Today I am focusing on the upcoming Nigerian presidential and governatorial elections of April 2007. Politics in Nigeria is played unlike any country in the world, even some of Nigeria’s neighboring countries. The months and weeks leading up to the final election day are marred with ever increasing levels of verbal and written rhetoric that invariably break out into violent attacks that rival the ferocity of the most horrible of tribal wars.
It’s not a bad deal for unemplyed thugs and henchmen because each candidate who has announced his or her intention to run for office and some who are only thought to be considering tossing their hat or headdress into the ring, have to hire personal body guards. If not, they will frequently find themselves removed as a possible candidate by force, sometimes permanently.
Graft and payoffs are not violations of election law in Nigeria, they are a way of doing business. That becomes shockingly obvious in a story that was in the New York Times this past week.
Nigeria’s vice president has been at odds with its first freely elected president, since the beginning of their second, term limited term, serving together. Supporters of the president tried to change the Nigerian constitution so he could run again. The vice president didn’t quite see it that way and the rift between the two has grown from a little crack to a wide valley in three years. The vice president has had much of his staff summarily fired by the president. The VP claims there have been assassination attempts against him, and this week, the C-word was used for the first time in the campaign. The coup is the most common form of gaining power in Nigeria and if the elections go off without a hitch next April, it will mark the first time in this country’s volitile history that a democratically elected government administration succedded itself.
Add to the mix the militants who are out of control in the Niger Delta, indigenes of the different regions of the country vying to elect a president from their homeland areas, and the goons and warlords getting behind their particular candidate, it should be an interesting five months leading up to the election.
The writer lives in the USA and works in Nigeria, West Africa. He reports on political, socio-economic and health issues