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What chance for democracy in Nigeria?

May 6, 2009

Can Nigeria, the so-called “giant of Africa”, live up to its claim of being the biggest democracy in the black world? Not if its latest state governorship election is anything to go by, argue some in Africa’s most populous nation.

The re-run of elections for the post of governor in southwest Ekiti state were seen as a test of whether Nigeria’s electoral system has improved since flawed federal and state polls in 2007.

But for the opposition, it turned out to be as much of a charade as all the other re-runs in states where the 2007 results were nullified, all of them won by President Umaru Yar’Adua’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and all mired in controversy.

The official results showed the PDP candidate in Ekiti winning by a narrow 4,000-vote margin. The Action Congress opposition party has vowed to challenge the results in court. The re-run had to be postponed in two of more than 60 wards because of violence as frustrated voters protested against the alleged falsification of results.

The resident electoral commissioner Ayoka Adebayo at one point quit and went into hiding. “(This election) was supposed to be the election that will enhance the image of INEC (election commission), electoral process in our dear country Nigeria and the whole black race,” she wrote in a resignation letter published by Nigerian newspapers.

“Unfortunately, the circumstances changed in the middle of the process; therefore my conscience as a Christian cannot allow me to further participate,” she said, a few days before being persuaded to return to her post.

Residents spoke of voter intimidation, while election monitors and journalists complained they were manhandled by party thugs. Soldiers were deployed to assist 10,000 additional police officers already meant to be ensuring security.

The southwest is Nigeria’s most politically volatile region. Electoral violence in the area in the 1960s and in 1983 contributed to the collapse of the first and second republics. Analysts say the Ekiti re-run is a sign of what could happen in 2011 when Nigeria holds its next round of general elections.

Yar’Adua, who came to power two years ago pledging to reform the electoral system, has sent six bills designed to improve the process to the national assembly. But it will take months to pass them into law. Critics say reforms are not enough – attitudinal change is also needed in a system which sees elections as a “do-or-die affair”, to quote former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

Time is fast running out if Nigeria is to avoid a repeat of the chaotic experience of two years ago. If South Africa and neighbouring Ghana can successfully hold national polls, why can’t Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer and second biggest economy? Or is it, as some local commentators put it, “a giant with clay feet”?

Picture: A Nigerian polling station during 2007 election. Finbarr O’Reilly / Reuters.






The re-run election in Ekiti State was just a waste of the nation’s resources.The PDP has alternatives of imposing leaders on the masses.Gov. Segun Oni could have contested under a different platform before decamping back to the PDP as demonstrated by Yerima,Aleiro,Yuguda and Sheriff..


I am getting sick and tired of all the brouhaha in ‘Nigeria’ on what works and what doesn’t work in a country that is not suppose to be one in the first place. What else could one expect from a fabricated state and especially when bribery and corruption is baked in every Nigerian gene?

The Ekiti re-run election is a replica of the 60s and it has recurred over and over again and yet nothing seems to be improving in terms of how organized societies put into place dramas of this nature. Nothing will ever change in that country untill some radical steps are taken.


Nigerians have been unnessarily sentimental about the Ekiti rerun election. While many are condemning the PDP, they forget to look critically at the actions of the AC. The AC, like the PDP, is guilty of all the ills like ballot stuffing and violence generally attributed to the PDP. The only difference between the two parties is that the AC is adept at manipulating public opinion through the media while the PDP depends on the power of incumbency or raw power. As long as poverty remains widespread in the country, the situation will remain the same. Political re-engineering- Yes! But intensive education of the people and all these will become history

Posted by wale ajani | Report as abusive

Tume Ahemba, this is another example of lazy and jaundiced reporting that has characterized western media perspective on issues involving Nigeria. From your comment it is obvious that you sat in your cosy hotel room to concort this report and that you are lazy in your research and analysis. Two examples will do to expose this:
1- ‘…all the other re-runs in states where the 2007 results were nullified, all of them won by President Umaru Yar’Adua’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’ this is incorrect, as you should have known that Labour Party won recently re-run election in Ondo State and in Edo State another opposition party won, both against PDP.
2-’…southwest is Nigeria’s most politically volatile region’. If you are as informed about Nigeria as you would have wanted us to believe, you should have substituted that ‘politically volatile…violent’ for politically consciousness, informed or even liberal.
As for the “a giant with clay feet”? well, yes, we are begining to suspect that and Nigerians, well meaning ones, are already working to replace that with feet made of the finest grade of steel.
I agree with Wale Ajani, too much sentiment with Ekiti re-run, what we need is action to correct the wrong not noises, this will defeat cynics like Ambrose Ehirim.
God bless Nigeria and her beautifull people

Posted by Kola Atolagbe | Report as abusive

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