Quasi News and Commentary

by Wordworks2001

Bomb blasts rocked Asaba, Delta State last week and it wasn’t the militants attack big oil interests. It was politics as usual in Nigeria. Two candidates of the country’s largest party, the Peoples Democratic Party, were attacked at their homes. On another night in the same city, a man trying to enter the PDP’s Secretariat in the same city, was stopped and arrested for carrying a bomb.

One of the victims of these two attacks, in which no one was killed, was a candidate for Nigeria’s National Assembly. The other was a woman politician, also a member of the PDP, but a different faction than the first.

In Anambra State last week, PDP candidate, Tony Nwoye was driving his Nissan SUV through the busy streets of Enugu, the state capital, when, in broad daylight, he was attacked by gunmen. Nwoye had the presence to race away from the ambush, but not before his car was riddled with bullets. One of his security men killed one of the attackers.

This is politics as usual in Nigeria and it usually involves the country’s oldest and biggest political party in Nigeria, the People’s Democratic Party. The influence this big machine wields in Federal and state politics cannot be over emphasized. The PDP is the party of the country’s first democratically elected president who managed to succeed himself through the democratic process. Before President Obasanjo won election in 1999, Nigeria was ruled by military dictators who were occsionally replaced democratically with candidates who never remained in office very long.

Since 2003, the PDP has divided into two major factions, one which supported a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Obasanjo to run for a third term. The other faction was filled with politicos that decried the idea of the president exceeding the two term limit. Among members of that faction were politicians and retired generals who wanted very badly to replace Obasanjo at Aso Rock in Abuja, the equivolent of the White House in the USA.

One of those who lusted after the most powerful job in the country was it’s vice president. Since their second term began in 2003, these two former running mates have been doing the dozens on each other. Obasanjo has fired most of the vice president’s staff. He has accused the vice president of treason. The vice president has fired back withh his own accusations and stated publicly that the president wants him killed.

Beyond all the political jockeying for position in the PDP, the party has been rife with corruption. During his final term in office, Obasanjo began cracking down on corrupt public officials and dozens have been fired and arrested. Several await trials. Governors have been impeached. And many of those investigated and arrested weremembers of the PDP. Last week,, six more Nigerian governors were added to a list of names of Nigerians who are not allowed into the USA. It was thought they would depart Nigeria before the law caught up with and join the money they had stashed in US banks.

With all the slime and corruption in the party, why can’t another reform party overtake the PDP’s dominance? Therein lies the crux of Nigerian politics. In this country, the politician with the biggest and meanest and best armed goon squad wins the vote. It’s not a game of hanging chads and counting the votes of dead people, it’s a game where candidates are killed months before the election and if they manage to make it to election day alive, their voters may not make it to the polls that way. Many a would-be voter has been turned away from the ballot box by a sharp machette wielded by a politician’s goon.

As we get closer to the April 2007 elections, more and more acts of intimidation are sure to take place. Weekend rallies will be broken up by the oppositions pseudo-army. Bombs will be bursting in air. Ducking bullets will be a national pastime, for at least a few months.

And you thought politics in your country were rough!

LINKS

Punch (Lagos)
Daily Trust (Abuja)

Wordworks2001 is a retired US Army master sergeant who lives in Indiana and works in Nigeria. He blogs at wordworks2001

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