx?the other three did their debate based on there debate shakaraue defeated the other two ,so among shakrau and jonathan who do you think is better ,b/cos partys hav fail us and our constution is weak that once the individual is voted in the party can not remove him if he misbehave at worst he change party if the presurise him ,so let vote individuals not party thanks and i know by GODS grace he will get a good leader come tomorrow
well done to the writer of this article, you see the problem with our voting system in this country as a consequence of religious bias is that as a Christian, i really see nothing wrong with voting for a Muslim such as Buhari for president if his policies appeal to me.The problem lies heavily with the Muslims of this country who will NEVER vote for a Christian candidate who contest against a Muslim. The average christian in this nation is very liberal as regards his actions and decisions ...
i have watched western media report about Nigeria,nothing good really about them especially the bbc. we should stop looking at what these media say and focus on what we say. cnn focus on the bad things about nigeria. back to the candidates, i watch the debate with great disappointment and shock to see that none of them has any clear policy or manifesto for the country. buhari is the world candidate who cannot even express himself. the vice presidential candidates should have been the contesting presidential candidates. we can see how this country is so funny that we turn things around. i will vote PDP becos GEJ can speak some good english and not a mute buhari who has no plan for the country...remember he is still a general not civilian. if these northerners come on board i guess we might be ruled from mecca with sharia laws. sadly there is no option for GEJ and that the fact. so he will win.
I believe in President Goodluck because he has proved to be dependable. All we owe him is prayers to have more good people around him as advisers. He has shown willingness to CHANGE Nigeria. I think God has sent us a Moses.
I am most positive with d comin election and believe strongely in this our beloved country.let us stop criticizing and contribute positively to this change,that is d spirit to move this nation forward.
Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC boss needs to be more pragmatic in the management of next April's General Election in Nigeria.Not all candidates wanting to contest the polls are suitable or qualified.For instance Nuhu Ribadu cannot defend his tenure as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission boss.It appears all he achieved was the prosecution of James Ibori,the ex-governor of Delta state and even on that he has left a lot to be desired.Ribadu's EFCC did not notice or pretended not to have noticed the car theft syndicate in Nigeria through which the world's auto makers ostensibly may have lost quite a lot.He also did not see the extortion racket at the Nigerian Ports Authority regardless of the Bode George smokescreen.In essence it's "business as usual" at the Nigeria Ports Authority as well as the Customs Service of Nigeria till date.The decadence of the Nigerian Police Force from which he emerged was also a no-go-area for Ribadu.It's indisputable that the Nigeria Police Force is behind the most heinous crimes in Nigeria and hence investigation and prosecution of these crimes are inconclusive.Perhaps the worst crime that falls under his jurisdiction is electoral fraud which inevitably involved lots of money over the past several years and which Ribadu also chose to ignore.Ribadu didn't prosecute Humphrey Nwosu, Maurice Iwu and Abel Guobadia who were given lots of money to conduct credible elections in Nigeria, but failed. Simply stated, Nuhu Ribadu's tenure as the EFCC chief is squalid.He was only available to the power brokers in the PDP and couldn't care less about the country.He's not better than a hustler.
Attahiru Jega also needs to be more scrupulous in his assessment of General Muhammadu Buhari(rtd) at least in the sense that he was a part of an inglorious era in Nigeria.Like others in this category, Buhari too was largely distracted by choice.Neither he nor his predecessors of the Northern stock and subsequently understood the plight of Northerners who have borne the brunt of the criminal ineptitude of successive Nigerian governments.No government in Nigeria ever thought of an elaborate and efficient social security program for Nigeria.It's an understatement to say that he too didn't know or had the solution to power generation and distribution in Nigeria.Of course, he with General Ibrahim Babangida(rtd) and others in the top military hierarchy in Nigeria and the politicians knew about the conspiracy that made power generation and supply tenuous if not impossible in the short-run as he did nothing in the direction of repealing that squalid expropriation policy Nigeria was notorious for and not even after Chief Earnest Shonekan,ex- Head of the Interim National Government of Nigeria tried to invalidate it by a proclamation. As a lawyer , he knew better,but the conspiracy that nurtured the decree was akin to a rabid cult.Worse still, his War Against Indiscipline is a product of twisted logic at least in the sense of the aforementioned,if not for the laughable monthly environmental sanitation aspect of it.As a member of the Nigerian Council of State, it's not clear what he wants to do that he couldn't do in that capacity over the years.The message is clear and simple.He has nothing to offer.
Professor Attahiru Jega has N86billion at his disposal to build a credible and efficient voters database on which next year's and subsequent polls will be conducted.He would have done his job if he does.
P.S Let's meet someday,if you're less busy.You may reach me by phone too.
Voting is going to be along ethinic lines. Nigerian will continue to allow the politicians to pray on their gullibility, another 4yrs of corruption and misrule lies ahead!
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