Vol. XIV, Issue 4 (Fall 2007):Nigerian Politics & the Elections of April 2007
   

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Table of contents


Editorial

     On May 29, 2007, a new civilian administration came into being in the West African country of Nigeria, following state, federal and presidential elections that were conducted on April 14 and 21, 2007. Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took over from Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also of the PDP, as Nigeria’s new President,  after emerging as the winner of the presidential election. However, the conduct and results of the April elections attracted nation-wide and international condemnations.

 This fall edition of Africa Update features four articles that not only shed light on Nigeria’s political evolution but also provide in-depth analyses of the controversies surrounding the conduct and results of the disputed 2007 elections. In his contribution, Dr. Sule Bello of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) offers an in-depth assessment of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight-year rule of Nigeria from 1999 to May, 2007 and portrays the irregularities associated with the April 2007 elections as by-products of the dictatorial tendencies and political disfunctionalties that characterized that administration. He concludes that the conduct and questionable results of the 2007 elections have eroded the faith of the generality of Nigerians in the efficacy of the democratic process. 

 Although Sunday Iduh’s concluding article laments the shortcomings of the elections, it appeals for national healing and reconciliation. While advising President Yar’Adua to extend an olive branch to the Opposition, he urges his political opponents to find a way to work with the new administration in the interest of national peace and development.  

In his article, Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor of Eastern Michigan University (EMU), who also serves as Guest Editor of this edition of Africa Update, chronicles and analyzes the shortcomings of the elections, along with the protests against their results, in the context of Nigeria’s long history of troubled elections. He concludes that the fate of the Nigerian nation now lies in the hands of its judicial branch, which is currently reviewing several petitions filed against the results of the presidential and other disputed elections of April 2007.  the Fall issue of Africa Update.

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali of Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) provides a brief summary of Nigeria’s political development from colonial times to the contemporary era. Her essay also spotlights the personality and political antecedents of Nigeria’s new President, Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua.

Guest Editor
Dr. Victor Okafor, East Michigan State University

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The 2007 Nigerian Elections and Nigeria’s Search For An Enduring Democracy
By Dr. Sule Bello
Department of History
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria

INTRODUCTION

On account of its standing in Africa, Nigeria’s success, or failure, in its efforts to establish a democratic form of governance, is bound to have far reaching consequences well beyond its borders, particularly in the West African sub-region. Its enormous human and natural resources, as well as its leadership role in Africa, assure it a great deal of influence on the affairs of the continent. For this reason many African and foreign countries as well as Africans in the Diaspora watch events in Nigeria with a keen interest. The large number of Nigerians resident abroad also constitutes an important interest group in this regard.

The 2007 elections were, in particular, of great interest to millions of Nigerians residing in the country who invested and sacrificed much in order to establish, promote and secure democratic governance in the nation. Many had petitioned and pressured the outgoing government to ensure that elections were held in 2007 and that such elections were duly organized and conducted in a manner seen by all as free and fair. This was in the light of the  country’s experiences with past elections as well as the overt desire of the regime to perpetuate itself in power, using every available means or excuse.

This essay relies on the various reports and commentaries carried in Nigeria’s print and electronic media during the period of the elections as well as information released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in addition to the various reports of election observers and monitoring teams, both local and international. Finally direct observation and some library search have also helped greatly in the collection of information used.

The general conduct and outcome of the 2007 national elections in Nigeria, when they were finally held, attracted nationwide protests and widespread condemnation from both national and international observers as well as the opposition parties and civil society groups. Nowhere is this more evident than in the anger and outrage expressed in Nigeria’s vibrant national media. Screaming headlines clearly advertised that the elections of 14th and 21st of April were the worst elections ever held in the country. Many called for the cancellation of the results of the elections which were widely seen as a major fraud. All the opposition parties condemned the results and called on Nigerians and foreign nations not to accept them.

In order to appreciate the gravity of the problem it is important to note that failure to organize free, fair, credible and therefore generally acceptable elections have been at the heart of Nigeria’s failure to establish and nurture a democratic form of governance.

ELECTORAL MALPRACTICES AND THE 1ST, 2ND AND 3RD REPUBLICS

Nigeria’s unsuccessful effort to establish functional and durable democracy can be assessed on the basis of the various failed attempts that were made since independence in 1960.

The first and major general elections held in 1959 in Nigeria were organized and umpired by the out-going colonial government. However the First Republic (1960-1966) came to an end mainly on account of the crises generated during the 1964 and 1965 general elections, particularly in the old Western Region of Nigeria. The crisis created the conditions which led to the 1st military coup in Nigeria on the 15th of January 1966. 

During the Second Republic (1979-1983) Nigeria adopted the presidential system in place of the parliamentary system of government. Although heavily criticized by the opposition, the elections of 1979, umpired by the then reigning military government, was widely adjudged to be relatively free and fair and representing the broad will of the Nigerian people. Political parties were substantially independent and popular. The elections of 1983, on the other hand, organized by the elected government of the 2nd Republic, were adjudged by many to be seriously flawed. Once more this crisis played an important part in creating the conditions, and legitimizing the military coup, that ousted the then ruling president Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari from power on the 31st of Dec. 1983.

Military coups were thus usually presented, and increasingly came to be seen and justified, as corrective antidotes to the corrupt, divisive and unconstitutional excesses of civilian regimes. Indeed in many cases, and on many occasions, such military interventions were encouraged or even actively sought for by rival factions of the political class.  In a number of cases they were instigated and supported by certain civil organizations and the general public. In this respect, military intervention gradually came to be seen as a check on, or an alternative to  civilian regimes.

Since the ouster of the 2nd Republic there has been an obvious tendency on the part of subsequent military rulers to scheme towards maintaining themselves in power. In this regard they tended to respond to the national and international clamour for democratic governance with various attempts to transmute themselves into elected civilian rulers.  From 1985 to 1999, Nigeria witnessed political transition programmes in which the military rulers were only interested in perpetuating themselves in power by transforming themselves into elected civilian rulers. During this period two successive attempts to organize transitions to civil and democratic rule failed mainly due to the manifest interest of the military rulers. 

General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (1984-1992) was forced to “step aside,” by his peers in the military. His convoluted transition programme ended up in the June 12th crisis. His annulment of the 1992 general elections which many believed the Social Democratic Party candidate, Chief Moshood Abiola, was set to win, led to a major crisis and conclusively aborted the Third Republic.  Before his departure Babangida set up an Interim Government under the leadership of Chief Ernest Shonekon on 2nd Jan. 1993. The Interim Government was subsequently swept aside in a bloodless coup led by General Sani Abacha who assumed leadership of the country on the 17th of Nov. 1993. Because the transition programme initiated by Abacha was largely designed to make it possible for him to transmute into an elected civilian president, there was a great deal of opposition to it from a number of quarters. His sudden death on the 8th of June 1998 brought in Major General Abdussalami Abubakar to power. He hurriedly and successfully presided over the transition programme that ushered in the 4th Republic on the 29th of May 1999.

The Fourth Republic was widely, and enthusiastically, embraced by Nigerians who were by this time completely frustrated, disenchanted and disillusioned with military rule.

THE 4TH REPUBLIC AND THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRATIZATION

With the transition to the 4th Republic many Nigerians looked forward to a constitutional democracy that would broaden popular participation in governance. It was widely believed that the transition would result in a better managed economy leading to greater prosperity, peace and stability for Nigerians. Most Nigerians were convinced  that with the experience, and track record, of General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd.), who was elected president on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigeria was set on a course of change for the better. In the General’s favour was the fact that he was seen by many of his countrymen as a victim of injustice and Abacha’s high handedness by whom he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

 Furthermore on the eve of joining the electoral contest, the General claimed that he had become a born again Christian while in prison.  To many Nigerians this appeared like a personal, moral and ethical revolution, which could only promote the General’s sense of purpose, probity, justice and fair play. In addition, the General’s nationalist credentials were seen to be evident in the fact that he was known to have fought the civil war designed to keep Nigeria one and was indeed credited with having been the person who actually received the instrument of surrender from the secessionist forces.

 Similarly Obasanjo was the Head of state that midwifed the transition to civil rule that led to the 2nd Republic in 1979. Even as an ordinary citizen he was known to be very critical of various other regimes and leaders, ostensibly in a quest for good governance in the country. Indeed he even established an NGO, the African Leadership Forum, which greatly contributed to public discussion on leadership issues in Nigeria. For these, and many other reasons, it was widely believed that such experiences and expressions of concern would position him to steer the country towards its expected destiny. To the credit of the opposition, the All Peoples Party (APP), in association with Alliance for Democracy (AD), they did raise the one question that most Nigerians hardly concerned themselves with, i.e. the dictatorial background of the General and his lack of experience, and probably even interest, in democratic politics. As things turned out it was this factor, more than any other, that informed the conduct of the 4th Republic. Nigerians found themselves, in the eight years of Obasanjo’s rule, desperately struggling to ensure that the country was not herded along the path of civilian dictatorship

From May 1999 to date, the government, under the leadership of President Olusegun Obasanjo, undertook what it usually called “reforms” in various areas.  It is important to note that the term “reform” could be misleading in this situation. This is because there was no comprehensive, coherent, systematic and sustained programme for reforming the country. There was, for example, no programme of social or political reformation. The so-called economic reform programme simply picked and chose from various sources those issues which would appeal to foreign “donors” and facilitate the achievement of the economic ambitions of the few privileged Nigerians in control of the government. The advertised Economic Action Agenda of the government identified three pillars of the so-called reform as, firstly, a “paradigm shift “ from a ‘government led’ to a private sector led growth. The second pillar was the provision of basic infrastructural facilities and services in the country for economic growth. The final pillar of the tripod was identified as the alleviation of poverty in the nation.

Many critics have however observed that on all these three fronts the performance of the government since May 1999 has fallen short of what had been achieved prior to 1999. The near total collapse of the agricultural, industrial, financial and commercial sectors of the economy, principally private sector driven, give the lie to the first assertion. Similarly, and despite the fact that the state had earned unprecedented oil revenues in the last eight years, the provision of basic facilities and services had plummeted to an all-time low. In addition the nation’s epileptic supply of electricity and pipe born water became worse than ever, where they did not cease all together, during the lifetime of the regime. The same predicament also befell the provision of public security, health services and transportation systems. As a result of such, and many other factors, not the alleviation but rather the aggravation of poverty was recorded during this period.

The government’s various activities, either through commissioned acts, or by way of omission, have greatly contributed to the fate of democracy in general and the conduct of electoral politics, in particular, in the country.

In the first place the degree of corruption in the polity during the life time of the regime was rated at various times as the highest or, at best second highest, in the whole world by many local and international organizations. The development of corruption came to have numerous ripple effects on the social, economic and political life of the country.  In the main it had the effect of generating widespread poverty, subverting public morality as well as undermining democratic norms, values and institutions.

Although Nigeria earned more revenue than at any other time in its history 1999-2007, the generality of the population, ironically, sank into greater poverty during this period. When Obasanjo took power the rate of exchange was N82 to US$ 1.00, it currently stands at N140 to US$1.00. Similarly the percentage of the population below poverty line was about 48.5%, where as today those below the poverty line are estimated to be well over 70% of the population. The combined effect of bureaucratic corruption and wide-spread poverty have the additional consequence of fostering an environment in which political patronage, rather than productive economic activities and effective business management skills, increasingly determine the economic well being of citizens. Political and financial godfatherism have thus tended to dominate political activities, and governance, in an environment increasingly operated like a spoil system.

In place of any attempt towards the development of a democratic society the activities of the regime from 1999-2007 were defined more by a general trend towards autocracy and dictatorship engendering wide-spread disregard for the constitution and the principles of democratic politics. During the whole of this period the major activities of the executive arm of government, in general, were to exercise unconstitutional and dictatorial control over key institutions like the National Assembly, the political parties, public and civil services, the judiciary and even popular organizations.

Intolerance to all forms of opposition, became a significant element defining the character of the regime.  The struggle to control the National Assembly led to a great deal of instability particularly in the Senate. During this period five senators: Evans Enwerem, Chuba Okadigbo, Anyim Pius Anyim, Adolphus Wabara and finally Ken Nnamani, came to occupy the position of  president in the Senate. Most were either appointed by the president, on the basis of their willingness to be subservient, or alternatively deposed as a result of their tendencies to assert their independence even against the wishes of the president. It is worth noting that when the current senate president, Ken Nnamani, expressed his opinion to the effect that the 2007 general elections in the country were flawed, he was threatened with possible court action, on the charge of treasonable felony, by the presidency. What is particularly worrisome is the fact that the presidency openly applied cash inducements, blackmail and official intimidation to get its way with members of the National Assembly, the state governors and officials of the political parties.

In this fashion the president took complete control over his political party, the PDP. Opposition against all independent-minded candidates was mounted, using all available means, in favour of those who were willing to submit to the dictates of the president. The party has, in the last eight years, had four chairmen who refused to be personally loyal to the president only at the risk of their positions. Indeed the president’s insistence on a hundred percent loyalty from all officials of the party and the state, including the vice-president, is an important indication of the regime’s autocratic tendency. Loyalty is understood by the regime to only mean submission to the will of the president, no matter how unconstitutional, rather than loyalty to the nation, its laws and the principles of democracy. Those who had in any way opposed the president, on any issue, have all been forced out of the party while he, to crown it all, has had himself declared the life-long “leader” of the party.

Lack of probity in the polity has been greatly promoted through the complete subordination of professional civil servants and public officials to political appointees. All over the country, and in virtually all cases, the appointment and dismissal of public officers is almost completely dependent on political leaders. This has made it possible for corrupt political appointees to engage public officials for any dirty job without the fear of any possible repercussions. This was also demonstrated in the misuse of INEC officials, the police, the civil servants, local government staff and even “traditional rulers” in the conduct of the 2007 elections.

It is important to note that various calls for reforms towards effective separation of powers in line with the provisions of the constitution have been ignored by the administration. Indeed various rulings of the country’s courts have also been ignored by the administration where they were not found convenient or acceptable to it.

 In addition to such dictatorial tendencies there was also a manifest determination on the part of the administration to control the entire electoral process in its favour. What is important here is the fact that electoral malpractices were not simply the result of certain mistakes or unforeseen contingencies but were, rather, deliberately and purposely planned in order for the administration to continue in power irrespective of, or indeed despite, the wishes of the population. In 2002 there was an attempt to forge an electoral bill in which the president was implicated. A lot of evidence also indicates that the role that INEC was to play in the 2007 election had been plotted earlier in the process of appointing its chairman. This role, it has been widely alleged, was for the chairman to ensure that there was sweeping victory for the ruling party. These allegations are further supported by the way in which, and the extent to which the executive powers of the president were used to harass members of the opposition in the build-up to the 2007 elections. Various state governors and powerful individuals, who refused to support the position of the ruling party were harassed and, in some cases, even hounded out of office by the regime.

One very important characteristic of the 4th Republic was the wide spread development of political assassinations. Many highly placed politicians, such as Harry Marshall of ANPP and chief Bola Ige, the then Minister of Justice and A.D chieftain, were assassinated. Many others, totalling about thirty well known individuals, were reported to have been assassinated during this period. This raised political intimidation to a dangerous level. Unfortunately not one single case has yet been pursued and solved by the government.

A final factor which played an important role in the 2007 elections was the attempt by the president, in 2005, to change the constitution and extend his tenure in office beyond the two terms of four years each stipulated in the constitution. This attempt came after the 2003 elections which were widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the government. Many Nigerians saw this attempt as the clearest move towards the enthronement of civilian dictatorship in the country. Widespread opposition from the political parties, civil society organizations, well meaning individuals and foreign countries forced the government to back down on this quest. As a result the president seemed to have changed his tactics to the option of predetermining and controlling the government that would eventually be formed after 2007. This fact has greatly influenced the 2007 elections and will no doubt constitute a significant problem in the subsequent development of the country.

On the basis of the foregoing observations some very important issues need to be emphasized. The first is that the various events we have identified have clearly led to the debasement of politics to the extent that disrespect for the constitution and executive lawlessness, have almost become the norm rather than the exception. In January 2002, for example, the House of Representatives initiated impeachment proceedings against the President. Even at this early stage he was accused of having committed over one hundred impeachable offences in less than two years. Unfortunately for Nigeria’s democracy, this was not allowed to follow due and constitutional process. The process was aborted through a series of instigated political interventions.

An important consequence of the inability to operate democracy on the basis of the rule of law in turn accentuated the wide spread development of corruption. Political corruption, in particular, wreaked and continues to wreak havoc on the nation’s body politic. Thus the political parties increasingly came to lose any sense of direction or leadership. Unlike in the 1st and 2nd Republics, the parties of the 4th Republic were less defined by principles and programmes designed to solve the problems of the nation. The opposition was, therefore, not able to forge any formidable alliance or mobilize the country on genuine issues that could either facilitate unseating the incumbent regime or, in the alternative, compelling it to become more responsive to the legitimate wishes of the people. As a result, abuse of state power and the ability to offer financial inducements, have become the principal instruments for mobilizing political “support.” This situation has tended to operate, in a true Prebendal fashion, in favour of the incumbent executive leaders in control of public administration and finances, particularly the president and the state governors.

It is therefore important to understand that by the time the 2007 polls were conducted not only did the incumbent regime have dictatorial control over virtually all the institutions that were supposed to conduct the elections, it also had the record of 2003 electoral misconduct in addition to the 2005 attempt to perpetuate itself in power. Furthermore, there was a seeming determination, on its part, to predetermine the leadership that would succeed it. It thus did not only have a record of rigging elections but also the means, the motive and a declared, even if  veiled, intention to do so.  It is in the light of this that the president’s widely reported statement to the effect that the 2007 general election was a do-or-die affair, for them, needs to be seen. Finally, it is important to note that the 2007 elections go to confirm what is already a popular belief among Nigerian politicians i.e. those who  rigged  elections would always have an edge over those who were compelled to follow the path of litigation. The experience of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari in 2003, is probably the major reason behind his decision not to contest the results of the 2007 elections in court, despite his very vehement condemnation of the entire process.

The power of incumbency enjoyed by ruling regimes in Nigeria over elections, is expressed at various levels: in the preparations for the elections, in the conduct of the elections and in the aftermath of the elections. It was, as we have seen, expressed at every level in the build-up to the elections. We will now take a look at the conduct of the elections.

CONDUCT OF THE APRIL 2007 GENERAL ELECTIONS

The 2007 general elections were greatly affected by unconstitutional acts and dereliction of duty, which tended to help the incumbent party to record landslide “victory.” The convenient alliance of incumbency and disrespect for the rule of law is the clearest manifestation of the dissonance between the electoral process and the quest for democracy.

From all available evidence, the elections conducted on the 14th and the 21st of April were mired in a number of irregularities. For example, there was virtually no verification of the voters register by INEC in most parts of the country and this clearly violated the nation’s electoral provisions. The primaries conducted by the parties were also judged faulty. Only influential party stalwarts were put up for elections. In a number of cases people who did not even contest primary elections at the level of the parties were imposed as party candidates. The most widespread, and significant complaint is to the effect that elections did not take place in many places in the country, and sometimes in whole states, even though results were officially declared.

The general trend was that even where elections were held, a number of irregularities perpetrated in the process combined to disenfranchise the electorate. For example, elections were said to have started very late in many polling booths and were closed early by INEC officials. In addition even as, and where, voting was going on election material such as forms for recording results, ballot papers, ink etc. were either not available or grossly insufficient. In many cases party thugs, and electoral officials, were reported to have actively intervened in order to indicate to the voters whom they should vote for. Various reports also indicate that in many places party agents were freely canvassing for votes at polling stations through financial inducements. It was also observed that in a number of places voting was disrupted by party thugs where rival parties were deemed to be leading in the polls. Moreover, all over the country, the army maintained an intimidating presence in all the major cities and polling centres.

A number of reports further indicate various acts of connivance between public officials (INEC, the police and the army) and members of some parties or their candidates. In many cases this was to facilitate the stuffing of boxes with pre-thumbed ballot papers or changing duly filled ballot boxes in favour of those stuffed with ballot papers from outside the polling booths. In a number of cases even where the results counted at polling centres were won by rival candidates different and contrary results were officially declared by INEC.

In the main, however, many blame the government for deliberately planning the rigging of the elections in favour of itself. Many publicly stated that the INEC boss committed himself to rigging the election on behalf of the ruling party. It is for these reasons that many Nigerians do not only consider it the worst election in the nation’s history, but also hold the president to be directly responsible for the misconduct. The editorial of the NEWS weekly magazine of 30th April 2007, among many others, captured the mood of most Nigerians when it observed that “at the end of what can only incorrectly be described as elections, a practiced but unprecedented heist was enacted against the Nigerian people. …And we make bold to state that President Olusegun Obasanjo has been the chief instigator of the barbarization of the electoral process and the weakening, if not the destruction, of democratic tenets in the last eight years. He is the mastermind of this violation of the people’s voice and vote.”

The election was clearly designed to overwhelm the opposition with a multitude of odds in such a manner that would make it almost impossible for them to meaningfully and effectively challenge the exercise. Similarly the key objective of the election was not to give the electorate the opportunity to choose its leaders but rather to guilefully eliminate, or significantly undermine, all forms of political opposition under the guise of democratic elections.

A major outcome of the elections is that it led to a general waning of confidence in the possibility of institutionalizing and developing democratic governance in the country. In addition, there is general apathy born of the conviction that those in power will not conduct themselves in line with the laws of the land or operate solely in the interest of the nation. Indeed the opposition seems to have lost confidence that justice could be done through the democratic process in view of the unhealthy control that the PDP has over the entire machinery. The results of the election clearly indicate that one party dominance, rather than a robust democracy, is what the country has harvested with the last elections. The PDP has complete control over the Federal government and the National Assembly. It is in control of twenty nine out of thirty-six state governments in the Federation. The nearest party to it, the ANPP controls four state governments, along with their state assemblies, more or less at the pleasure of the PDP as it is widely believed that the party had been subdued, at certain levels, by the ruling party. The Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA) has two state governments, while the Action Congress (AC) won in Lagos. The AD is reported to have completely lost out in the elections. The remaining parties, going by the results of the election are too inconsequential to make any significant impact on the governance of the country.

The Action Congress (AC) which was clearly a very popular party with nationwide support seems to have had, in particular, a very raw deal. In Edo state violent protests erupted when the PDP Candidate, an in-law to the President, was declared the winner of the gubernatorial elections as against the popular candidate, Adams Oshimole, who was the gubernatorial candidate of the AC.  In reaction, Adams Oshimole, who was also a former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress, lamented that the president considered Edo state a sort of “Bride Price” which he gave to his in-law in defiance of the wishes of the people of Edo state and declared that he held the president “fully responsible for the abuse of the electoral process” (Insider, Weekly Magazine, No.16 April 30, 2007, P.37).

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It is important to draw attention to the fact that the President-elect, Alh. Umaru Musa Yar’adua, does not seem to have attracted any hostile or negative comment from either the politicians or the general public. He is seen by many as a relatively younger candidate with a reputation for modesty and transparency. His performance as the governor of Katsina state in the last eight years is also highly rated. His personality, style and tendency to extend a hand of fellowship across various socio- economic and political divides have surely done a great deal to dampen the general opposition to the 2007 elections. Whether these qualities will help him to steer the ship of the Nigerian state successfully remains to be seen

CONCLUSION

The 2007 elections have greatly undermined the development of democracy in Nigeria. The suffocating control that the administration established over political and economic institutions in the country, since its assumption of office, was used to ensure that elections were held only in its favour. This has not only shaken confidence in the country’s capacity to nurture a democratic form of governance it has also led to the development of widespread political corruption epitomized in the tendency to civilian dictatorship.

The development of democracy in Nigeria will continue to depend on the capacity of Nigeria’s democrats, especially politicians and civil society organizations, to effectively and continually oppose and overcome the tendency to dictatorship.

The incoming regime will need to be seen to chart an independent course that is responsive to the popular aspirations of Nigerians and in accord with its Federal constitution. In this respect, political and electoral reforms that promote genuine and functional democracy, expressed through free and fair elections, will need to constitute an immediate priority in the nation’s political agenda.

REFERENCES

Independent National Electoral Commission     (INEC.) Nigeria (WWW.inecnigeria.org).  

Victor Ayeni and Kayode Soremekun Nigeria’s Second Republic, Daily Times Publication 1988.  

Ahmadu Kurfi  The Nigerian General Elections 1959 and 1979 and the Aftermath.                                                           Macmillan Nigeria, 1983

James O. Ojiako             Nigeria: Yesterday, Today and …? Africana Education Publishers, 1981.

Interdisciplinary International Journal of African Philosophers               Philosophy, Science and Concerned African Philosophers                    Society vol.1 no1 2004,

“Godfatherism in Nigeria's Politics” Essence Library, Lagos 2004.

National Civil Society Coalition Against Third Term Agenda (NACATT) Don’t Destroy our Unity with Third Term Agenda, NACATT, N.D.

Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) Economic Action Agenda 2002 (NESG),  Ibadan 2002                        

Transition Monitoring Group (NESG) Democracy Watch Bimonthly magazine, 2007 editions.

 

Emma Nwozugha Nigeria, Dynamics of Nation Building, 1914-1999. Dynamics of Nation BuildingEnterprises, Abuja 1999

Richard A. Joseph Democracy and Prebendal Politics in Nigeria: The Rise and Fall of the second Republic, Spectrumbooks, Ibadan 1991.


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Nigeria’s Elections of 2007: A Time for Healing and National Reconciliation


By Sunday Iduh


The April 2007 polls have come and gone, won and lost, but for a long time to come the memories will linger on, not only in Nigeria but the rest of the international community as represented by various observers. The outcome of the polls had deepened Nigerians’ agony, but Nigerians should continue their commitment to democracy, national development and live in peace despite the glaring democratic deficit recorded. Nigeria’s strength lies in unity.

The elections never measured up to international standards and expectations. Not even under the military rule had such obvious fraud ever been perpetrated against the electorate. The core value of democracy is the expansion of frontiers of freedom, where people have the right to choose their leaders but not forceful imposition of un-elected officers on the citizens through irregularities and massively rigged elections

The tortuous journey into the Nigeria’s 2007 elections started with flaws by delays and lack of transparency in the voter registration process that disenfranchised many eligible voters, disqualification of some contestants based on corruption indictments by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). During the elections, there were widespread disregard for secrecy in balloting, vandalization, stealing, snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes by political thugs for their candidates and party stalwarts and the alteration of results during collation process.

The elections, which were contested by three major political parties; the Action Congress (AC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and the ruling party – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) along other forty-eight political parties (many without candidates), were marred by violence that left behind them scores of deaths and many injuries

The electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had expressed satisfaction with the conduct of the April polls, waving away the reports of sharp malpractices in some states as inconsequential to the overall success of the election.

However, the National Democratic Institute of International Affairs (NDI) in its preliminary statement, established thatIn many places, and in a number of ways, the electoral process failed the Nigerian people… it is unclear whether the April 21 elections reflect the will of the Nigerian people.” It went further to state that “Regrettably, the 2007 polls represent a step backward in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. At the same time, there are positive trends in the country's democratization process that give rise to hope”

Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s Supreme Court victory caused a logistical disaster due to the last minute inclusion of Atiku’s name on the ballots that were reprinted in South Africa a few days prior to the presidential election.

With total dismay, the coalition of opposition parties is seeking cancellation of the general elections, and for the chairman of INEC Professor Maurice Iwu to organize new and acceptable elections. It would be in the interest of all and sundry to continue in the human and social aspects of the country’s national life. Rather than calling for mass action, aggrieved political parties and their candidates should challenge results in the election tribunals now sitting. Nigeria should move forward, differences should be resolved within the confines of the law; this may take some time, but justice will definitely take its course through the judicial and constitutional means in the best interest of the country.

We can draw examples from where we got our democracy. In the November 7, 2000 presidential election in the United States, one of the closest and most controversial presidential elections in the U.S history, the Republican George W. Bush was elected over Democrat Al Gore. The then Governor George W. Bush of Texas State was not fully supported by the Americans, but at the end, the Americans were united after the United States Supreme Court verdict that gave Bush victory. Vice President Al Gore called Bush and congratulated him. When Senator John Kerry lost the 2004 presidential election to Bush, he conceded and supported the goal for America to move forward. These are true democrats; there are lessons to be learned here by Nigerian politicians, meaning that hell should not be let loose, all complaints and grievances should be channeled in the right direction using the tribunals as appropriate tools of dispute resolution. Mediation, as an alternative tool for dispute resolution, is also a welcome development. It is reasonable to achieve peace by peaceful means. At this stage of her national life, Nigeria cannot afford to return back to the dark days of military rule, Nigeria may not be perfect now, but someday it shall get there through dialogue.

This is the time to eschew violence and show true sportsmanship. Nigeria must let the world know that it is a true democracy by upholding the rule of law, not through extra-constitutional actions, which could foster insecurity. The Judiciary has shown and proved to the world that it is one of the most vibrant and a reliable institution to be trusted in Nigeria, and truly it has stood the test of time. It could be recalled that the gubernatorial candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Dr. Peter Obi of Anambra State contested and reclaimed his 2003 stolen mandate at the polls through an electoral tribunal. When the same Dr. Peter Obi was impeached, the action of the State Assembly was declared unconstitutional, null and void in the court and he was re-instated. Other states whose governors suffered illegal and unconstitutional impeachment but found justice through the right procedure of the rule of law, were Oyo State and Plateau State governors. If the history of Nigeria is written, Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be remembered as a true democrat; his seat as a Vice President was declared vacant for joining another political party, he was indicted of corruption, and he was disqualified from contesting the 2007 presidential election. Rather than resorting to ‘jungle justice,’ he went to court to seek redress. He fought gallantly, defended and defeated all the charges against him up to the Supreme Court. In this way his name was cleared.

Already, Britain and the United States of America have indicated their readiness to support the President-elect and incumbent Governor of Katsina Stat, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in order to foster Nigeria’s development. The leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Valerie Amos at a lecture titled "Better Future in Africa" in Lagos, admonished that "Nigerians should not expect a perfect election, but what is important is that the country is moving forward in terms of democratic development,'' while Tom Casey, the Deputy Spokesman of U.S State Department, indicated that the “United States is prepared to work with Nigeria's next administration in building upon our excellent bilateral relations and to continue the promotion of peace and security throughout Africa.”

Nigeria has succeeded in breaking the jinx, by killing any form of tenure extension, interim government, caretaker government or whatever it might be named. A civilian government can now transfer power to another civilian government for the first time on May 29, 2007.

The popular mood congratulates the President – elect. In May 29, 2007, he will become the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the father of the nation, all the responsibility of the Nigerian state will lie on his shoulder. There should be no victor nor vanquished; all hands should be on deck to move Nigeria forward. Nigeria needs teamwork; it is advisable that Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and his Vice President-elect Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, another incumbent Governor of Bayelsa State in the Niger Delta should extend an olive branch to the opposition. Right now, Nigeria faces various challenges--socio-economic, political, and various ethnic conflicts.

The Niger Delta issue is an acid test for the President-elect. The President–elect had accepted that his administration would give special priority to the Niger Delta crisis, as a veritable way of ensuring quick development, lasting peace and posterity for Nigeria.

This national healing and reconciliation should be total to include the release of all the detainees facing charges of treason, like Alhaji Asari Dokubo of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force (NDPVF) in the struggle for resource control for the people of Niger Delta and Ralph Uwazuruike, the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), a separatist group fighting against the marginalisation of Igbos ethnic group in the scheme of things in Nigeria. The Niger Delta people and the militants should use this opportunity of Vice Presidency in their zone to initiate a new dialogue for a fair share/revenue allocation of the resources beneath their feet.

Nigerians at this point should cooperate and give a chance to Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, a University graduate and former lecturer. They should do the same for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who holds a Doctor of Philosophy. Anyone who has ever been a class captain or student representative knows that leadership is not easy; it is too early for criticisms. Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Since every ethnic group in Nigeria complains of marginalization, now is the time to unite and work together. It is to be seen how the leadership of these seasoned administrators, academics, democrats, and accomplished technocrats will transform Nigeria. However the tasks before them are numerous, they are familiar with the Nigerian political landscape, they should be aware that the stakes are high and the struggle for “national cake” resources from oil is fierce.

Undoubtedly the overbearing political infrastructures and pervasive corruption are both standing impediments to the economic, political and socio-cultural development of Nigeria. In addition, the pursuit of religious and ethnic agenda at the expense of national harmony results in internal disputes and sectarian violence.

Nigeria’s true salvation will ultimately come only through a judicious blend of internal reconstruction of socio-political and economic policies with external cooperation run on good will and accountability. If the country is to overcome the enormous socio-political burden posed by political and economic imperatives, then the leadership of Umaru Musa Yar'Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan should put the Nigerian people at the center of their development goals. They should initiate political dialogue, fight corruption, improve on governance, strengthen productive capacities and create employment, enhance health, quality and functional education,  etc. God bless Nigeria.

Sunday Iduh holds a Master’s degree in International Peace Studies from the United Nations-mandated University for Peace, Ciudad Colon, San Jose, Costa Rica.

iduhsunny@yahoo.com  siduh@alumni.upeace.org

 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author.

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Nigeria’s Disputed Elections: Symptons of a National Malaise


Professor Victor Oguejiofor Okafor

African American Studies

Eastern Michigan University

Email Address: victor.okafor@emich.edu

Nigeria appears to be in the grips of an apparently avoidable leadership legitimacy crisis. An unfortunate fact is that anyone who has a modicum of familiarity with Nigeria’s historical and contemporary socio-economic and political circumstances would not have been surprised about allegations that widespread rigging and violence characterized the state and federal elections that were held in that country in April, 2007. It was even alleged that certain police and other security personnel assisted fraudulent politicians who reportedly engaged in various acts of electoral crimes against the people of Nigeria.

News media reports showed that all external observers of the election pronounced them a failure, a charade, and a fraud. They include observers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union and the United States. Observers from ECOWAS, led by former Gambian President, Sir Dauda Jawara declared that the presidential and National Assembly polls were marred by "gross irregularities," including the late arrival of voting materials and ballot box snatching. United States former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, who led an international team of election observers, characterized the elections as a “failed process,” adding that “the cumulative effect of the serious problems the delegation witnessed substantially compromised the integrity of the electoral process.” In their reaction, EU observers said the results of the Nigerian elections were not credible, pointing out that the elections did not meet elementary international standards for free and fair polling. Notable internal voices and organizations, including newspaper editorials and the Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) (one of the nation’s two central labor organizations), also condemned the elections as failing the standards of free and fair polling. In protesting the outcome of the elections, the NLC was reported as saying that “…it could not accept the outcome of the Presidential elections and the emergence of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s candidate, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua as the President-elect, because it was predicated on a flawed electoral process” (Onyebuchi). Continuing, it said that "the NLC is convinced that the long-term interests of our nation will be better served by rejecting these elections. Congress therefore, commits itself to working with broad-based interest groups to fashion a way out of what is clearly a national political crisis” (Onyebuchi). It went on to assert that “the result of the elections as declared last Monday by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is a product of a flawed electoral process which was programmed to fail” (Onyebuchi). Joining the chorus of protests, the South East chapter of the Nigerian Political Science Association said, in part, in a public statement on the state elections of April 14, 2007:

  • No elections were held in the South Eastern part of Nigeria due to the fact that electoral materials were either not supplied at all or were not accompanied with result sheets.
  • There were strong indications that election results were written before the date of the election.
  • Election results as announced were written to favor candidates of the ruling party.
  • State Security Agencies including the military and the police were used to intimidate the electorate" (Onu and Emezurike).

In a significant post-election development in June 2007, the Supreme Court of Nigeria ordered immediate removal of Andy Uba (PDP) as governor of Anambra State and reinstated Peter Obi (APGA) in that office (Rabiu & Onuchukwu). The genesis of this development dates back to 2006 when Peter Obi took office as governor of Anambra after winning an electoral tribunal’s petition against then Governor Chris Ngige (PDP). In that year, the electoral tribunal upheld Obi’s petition to the effect that he, and not Ngige, was the rightful winner of the governorship election held in Anambra state in 2003. Given that the office of governor lasts for four years and that Obi had served only for about one year when the April 2007 governorship elections were held in Nigeria, a few months prior to the governorship election, Obi filed a lawsuit in which he contended that since he had not yet served as governor of Anambra State for a term of four years as prescribed by Nigeria’s operative 1999 Constitution, the court should bar the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from holding a governorship election in the state of Anambra in 2007. As Obi put it, there was no vacancy in the governor’s office in Anambra state. But the lower courts disagreed with Obi who then appealed to the supreme court of Nigeria. While the appeal was pending, INEC went ahead and conducted a governorship election in Anambra state on April 14, 2007, which resulted in Andy Uba of the PDP emerging as the victorious candidate. (Peter Obi was not a candidate in that election.) On May 29, 2007, Uba was sworn-in as the new governor of Anambra state, but in an interim ruling before the swearing-in took place, the Supreme Court had indicated that if it found merit in Obi’s appeal, it would nullify the election that produced Uba as governor. The court did precisely that when on June 14, 2007, it issued a final ruling on Obi’s appeal. The court not only declared the April 14, 2007 governorship election in Anambra state null and void, it ordered the immediate reinstatement of Peter Obi as the state governor until 2010. He has since resumed duties as governor of Anambra State.

While all of the key opposition parties, including the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress (AC), rejected the results of the elections, it would appear that only the ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was pleased with the outcome. Of course, its presidential flag bearer, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and most of its governorship candidates were the winners of these highly disputed elections. INEC announced that Yar’Adua received twenty-four point eight million or 70% of the presidential votes. His closest challengers, Major General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Abubakar Atiku of Action Congress (AC) were said to have received six point six million and two point six million votes, respectively. In his reaction while still in office, then President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his seemingly characteristic inflexible manner, demonstrated condemnable insensitivity to claims and reports (which he himself acknowledged) that the elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007 were significantly flawed. He was reported as saying that the degree of irregularities associated with those elections was not high enough to warrant their nullification. Obasanjo tried, but not convincingly I think, to blame the flawed presidential election on the fact that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) had to take last minute measures to accommodate a presidential candidate that it had disqualified, following a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for then Vice President Abubakar Atiku to run for the presidential office. Obasanjo explained that “following the Supreme Court judgment on Monday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was faced with the huge challenge of producing 65 million voters' cards within 48 hours, shipping the cards to Nigeria and distributing to all corners of the country on time for the elections” (Idonor). President Obasanjo was reported as calling “… on election observers not to only criticise but to help the country, saying, ‘we should not be measured by European standards” (Idonor). According to Obasanjo, “Nigeria has come a long way from when I first voted. We are better than 20 years ago” (Idonor).

 The unanswered question is: what degree of election illegalities would have convinced President Obasanjo that the outcomes of the elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007 were largely questionable? He ineffectually tried to blame the disputed presidential election on INEC’s last minute measures to accommodate presidential candidate Atiku. If we were to give him the benefit of the doubt on the presidential portion of the elections, what could he offer as an acceptable explanation for the equally-troubled April 14, 2007 state assembly and governorship elections that preceded the presidential balloting of April 21, 2007? Even if conceivably INEC’s last minute measures affected timely deliveries of electoral materials to designated sites, would that explain reported wide-spread snatching of ballot boxes or the outright lack of voting materials at many a polling station? One is disappointed that in all of his published post-election statements, Obasanjo did not condemn, in the strong terms that the situation warranted, the reported electoral malpractices of politicians and their hirelings. One would have expected the then president, as the leader of the nation and not just the leader of his political party, to say to the disappointed nation that all persons who are eventually found guilty of engaging in electoral malpractices would be punished severely by the law. But the disappointed may take consolation in the fact that by the end of April, 2007, INEC announced that 1093 suspects had been arrested and would be prosecuted for various electoral offences during the governorship elections of April 14, 2007 (Okocha).

In any case, one disagrees with the then president’s view that Nigeria’s elections should not be judged by what he described as European standards. Obasanjo did not need to look to distant Europe for a basis for judging the success or failure of those Nigerian elections. He should have looked to next-door Ghana; he should have looked to not too distant Kenya; he should have looked to not too distant Tanzania; he should have looked not too distant and war-torn Liberia; he should have looked to not too distant South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique and Angola; he should have looked to the fellow West African country of Senegal; and he should have looked to not too distant Mauritania for a context for making a serious judgment about the flawed Nigerian elections of April 14 and 21, 2007. Was Obasanjo not aware that all of the preceding African countries, which are less developed and less economically-endowed than Nigeria (with the exception of South Africa), conducted reasonably successful elections in recent years?

Opposition parties called for the cancellation of those elections, the dissolution of the present INEC and the conduct of fresh elections under the auspices of an interim government. Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka was among the voices that called for cancellation of those elections. But what does the Nigerian constitution say about such a proposition? The only constitutional provision pertaining to an interim national government stipulates that such a government should be headed by the President of the Nigerian Senate. The pertinent section, Section 146 (2) reads as follows: “Where any vacancy occurs in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (1) of this section during a period when the office of Vice President is also vacant, the President of the Senate shall hold office of President for a period of not more than three months, during which there shall be an election of a new President, who shall hold office for the unexpired term of office of the last holder of the office.” Well, no interim government came into being, and winners of the disputed national and state elections, including now President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, have since been sworn-in. But the sense of illegitimacy that appears to haunt this new administration was underscored by Professor Soyinka’s reported description of Yar’Adua as “a Protem President…who is running a caretaker government” (Ikokwu), asserting that “…what passed for elections in Nigeria in May 2007 was an abuse of the word `democracy’” (Soyinka). Like Soyinka, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba was reported as saying that although Yar’Adua has been sworn into the presidency, his occupation of that office “…could only be legitimized at the conclusion of the [tribunal] cases challenging his election…” (Edirin).

President Yar’Adua himself joined other notable internal and external voices in advising the aggrieved parties to seek legal redress. Initially, General Muhammadu Buhari, the unsuccessful flag bearer of ANPP, stated that he was not going to appeal against the outcome of the April 21, 2007 presidential election, citing as his reason his displeasure at the fact that the Nigerian Supreme Court had rejected his petition against the disputed presidential election of 2003. He contended that the Supreme Court’s rejection of his petition against the outcome of the 2003 presidential election laid what he described as a foundation for the April, 2007 electoral imbroglio in the nation. However, in what looked like an about-face, later reports indicated that ANPP’s National Chairman, Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke announced that his party would and has, after all, mounted a legal challenge against Yar’Adua’s presidential election victory. So have Atiku Abubakar’s Action Congress (AC) and Odumegwu Ojukwu’s All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) (Hallah, et al). Ojukwu was said to have received one hundred and fifty-five thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven votes in the presidential election.

In an earlier version of this article, I had asked, rhetorically, whether there was any chance that the notoriously sluggish Nigerian electoral tribunal process might proclaim the disputed results of the elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007 invalid before the May 29th, 2007 date when the Obasanjo’s administration was scheduled to hand over to a new one. I speculated that if past records of the pace by which Nigerian electoral tribunals functioned were anything to go by, it would appear that a judicial overturning of the results of the disputed state and federal elections before the transitional date of May 29, 2007 was a forlorn expectation. But I hastened to warn that a big question that faced the Nigerian nation was this: If the disputed results of the elections were allowed to stand, as have since been the case, and as the then President Obasanjo, the PDP and INEC insisted, could the incoming governments function effectively against the backdrop of what seemed like a national perception that those governments emerged through a flawed and hence illegitimate process? I noted that President-elect Umaru Yar’Adua might mean well, and appeared to possess what it takes to lead Nigeria in the right direction—given his track record of success as a two-term governor of Katsina state--but I asked whether he could function effectively as president under a cloud of illegitimacy? He has since taken charge as Nigeria’s chief executive and commander in chief, and time will answer that question.

The present situation is reminiscent of the national outrage that greeted the 1983 re-election of National Party of Nigeria’s (NPN) notoriously incompetent President Shehu Shagari for a second term following his “landslide” victory in the presidential election of that year. Even though Shagari’s earlier 1979 presidential election was for ever seen by supporters of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) as an undeserved victory, and he later countered the resulting air of illegitimacy by forming an alliance with the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), his “landslide” re-election victory of 1983 in the midst of a deteriorating national economy--along with a new super majority in the National Assembly-- was irredeemably tainted by a national conviction, held across the political spectrum, that his re-election was a stolen victory. Such was the stench that characterized the largely fraudulent state and national elections of 1983 that Nigerians resorted to open advocacy of a military take-over of the government as the only viable alternative for getting rid of a highly corrupt and highly incompetent civilian regime that came to be viewed more as a problem than a source of national succor. It was indeed no surprise that a military coup de’tat that occurred on the eve of 1984 expelled the political villains. What a pity that judging by current events, Nigerian political leaders seem unable to learn from history! What a pity that the then President Obasanjo, who years ago, came to be revered almost globally (and rightly so at the time) as a statesman for successfully handing over his military government to an elected civilian government in 1979, is the one that now presided over what have been characterized as the worst elections in Nigeria’s history, namely the disputed elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007!

One recognizes that there is hardly any perfect electoral process, even in countries that have had centuries of experiences with elections. But I submit, with due humility, that the shortcomings that were associated with the recent Nigerian state and federal elections of April 14 and 21, 2007 read more like the results of willful and deliberate criminal actions of political office candidates and their hirelings to cheat and bulldoze their way to elective offices than the innocent products of administrative naivety or sheer lapses that occur in an imperfect world. It remains to be seen, however, whether the electoral tribunals that are currently reviewing petitions against the disputed results of the April, 2007 elections would agree with the contention of internal and external observers that those elections were not free and fair.

Although the Fourth Republic of Nigeria, which was led for eight years by Olusegun Obasanjo, began only in 1999, as a nation, Nigeria is not a neophyte to the task of conducting regional, state and/or national elections. Since she became independent of British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria (despite experiencing a military interregnum for the greater part of its post-colonial life), has gone through several regional, state and national elections, including those of 1964, 1965, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999 and 2003. It’s however, instructive to note, perhaps with the grudging exception of those of 1979 (although the presidential election of that year was disputed by supporters of UPN for allegedly falling short, by one state, of the constitutional requirement that a winning presidential candidate must win at least twenty-five percent of the vote in two-thirds of the states of the federation), that none of the preceding elections received an across-the-board level of national acceptance. However, most analysts continue to hail the annulled presidential election of 1993 as one that approximated basic standards of a free and fair election.

At this juncture, there are critical and thought-provoking questions that all Nigerians and Nigerian political leaders in particular need to ask of themselves. One, how can one expect a fairly free and fair election in a society where most public institutions seem to malfunction in significant ways? Two, how can one expect a fairly free and fair election in a nation that as recently as 2006 could not come up with a credible headcount of the residents of Nigeria, otherwise known as a national census? The electricity generation and supply system is known for its chronic malfunctioning and seems to defy any solution. Almost nation-wide, Nigeria’s pipe borne water supply system is known for its chronic malfunctioning. The nation’s oil refineries are malfunctioning; so, long-suffering Nigerians have had to pay avoidably high prices for gasoline because their government has to import refined petroleum to make up for the shortfalls occasioned by an unreliable domestic refining system. Reports abound about retired public employees who are hardly paid their pensions and gratuities. In several states, teachers are owed salaries for months on end. Generally-speaking, Nigerian public hospitals have been described as glorified death traps. Hence, the tendency on the part of wealthy Nigerians and top Nigerian politicians to travel abroad for their own medical needs, while leaving the masses of Nigerians to depend upon an unreliable medical system. Toll gates that were set up on Nigerian highways for the collection of tolls from road users could not function as designed because the toll gate operators perfected means of stealing toll gate collections. They were consequently dismantled through a presidential directive.

While one recognizes that police graft is by no means peculiar to Nigeria and that the degree to which it occurs across nations may depend upon the effectiveness or lack thereof of each country’s anti-corruption and fraud monitoring systems, it’s nonetheless no secret that Nigeria’s police force is distrusted by most Nigerians and in some quarters may be regarded as a national disgrace in terms of its general record of performance although it’s not unlikely that a significant number of its serving men and women are persons of integrity. A recently released survey of public opinion in a cross-section of Nigerian cities reported that Nigerians viewed their police force as the most corrupt institution in the country (Akosile). This perception was keenly reflected in a June, 2007 editorial by one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, namely the Daily Trust. As the newspaper put it, “it is highly disturbing that the Nigeria police which statutory responsibilities include combating corruption at all levels of our corporate existence has disappointedly become a brazen custodian of the sharp practices it was established to fight.” Not surprisingly, almost everyone who pays a visit to Nigeria from abroad comes back with tales of running into countless police check points, ostensibly mounted for the apprehension of suspected criminals, but are, in reality, sites of iniquity—sites for the extortion of money from travelers at gun point. So, I ask you ladies and gentlemen, how in the world did you expect a cripple to run when he could barely walk? While one is yet to come across any denial of election-related wrong doing from the national leadership of the Nigerian police force, the now retired Police Chief, Sunday Ehindero was reported as giving “…a pass mark to the police for a successful discharge of their duty in providing a peaceful and enabling environment for the conduct of the elections” (Oyedele). Whatever may be the case, it’s saddening to learn that about thirty-nine Nigerian police officers lost their lives in the violence that characterized some of the governorship and state elections of April 14, 2007. Eleven others described as civilians also lost their lives during that election (Okocha). Well, since the elections, the leadership of Nigeria’s police force has changed hands, and the newly-appointed Acting Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Mbama Okiro, seemingly sensitive to the rather huge image problem of his force, has announced a war against police corruption. He is reported as having disbanded the infamous police checkpoints that littered the country and also established anti-corruption teams in the six geographical zones of Nigeria. His war on police corruption is not directed only inwards, for he was reported, rather impressively, as warning members of the public to desist from bribing police officers, pointing out that “…henceforth both the giver and the receiver will face the same music” (Taiwo).

While, as the preceding passage demonstrated, the erstwhile leadership of the police had commended its officers for providing what it described as a peaceful and enabling environment for the April elections but remained silent on the Opposition’s allegations that police officers acted as collaborators in the electoral cheating that allegedly took place in April, the leadership of Nigeria’s Military Defense Forces came out unequivocally to declare that the military did not take sides with any political party during those elections. General Martin Luther Agwai, who served as the Chief of Defense Staff for the Nigerian armed forces until June, 2007, was reported by newspapers in June, 2007 as extolling and describing as non-partisan, the role played by the military during the elections. Here is a pertinent excerpt from Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper. 

Military  authorities have explained  the role of the armed forces during the April general election clarifying that the role it played was in line with the nation's constitution.  Opposition parties had, since the outcome of the polls, accused the military of partisanship in their peace keeping efforts during the polls, alleging that they were used as instruments to rig the poll in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, the outgoing Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General Martins Luther Agwai, in Ibadan during a farewell visit to military formations across the country, declared that the military played its role according to its abilities and without fear or favour. He pointed out that military operations during the election were professionally done by his men and officers, which, he said, brought about the stability now reigning in the country.`If you see what happened during the elections, we defended the constitution, not the parties, not the party in power. We defended the constitution of this country and I am proud to say that it has brought the stability you see in this country today,’ he said (Tunde).

Given the foregoing, it would appear that there is a dis-connect between the public perception of the part played by the military during the elections and the military leadership’s understanding and interpretation of the situation.

Be that as it may, it’s my conviction that the underlying cause of all the preceding problems and paradoxes of the Nigerian society is public corruption that is fueled by an economic system that fosters greed, and caters to the needs of a privileged few while leaving the masses to wallow in abject poverty, against the backdrop of a nation that is believed to be among the largest producers of crude oil in the world.

An annual statistical report by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed that Nigeria was OPEC’s third largest exporter of crude oil in 2005 with an export record of two-point-three million barrels per day (2.3 million barrels per day) (Crude Oil Exports 35). Only Iran with 2.4 million barrels per day and Saudi Arabia with 7.2 million barrels per day were ahead of Nigeria. Although the rampant nature of public corruption in Nigeria is hardly news to the ears of close watchers of that society, it’s nonetheless both noteworthy and praise-worthy that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was reported recently as having recovered from some former state governors in the just-ended civilian administration, corruptly-acquired assets worth more than one hundred billion naira (Ogbuenyi and Elumoye). Given the apparent pervasiveness of public corruption in the body politic, it may be hard to argue convincingly that the apparently insoluble power outages of Nigeria are due mainly to technical incapacity. It may also be hard to argue convincingly that the apparently insoluble shortage of pipe borne water in Nigeria is due mainly to technical incapacity. By the same token, it may be hard to argue convincingly that the malfunctioning of the domestic oil refining system is due mainly to technical incapacity.

Finally, it can hardly be argued convincingly that the problems that plagued the state and federal elections of April 14 and 21, 2007 occurred largely because of administrative and technical incapacity. On the contrary, it is my conviction that Nigeria possesses the human and material resources necessary for planning and executing successful local, state and national elections. The cog in the wheel is corruption-induced willful mismanagement. Even if INEC had laid out and probably tried to execute the best of electoral plans, and even if INEC was constituted of all the saints that Nigeria could produce, it could still not pull off free and fair elections in the face of what seems like a largely corrupt and compromised law enforcement and security establishment. Conceivably, elections are rigged not necessarily out of a burning desire by the Nigerian riggers to have a chance to “serve the people,” but because of the illicit personal enrichment that is expected to accrue from having an elective office.

 In the final analysis, ex-President Obasanjo should realize that electoral crimes are also grave acts of corruption. Gaining political office by snatching ballot boxes and by filling ballot boxes with fake votes is as unconstitutional and is as treasonable as seizing the reigns of government with the gun. Obasanjo’s rather stubborn insistence that Nigerians should accept, and thus, swallow like a bitter pill, the conduct and results of the state and federal elections that attracted near universal condemnation by both Nigerians and non-Nigerians, cast a shadow of doubt on the sincerity of the otherwise laudable war on corruption that we witnessed during his administration. His insistence that elections that received world-wide condemnation must stand represented a disservice to Nigeria’s effort to establish a working democracy. It’s normal in human affairs for people to make mistakes or to knowingly commit crimes, but it is unforgivable for them to refuse to repent and make amends for their wrong-doing. Nigeria can borrow a leaf from Ukraine, which experienced an election crisis in 2004.  That country’s presidential elections that took place in November and December 2004 were largely between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Charges of media bias, voter intimidation, and even a poisoning of the Opposition candidate, Yushchenko led to the discrediting of the results of the first ballot held in November, 2004 that gave victory to Prime Minister Yanukovych. Ukraine’s Supreme Court later nullified the results of the November election and ordered a new election. The re-run took place on December 26, 2007, and Opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko won 52% of the vote to beat Prime Minister Yanukovych, who received only 44% of the vote. History will determine whether Nigeria will find a Ukrainian type solution to its current leadership legitimacy crisis. Another way of putting it is that Nigeria’s political future now lies in the hands of the judicial branch of government, which is currently reviewing petitions filed against the presidential and other disputed elections of April 2007.

President Yar’Adua himself joined other notable internal and external voices in advising the aggrieved parties to seek legal redress. Initially, General Muhammadu Buhari, the unsuccessful flag bearer of ANPP, stated that he was not going to appeal against the outcome of the April 21, 2007 presidential election, citing as his reason his displeasure at the fact that the Nigerian Supreme Court had rejected his petition against the disputed presidential election of 2003. He contended that the Supreme Court’s rejection of his petition against the outcome of the 2003 presidential election laid what he described as a foundation for the April, 2007 electoral imbroglio in the nation. However, in what looked like an about-face, later reports indicated that ANPP’s National Chairman, Chief Edwin Ume Ezeoke announced that his party would and has, after all, mounted a legal challenge against Yar’Adua’s presidential election victory. So have Atiku Abubakar’s Action Congress (AC) and Odumegwu Ojukwu’s All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) (Hallah, et al). Ojukwu was said to have received one hundred and fifty-five thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven votes in the presidential election.

In an earlier version of this article, I had asked, rhetorically, whether there was any chance that the notoriously sluggish Nigerian electoral tribunal process might proclaim the disputed results of the elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007 invalid before the May 29th, 2007 date when the Obasanjo’s administration was scheduled to hand over to a new one. I speculated that if past records of the pace by which Nigerian electoral tribunals functioned were anything to go by, it would appear that a judicial overturning of the results of the disputed state and federal elections before the transitional date of May 29, 2007 was a forlorn expectation. But I hastened to warn that a big question that faced the Nigerian nation was this: If the disputed results of the elections were allowed to stand, as have since been the case, and as the then President Obasanjo, the PDP and INEC insisted, could the incoming governments function effectively against the backdrop of what seemed like a national perception that those governments emerged through a flawed and hence illegitimate process? I noted that President-elect Umaru Yar’Adua might mean well, and appeared to possess what it takes to lead Nigeria in the right direction—given his track record of success as a two-term governor of Katsina state--but I asked whether he could function effectively as president under a cloud of illegitimacy? He has since taken charge as Nigeria’s chief executive and commander in chief, and time will answer that question.

The present situation is reminiscent of the national outrage that greeted the 1983 re-election of National Party of Nigeria’s (NPN) notoriously incompetent President Shehu Shagari for a second term following his “landslide” victory in the presidential election of that year. Even though Shagari’s earlier 1979 presidential election was for ever seen by supporters of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) as an undeserved victory, and he later countered the resulting air of illegitimacy by forming an alliance with the defunct Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), his “landslide” re-election victory of 1983 in the midst of a deteriorating national economy--along with a new super majority in the National Assembly-- was irredeemably tainted by a national conviction, held across the political spectrum, that his re-election was a stolen victory. Such was the stench that characterized the largely fraudulent state and national elections of 1983 that Nigerians resorted to open advocacy of a military take-over of the government as the only viable alternative for getting rid of a highly corrupt and highly incompetent civilian regime that came to be viewed more as a problem than a source of national succor. It was indeed no surprise that a military coup de’tat that occurred on the eve of 1984 expelled the political villains. What a pity that judging by current events, Nigerian political leaders seem unable to learn from history! What a pity that the then President Obasanjo, who years ago, came to be revered almost globally (and rightly so at the time) as a statesman for successfully handing over his military government to an elected civilian government in 1979, is the one that now presided over what have been characterized as the worst elections in Nigeria’s history, namely the disputed elections of April 14 and April 21, 2007!

One recognizes that there is hardly any perfect electoral process, even in countries that have had centuries of experiences with elections. But I submit, with due humility, that the shortcomings that were associated with the recent Nigerian state and federal elections of April 14 and 21, 2007 read more like the results of willful and deliberate criminal actions of political office candidates and their hirelings to cheat and bulldoze their way to elective offices than the innocent products of administrative naivety or sheer lapses that occur in an imperfect world. It remains to be seen, however, whether the electoral tribunals that are currently reviewing petitions against the disputed results of the April, 2007 elections would agree with the contention of internal and external observers that those elections were not free and fair.

Although the Fourth Republic of Nigeria, which was led for eight years by Olusegun Obasanjo, began only in 1999, as a nation, Nigeria is not a neophyte to the task of conducting regional, state and/or national elections. Since she became independent of British colonial rule in 1960, Nigeria (despite experiencing a military interregnum for the greater part of its post-colonial life), has gone through several regional, state and national elections, including those of 1964, 1965, 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999 and 2003. It’s however, instructive to note, perhaps with the grudging exception of those of 1979 (although the presidential election of that year was disputed by supporters of UPN for allegedly falling short, by one state, of the constitutional requirement that a winning presidential candidate must win at least twenty-five percent of the vote in two-thirds of the states of the federation), that none of the preceding elections received an across-the-board level of national acceptance. However, most analysts continue to hail the annulled presidential election of 1993 as one that approximated basic standards of a free and fair election.

At this juncture, there are critical and thought-provoking questions that all Nigerians and Nigerian political leaders in particular need to ask of themselves. One, how can one expect a fairly free and fair election in a society where most public institutions seem to malfunction in significant ways? Two, how can one expect a fairly free and fair election in a nation that as recently as 2006 could not come up with a credible headcount of the residents of Nigeria, otherwise known as a national census? The electricity generation and supply system is known for its chronic malfunctioning and seems to defy any solution. Almost nation-wide, Nigeria’s pipe borne water supply system is known for its chronic malfunctioning. The nation’s oil refineries are malfunctioning; so, long-suffering Nigerians have had to pay avoidably high prices for gasoline because their government has to import refined petroleum to make up for the shortfalls occasioned by an unreliable domestic refining system. Reports abound about retired public employees who are hardly paid their pensions and gratuities. In several states, teachers are owed salaries for months on end. Generally-speaking, Nigerian public hospitals have been described as glorified death traps. Hence, the tendency on the part of wealthy Nigerians and top Nigerian politicians to travel abroad for their own medical needs, while leaving the masses of Nigerians to depend upon an unreliable medical system. Toll gates that were set up on Nigerian highways for the collection of tolls from road users could not function as designed because the toll gate operators perfected means of stealing toll gate collections. They were consequently dismantled through a presidential directive.

While one recognizes that police graft is by no means peculiar to Nigeria and that the degree to which it occurs across nations may depend upon the effectiveness or lack thereof of each country’s anti-corruption and fraud monitoring systems, it’s nonetheless no secret that Nigeria’s police force is distrusted by most Nigerians and in some quarters may be regarded as a national disgrace in terms of its general record of performance although it’s not unlikely that a significant number of its serving men and women are persons of integrity. A recently released survey of public opinion in a cross-section of Nigerian cities reported that Nigerians viewed their police force as the most corrupt institution in the country (Akosile). This perception was keenly reflected in a June, 2007 editorial by one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers, namely the Daily Trust. As the newspaper put it, “it is highly disturbing that the Nigeria police which statutory responsibilities include combating corruption at all levels of our corporate existence has disappointedly become a brazen custodian of the sharp practices it was established to fight.” Not surprisingly, almost everyone who pays a visit to Nigeria from abroad comes back with tales of running into countless police check points, ostensibly mounted for the apprehension of suspected criminals, but are, in reality, sites of iniquity—sites for the extortion of money from travelers at gun point. So, I ask you ladies and gentlemen, how in the world did you expect a cripple to run when he could barely walk? While one is yet to come across any denial of election-related wrong doing from the national leadership of the Nigerian police force, the now retired Police Chief, Sunday Ehindero was reported as giving “…a pass mark to the police for a successful discharge of their duty in providing a peaceful and enabling environment for the conduct of the elections” (Oyedele). Whatever may be the case, it’s saddening to learn that about thirty-nine Nigerian police officers lost their lives in the violence that characterized some of the governorship and state elections of April 14, 2007. Eleven others described as civilians also lost their lives during that election (Okocha). Well, since the elections, the leadership of Nigeria’s police force has changed hands, and the newly-appointed Acting Inspector General of Police, Sir Mike Mbama Okiro, seemingly sensitive to the rather huge image problem of his force, has announced a war against police corruption. He is reported as having disbanded the infamous police checkpoints that littered the country and also established anti-corruption teams in the six geographical zones of Nigeria. His war on police corruption is not directed only inwards, for he was reported, rather impressively, as warning members of the public to desist from bribing police officers, pointing out that “…henceforth both the giver and the receiver will face the same music” (Taiwo).

While, as the preceding passage demonstrated, the erstwhile leadership of the police had commended its officers for providing what it described as a peaceful and enabling environment for the April elections but remained silent on the Opposition’s allegations that police officers acted as collaborators in the electoral cheating that allegedly took place in April, the leadership of Nigeria’s Military Defense Forces came out unequivocally to declare that the military did not take sides with any political party during those elections. General Martin Luther Agwai, who served as the Chief of Defense Staff for the Nigerian armed forces until June, 2007, was reported by newspapers in June, 2007 as extolling and describing as non-partisan, the role played by the military during the elections. Here is a pertinent excerpt from Nigeria’s ThisDay newspaper. 

Military  authorities have explained  the role of the armed forces during the April general election clarifying that the role it played was in line with the nation's constitution.  Opposition parties had, since the outcome of the polls, accused the military of partisanship in their peace keeping efforts during the polls, alleging that they were used as instruments to rig the poll in favour of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, the outgoing Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General Martins Luther Agwai, in Ibadan during a farewell visit to military formations across the country, declared that the military played its role according to its abilities and without fear or favour. He pointed out that military operations during the election were professionally done by his men and officers, which, he said, brought about the stability now reigning in the country.`If you see what happened during the elections, we defended the constitution, not the parties, not the party in power. We defended the constitution of this country and I am proud to say that it has brought the stability you see in this country today,’ he said (Tunde).

Given the foregoing, it would appear that there is a dis-connect between the public perception of the part played by the military during the elections and the military leadership’s understanding and interpretation of the situation.

Be that as it may, it’s my conviction that the underlying cause of all the preceding problems and paradoxes of the Nigerian society is public corruption that is fueled by an economic system that fosters greed, and caters to the needs of a privileged few while leaving the masses to wallow in abject poverty, against the backdrop of a nation that is believed to be among the largest producers of crude oil in the world.

An annual statistical report by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) showed that Nigeria was OPEC’s third largest exporter of crude oil in 2005 with an export record of two-point-three million barrels per day (2.3 million barrels per day) (Crude Oil Exports 35). Only Iran with 2.4 million barrels per day and Saudi Arabia with 7.2 million barrels per day were ahead of Nigeria. Although the rampant nature of public corruption in Nigeria is hardly news to the ears of close watchers of that society, it’s nonetheless both noteworthy and praise-worthy that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was reported recently as having recovered from some former state governors in the just-ended civilian administration, corruptly-acquired assets worth more than one hundred billion naira (Ogbuenyi and Elumoye). Given the apparent pervasiveness of public corruption in the body politic, it may be hard to argue convincingly that the apparently insoluble power outages of Nigeria are due mainly to technical incapacity. It may also be hard to argue convincingly that the apparently insoluble shortage of pipe borne water in Nigeria is due mainly to technical incapacity. By the same token, it may be hard to argue convincingly that the malfunctioning of the domestic oil refining system is due mainly to technical incapacity.

Finally, it can hardly be argued convincingly that the problems that plagued the state and federal elections of April 14 and 21, 2007 occurred largely because of administrative and technical incapacity. On the contrary, it is my conviction that Nigeria possesses the human and material resources necessary for planning and executing successful local, state and national elections. The cog in the wheel is corruption-induced willful mismanagement. Even if INEC had laid out and probably tried to execute the best of electoral plans, and even if INEC was constituted of all the saints that Nigeria could produce, it could still not pull off free and fair elections in the face of what seems like a largely corrupt and compromised law enforcement and security establishment. Conceivably, elections are rigged not necessarily out of a burning desire by the Nigerian riggers to have a chance to “serve the people,” but because of the illicit personal enrichment that is expected to accrue from having an elective office.

 In the final analysis, ex-President Obasanjo should realize that electoral crimes are also grave acts of corruption. Gaining political office by snatching ballot boxes and by filling ballot boxes with fake votes is as unconstitutional and is as treasonable as seizing the reigns of government with the gun. Obasanjo’s rather stubborn insistence that Nigerians should accept, and thus, swallow like a bitter pill, the conduct and results of the state and federal elections that attracted near universal condemnation by both Nigerians and non-Nigerians, cast a shadow of doubt on the sincerity of the otherwise laudable war on corruption that we witnessed during his administration. His insistence that elections that received world-wide condemnation must stand represented a disservice to Nigeria’s effort to establish a working democracy. It’s normal in human affairs for people to make mistakes or to knowingly commit crimes, but it is unforgivable for them to refuse to repent and make amends for their wrong-doing. Nigeria can borrow a leaf from Ukraine, which experienced an election crisis in 2004.  That country’s presidential elections that took place in November and December 2004 were largely between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. Charges of media bias, voter intimidation, and even a poisoning of the Opposition candidate, Yushchenko led to the discrediting of the results of the first ballot held in November, 2004 that gave victory to Prime Minister Yanukovych. Ukraine’s Supreme Court later nullified the results of the November election and ordered a new election. The re-run took place on December 26, 2007, and Opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko won 52% of the vote to beat Prime Minister Yanukovych, who received only 44% of the vote. History will determine whether Nigeria will find a Ukrainian type solution to its current leadership legitimacy crisis. Another way of putting it is that Nigeria’s political future now lies in the hands of the judicial branch of government, which is currently reviewing petitions filed against the presidential and other disputed elections of April 2007.

Works Cited

Abubakar, Mohammed. “ANPP to Contest Yar’Adua’s Victory at Tribunal.” The Guardian 27 April 2007 (http://www.guardiannewsngr.com/news/article01).

Akosile, Abimbola. “Nigeria: Police, Most Corrupt-Survey. ThisDay 13 June 2007 (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706140582.html)

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999. Lagos: Federal Government P, 1999.

“Corruption and the Police.” Daily Trust 27 June 2007. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706270723.html).

“Crude Oil Exports By OPEC Members, 1970-2005.” Annual Statistical Bulletin. Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, 2005: 35+.

Edirin, Etaghene. “Nigeria: Yar’Adua Presidency Not Legitimate.” Daily Champion 11 June 2007 (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706111311.html).

“Elections a failed process-Madeleine Albright.” New Nigerian 24 April 2007, USA Africa Dialogue Series (http://www.toyinfalola.com/
www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa).

Ezibgo, Onyebuchi. “Nigeria: NLC Rejects Yar’Adua’s Victory.” ThisDay 25 April, 2007 (http://allafrica.com/stories/200704250267.html).

Hallah, Tashikalmah, et al. “Nigeria: Atiku, Buhari, Ojukwu Want Tribunal to Annul Presidential Polls.” Daily Trust 23 May 2007. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200705230550.html).

Idonor, Daniel. “Nigeria: Obj-No Basis to Annual Poll-Seek Redress in Court-UN.” Daily Champion 25 April, 2007 (http://allafrica.com/stories/200704250087.html).

Ikokwu, Constance. “Nigeria: US Congress, Soyinka Differ on Way Forward.” ThisDay 8 June 2007. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706080617.html).

Mahtani, Dino, and Williams Wallis. “EU Observers Say Nigerian Polls Not Credible.” FT.Com Financial Times 23 April 2007 (http://us.ft.com/ftgateway/superpage.ft?news_id=fto042320070849303148).

Nigeria: Sole Toll-Gate.” ThisDay 12 June 2007. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706130078.html).

Ogbuenyi, Nosike, and Deji Elumonye. “EFCC Recovers N100bn Assets from Ex-Govs.” ThisDay 12 June 2007. (http://odili.net/news/source/2007/jun/12/217.html).

Okocha, Chuks. “Elections: 50 Killed, 1093 Offenders for Prosecution.” ThisDay 30 April, 2007.

Onu, Godwin & Umezurike, C.A.C. Press Release from the South East chapter of the Nigerian Political Science Association, 19 April, 2007 (http://www.toyinfalola.com/www.utexas.edu/conferences/africa).

Oyedele, Damilola. “Ehindero: We’ve Nabbed Ige’s Killers.” ThisDay 23 May, 2007.(http://allafrica.com/stories/200705230063.html)

Sanni, Tunde. “Agwai Explains Military Role During Polls.” ThisDay 4 June, 2007.

Soyinka, Wole. “Nigeria: What Soyinka Told U.S. Congress.” Daily Champion 11 June 2007. (http://allafrica.com/stories/200706111307.html).

Rabiu, Ruby, and Beatrice Onuchukwu . “Nigeria: Supreme Court Sacks Governor.” Daily Trust 15 June 2007.

(http://allafrica.com/stories/200706150759.html)

Taiwo, Julian. “Okiro Sets Up 12 Anti-Graft Teams, Abolishes Roadblocks, Unfolds 8-Point Agenda.” ThisDay 6 June, 2007. (http://odili.net/news/source/2007/jun/6/210.html).

“Timeline: Battle for Ukraine.” BBC News 23 January, 2005 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4061253.stm).

About Dr. Okafor

Dr. Victor Oguejiofor Okafor is the author of  Okafor, Victor.  A Roadmap for Understanding African Politics: Leadership and Political Integration in Nigeria. New York: Routledge, 2006. He is also the author of Okafor, Victor. (2006). Towards an Understanding of Africology. Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt, co-editor of Okafor, Victor & Adeleke, Tunde. (2006). (Eds.). Studies in African American Leadership: Individuals, Committees and Movements. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, several chapters in anthologies, and several journal, magazine and newspaper articles. Dr. Okafor currently serves as a professor of African American Studies at Eastern Michigan University where he has taught since 1995. Previously, he served as an assistant professor of African American Studies & Director of African American Studies at North Carolina State University in Raleigh from 1993 to 1994.

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Notes on the Nigerian Presidential Elections of 2007

Dr. Gloria Emeagwali,

Central Connecticut State University (CCSU)

We shall first of all briefly highlight major periods of Nigerian historical development since the late 19th century and then provide some of the available information about the newly elected or rather ‘selected’ President.

Background History

1886 –1914

Between the 1880s and 1914 the British invaded and conquered various city states, kingdoms and empires within the region subsequently called Nigeria. These centers of power included the Kanem Bornu Empire of the Sefawa Dynasty; the  Sokoto Empire, comprising Kano, Zaria, Zamfara, Ilorin, Sokoto, Katsina and some of the former city states of Hausaland; the Benin Empire and the Igbo village democracies. 1914 marked the consolidation of northern and southern Protectorates under British domination. African resistance to alien colonial rule continued until the 1920s in Eastern Nigeria.

1914 - 1960

The era between 1914 and 1960 marked the consolidation of British power and the exploitation of Nigerian tin, vegetable oils and rubber for the European derived wars of 1914 and 1939. Constitutional reforms moved the country closer to independence from colonial domination. Such reforms were due to union activism and high profile nationalists, such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, etc.

1960 to 1965

The First Republic

Independence was eventually regained by constitutional means. Interestingly enough, there were allegations of election rigging by the British to the advantage of the NPC (Northern). Other parties participating in the election included the NCNC (East), NEPU (Northern/ socialist and anti-aristocracy) and the AG (West).

1966- 1979

Military Rule

The military rule of General Gowon and later Brigadiers Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo came about in the aftermath of election malpractices and economic decline. The era was associated with the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970, a civil war associated with Biafran secession. An era of oil boom followed the OPEC oil price increase of 1973, and massive development projects were embarked on. University expansion, infrastructural development, the establishment of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and indigenization programs, were among some of the accomplishments of this era; but Nigerians generally felt that the military leaders should return to the barracks.

Civilian Rule

The election of Shehu Shagari meant that civilian rule was once more attempted, but massive corruption characterized the regime. The Buhari-Idiagbon coup of 1983 dislodged the civilian government.

1983 – 1999:

Back to Military Rule

1983- 1985: Buhari / Idiagbon military junta

1985-1992:  Ibrahim Babangida and ‘the IMF coup’

1993:           Election of Moshood Abiola/Annulment

1993- 1998: Sanni Abacha seized power from the Shonekan interim administration

1998-1999:  Abdulsalam Abubakar’s Interim Administration

1999 -2003 & 2003-2007

Civilian Regime

The election of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 marked a return to civilian rule after several turbulent years of military rule. The excesses of Sanni Abacha and some of his predecessors, paved the way for a welcoming atmosphere from the general population. Some were skeptical that the former military officer would be able to reinvent himself and become a democrat, but the optimists felt otherwise. Not known for tolerance or even honesty, the regime, particularly during the second term in office, revealed that some of the apprehensions were indeed justified.

April 2007

Despite major complaints of inflated ballot boxes, delayed voting and inadequate security Umaru Yar’Adua, a chemistry professor, under the ticket of the PDP, was declared the winner.That the election was rigged was clear to all observers, local and international. There have been numerous speculations about the reason for Obasanjo’s sponsorship of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and his complicity in the electoral malpractice. Was the president attempting to stay on indefinitely by instigating a coup d’etat and chaos, unpredictable as this could be? Was he attempting to be an active ‘king maker’ so as to preempt a corruption probe into his finances? Did he simply want to give his rivals and adversaries in the party ‘a poisoned chalice?’ Was the former president paving the way so that he would be able to rule by proxy and would that even be possible given the strength of character of Mr Yar’Adua?

Who is Umaru Musa Yar’Adua?

 Umaru Musa Yar’Adua is the brother of the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar’adua, Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, 1976-1979 and a civilian politician between the 1980s and1997.  The latter shared a jail cell with Obasanjo during the Abacha dictatorship.  Umaru Musa Yar’Adua attended Government College, Keffi, and Barewa College, Zaria, before completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he did his BA and MS in Analytical Chemistry. He was influenced by the late Bala Usman, a radical visionary, aristocrat and outspoken critic of past administrations, including that of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Observers recall a major policy confrontation between Obasanjo and Usman in Abuja.

Whilst serving as the Governor of Katsina State from 1999 to 2007, Alhaji Yar’Adua improved on the educational, health, electrification and water sectors. He encouraged the exposure of state accounts for public scrutiny. He also balanced the budget and avoided that major financial pitfall of US presidents--that is, deficit spending. This did not surprise his admirers. He was a supporter of the peasant and working class oriented People’s Redemption Party (PRP), a party that that was in fact opposed to the NPN, the party of choice of his late brother. He was also a supporter of indigenous knowledge systems and encouraged research into indigenous flora such as the neem plant.

That he presided over the affairs of Katsina state during the introduction of the Sharia and the persecution of one of its female subjects is certainly a blot on his career profile, and one wonders if this was a sign of weakness on his part. There has also been criticism of his controversial political dealings in the governorship primaries with respect to Aminu Bello Masari whom he initially supported but unceremoniously dropped. It has been noted, however, that his humility, simplicity and clean record with respect to financial dealings  in the state, override some of these foibles.

Some have argued that given the questionable background of some of the other presidential candidates, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua was probably the best candidate. Among these candidates was General Buhari, a former coup leader and member of the military junta that ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985. The General was seen as a disciplinarian who would possibly curtail corruption. Skeptics, however, hint at an earlier unproven allegation of financial mismanagement and wonder whether his focus on ‘discipline’ would lead down the pathway to authoritarianism. In the case of the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, Governor of Adamawa State and a candidate for the 2007 election, accusations of corruption have been rampant although supporters of this candidate admired his courage, determination and willingness to speak out and challenge authoritarianism.

SUMMARY

Despite a turbulent election, marred not by U.S.-style missing ‘chads’ but by inflated ballot boxes and a host of irregularities, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua emerged victorious. The opposition parties have cried foul, and, so, too, have international election monitors. President Yar’Adua has promised to improve on the electoral process during his tenure and to run the government, not as the president of the People’s Democratic Party but as the President of Nigeria. Yar’Adua seems to be an honest, unassuming leader untarnished by corrupt practices and greed, with a record that presidential aspirants, such as General Buhari and Governor Atiku could hardly claim. The fact remains, though, that the election was rigged and his credibility tarnished.

The challenges confronting President Yar’Adua are many. He would have to find a way to challenge aristocratic privilege, cope with IMF and World Bank usury, and forge meaningful solidarity between north and south. The Structural Adjustment programs of the IMF and World Bank should be completely abandoned and the oil wealth of Nigeria utilized in the interest of the  majority of the population,  in terms of equitable distribution of resources at the regional and local levels.

 He would have to revive the excellence of Ahmadu Bello University and other tertiary institutions in the country whilst continuing the good work  he initiated in Katsina State in primary education and health. He must have the courage to embark on massive transformation to make Nigeria a better place for all segments of the society.

 His initiative in the Delta Region must be swift and decisive so as to preempt regional secessionism. 

About Dr. Gloria  T. Emeagwali

Dr. Gloria  Emeagwali is Professor of History and African Studies at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) where she has taught since 1991. Previously, she served at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria from 1985 to 1989, and Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, 1979 to 1985. She has seven book publications and fifty five peer reviewed scholarly articles related to Africa’s history.

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