April 12, 2007

Nigerian Elections

On Saturday, there will be an election in Nigeria. We are hoping to spread democracy by force in Iraq, yet we are missing the opportunity to foster democracy where people actually want it.

For the past 47 years, from the time of the country's independence, Nigeria has transferred power through military coups. Hopefully on Saturday that trend will change.

Nigeria and its election

First, some background information provided by the CIA Factbook:

Nigeria achieved independence in 1960 from Great Britain. Following nearly 16 years of military rule, a new constitution was adopted in 1999, and a peaceful transition to civilian government was completed. We are hoping for the first transfer of power without military means.

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation and has a population of 131,859,731.

The current leader is President Olusegun Obasanjo

Political parties and their leaders:

Action Congress or AC [Bise Akande]; Advanced Congress of Demorats or ACD [Alex Anielo]; Alliance for Democracy or AD [Mojisoluwa AKINFENWA]; All Nigeria Peoples' Party or ANPP [Edwin UME-EZEOKE]; All Progressives Grand Alliance or APGA [disputed leadership]; Democratic People's Party or DPP [Jerry Useni]; Fresh Democratic Party [Chris OKOTIE]; Movement for the Restoration and Defense of Democracy or MRDD [Mohammed Gambo JIMETA]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Aliyu Habu FARI]; Peoples Democratic Party or PDP [Dr. Ahmadu ALI]; Peoples Redemption Party or PRP [Abdulkadir Balarabe MUSA]; Peoples Salvation Party or PSP [Lawal MAITURARE]; United Nigeria Peoples Party or UNPP [disputed leadership]
Religions: 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, 10% Other

Current background information:

Times have been violent recently in Nigeria. The battles have been both religious and regional.

The imposition of Islamic law in several states has embedded divisions and caused thousands of Christians to flee. Inter-faith violence is said to be rooted in poverty, unemployment and the competition for land.

There have been clashes between various separatists and nationalist groups.

Election concerns from Tom Lantos (D-CA):

Normal preparations for the voting on April 14 and 21– including the release of voter registration rolls, distribution of permanent voter cards, designation of polling stations and accreditation of domestic and international monitors – have been hampered in the run-up to the election. The offices of some domestic monitors and opposition party members have reportedly been ransacked by the police and security services, which have also denied permits to political parties seeking to hold rallies.

What it means:

With President Olusegun Obasanjo not running for reelection, we need to keep tabs on this election and push for a democratic transfer of power. This will create a great precedent for others in the region to follow.

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