Friday, April 25, 2003

The Nigerian Presidential Elections

So, for only the third time in its' history as an independent nation, Nigeria has held elections for a successive term of civilian rule. How did they turn out? Pretty much as I expected they would, and as most African "elections" tend to - chaotic and riddled with fraud. Africapundit has links to more of the details.

As you'll have seen if you followed the link, Somaliland has also been holding elections, and, just as in Nigeria, the losing candidate seems unwilling to accept the electoral results. At least the Somali candidate has the excuse of a wafer-thin margin to fall back on (shades of Gore-Bush 200), which the dour Mr. Buhari does not.

Even with all the irregularities that have occurred in the Nigerian elections, I find it implausible that the race between Buhari and Obasanjo could ever have been in doubt, and I say this as someone who considers Obasanjo's term in office to have been one long series of tragicomic incidents. He may not have achieved very much of value on the economic front, but at least this much must be said for the man - people are free to express themselves, and to criticize authority, as they have rarely been in the history of post-independence Nigeria. The memory of Buhari's harsh and authoritarian rule is too fresh in the minds of too many people for him to have stood a real chance of winning.

Having said all this, one has to ask - if the election results were never really in doubt, why was it necessary for Obasanjo's party to cheat at all, let alone in such a blatant fashion? To a large extent, this can be explained by the fact that the winner-take-all system by which
each of the 36 states are decided for one candidate or another was also the means for deciding the governorships, which are as certain a route to wealth in Nigeria as one can find, short of the presidency itself. Ultimately, all of Nigeria's politics boils down to the scramble for self-enrichment.