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Will 2007 be the Nigerian Year of the Democrat?

Last Updated: 2/19/2007 12:21:45 AM

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Last Sunday was the Chinese New Year and in keeping with Buddhist traditions has been designated the Year of the Pig. This year also has significance in Nigeria as a very crucial election is set to take place, some may even call this the Nigerian Year of the Democrat.....

Musa Yaradua Presidential Candidate for Nigeria's ruling party (PDP)
Musa Yaradua Presidential Candidate for Nigeria's ruling party (PDP)

Once a rarity in Africa, multi party elections are increasingly becoming the norm. The ushering in of democratic reforms has brought with it some, albeit limited, progress in raising the living standards of those countries that have chosen this path. However such is the ground that needs to made up, that if the democratic way is indeed the solution to Africa's problems then the reforms need the opportunity to become sustained. Sustaining these reforms means holding free and fair elections, and transitions from an outgoing government to a new one.

This year sees Nigeria facing just such a milestone in it's democratic journey. In April, this year the 61.5 million voters registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will be eligible to cast their votes in Nigeria's first election that should see a civilian President handing over power to a civilian successor. Despite a failed attempt by supporters of incumbent President Obasanjo to extend his tenure for another four years in a plan that allegedly had the President's backing, all looks set for the elections to go ahead.

The run-up to the elections has been full of intrigue notably, the selection of the mild mannered Governor of the far northern Katsina state as the Presidential candidate of the ruling party. A man who had next to no national presence prior to this. All sorts of conspiracies and conjecture has been poured over, but Musa Yaradua by virtue of this selection stands as favourite to become the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Of equal significance and certainly of greater interest have the travails of the current Vice President Abubakar Atiku. In the last election Atiku was widely credited with having ensured Obasanjo's re-election in polls that were marred by widespread fraud. It was generally held then that Atiku would be a shoo-in for President once Obasanjo serves his term. Somewhere a long the line they fell out and ever since an escalating war of words, legal action and threats has been ongoing between the two. In December last year Atiku was declared as the Presidential candidate of the opposition Action Congress (AC) effectively resigning from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He now looks to set to challenge the electoral might of the party he helped create.

Outside the political arena, the crisis in the Niger Delta continues to defy the attempts of the Nigerian Authorities to restore order. Kidnapping of Oil workers has become widespread and question marks remain over whether a safe enough environment can be guaranteed to hold any elections, talk less of free and fair one.

These and other issues have created a charged atmosphere in which the elections will take place, considering Nigeria has never held an election considered to be generally free and fair, the challenge that faces the country is clear, can it be over come? Let's have your thoughts.


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