Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Rough Road to Election 2007; with Elections Only Months Away, Nigeria's Political Landscape Is Understandably Crowded, All Hoping to Succeed President Obasanjo. Pini Jason Reports on a Campaign Already Marred by Mudslinging

Magazine article New African

Nigeria: Rough Road to Election 2007; with Elections Only Months Away, Nigeria's Political Landscape Is Understandably Crowded, All Hoping to Succeed President Obasanjo. Pini Jason Reports on a Campaign Already Marred by Mudslinging

Article excerpt

In October, Nigeria took the first noticeable step towards next year's elections with the registration of voters. If that exercise is anything to go by, then it portends chaos for Election 2007. Against the objections of the National Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) insisted on electronic registration of voters. The National Assembly and indeed many Nigerians were suspicious of the device, saying it was an easy way for the ruling party to rig the elections. The machines themselves proved no good salesmen for themselves. They malfunctioned the day the INEC chairman, Prof Maurice Iwu, went to the National Assembly to demonstrate their efficiency.

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When registration kicked off, there were not enough machines to go round. In a local government where 40 machines were expected, fewer than 20 were deployed. Worse still, Nigerians found it difficult to locate the centres where the INEC officials and their machines were. There were fears that many people would be disfranchised.

On 4 November, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), kicked off its congresses from the wards. December is going to be a busy month for the PDP and the other parties as they hold their national conventions to elect their presidential candidates. Meaningful steps, no doubt, but the conventions have already been clouded by the gale of impeachments of state governors.

The "unconstitutional" impeachment of the Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose, accused of money laundering by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), has led to a political muddle that has had to be cleared with a state of emergency.

On 1 November, the Appeals Court in Ibadan in southwest Nigeria ruled that the impeachment of the Oyo state governor, Rasheed Ladoja, did not follow the constitutional provisions. The next day, a faction of the House of Assembly in Anambra State sneaked into the state capital from a hideout in the neighbouring Delta State, and at 5.30am purportedly impeached the governor, Peter Obi. The governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, is also facing impeachment by six of the 24 members of the state house of assembly.

The Nigerian constitution prescribes a quorum of two-thirds of members of state assemblies for any impeachment process to be legal. But with the current disposition of the Nigerian police, which President Obasanjo solely controls, it is possible now to impeach a governor with even less than one-third and get away with it. Accusing fingers are already being pointed at Obasanjo for this sorry state of affairs.

Nigerians see the serial crises in the states as part of his calculated attempt to get his tenure extension by other means. This has cast a pall on the entire transition to 2007 which has been going badly since Obasanjo's tenure elongation bill, popularly known as the "Third Term Project", was defeated in the National Assembly in May this year.

Though this has paved the way for other presidential aspirants to emerge, critics have cautioned against what they call Obasanjo's "Plan B", (ie, a pursuit of tenure elongation through other means). Now, the intensification of the EFCC's activities is seen by critics as a deliberate act of intimidation by Obasanjo of likely successors.

"This assault is especially vicious on those who appear to have good chances of winning the presidency, thereby leaving the stage to those whose prime motive in joining the race is probably to be known and addressed as 'presidential aspirants'," says Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, the former military governor of Kaduna State and one of Obasanjo's prominent critics. "He is prosecuting this operation by using, or rather misusing, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission," Umar added.

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Observers thought that having failed to perpetuate himself in office, Obasanjo would anoint a successor. A few aspirants tried to attract his attention. …

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