Cambridge Analytica’s ruthless bid to sway the vote in Nigeria
If Britain hadn’t voted to leave the EU, and Trump hadn’t won the US election, it’s unlikely anyone outside Nigeria would have given a second thought to what went on during its presidential election campaign three years ago.
But the 20/20 vision of hindsight casts a very different light on the events of early 2015, and a campaign that now seems to eerily prefigure what happened in the US a year later. Many of the same characters, some of the same tactics.
At the heart of it all – data analytics company, SCL – the parent company of Cambridge Analytica. It had been hired by a rich Nigerian who supported the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan.
“It was the kind of campaign that was our bread and butter,” says one ex-employee. “We’re employed by a billionaire who’s panicking at the idea of a change of government and who wants to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
This was a standard variation on what SCL had done around the world for 30 years – this time, with a twist. Weaponising information to harm an opponent was standard methodology.
It was a methodology honed and developed in the company’s defence and military work – the fifth dimension of warfare, defined by the US military as “information operations”.
What was new, or at least new to those employees who have now spoken out, was bringing these techniques to the company’s election work.
Seven individuals with close knowledge of the Nigeria campaign have described how Cambridge Analytica worked with people they believed were Israeli computer hackers.