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Nigeria Elections - 2007

The April 2007 election marked the first civilian-to-civilian handover of power in the nations history. A total of 43 parties participated in the national assembly elections, and 24 parties fielded candidates in the presidential election. Nigeria held state legislative and gubernatorial elections on 14 April 2007 as well as presidential and national legislative elections on April 21, 2007, in which more than 35 political parties participated.

The 17 December 2006 announcement of the landslide victory of Obasanjo's pick as presidential candidate, Umaru Yar'Adua, in the People's Democratic Party (PDP) convention seemed inevitable; however, Yar'Adua's announcement of Bayelsa Governor Goodluck Jonathan was generally unexpected. Goodluck Jonathan's studied loyalty to his predecessor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, his humility, and his comparative honesty (by Nigerian standards) are reportedly reasons President Obasanjo chose him as Umaru Yar'Adua's vice presidential running mate.

The new president had to come from the north, recognizing the north-south power swap that was worked out when Obasanjo came to power. President Obasanjo chose Yar'adua as the PDP candidate and successor as president because of Yar'adua's ability to remain outside the political establishment. Although the PDP machinery is "big and strong," that was not enough to win. The military establishment, which included not only those currently serving in the military but also National Assembly members, many of whom have military backgrounds, are not comfortable with the PDP's choice of "these two strange fellows" neither of whom have military backgrounds.

President Umaru Musa Yaradua was elected to a four-year term for the first time. The runner-up was former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who represented the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Yaraduas party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also won a majority of the votes in the elections for the Senate (53.7 percent) and House of Representatives (54.4 percent). The most successful opposition party in the legislative elections was the ANPP. Also participating were the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the National Democratic Party (NDP), the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), and the United Nigeria Peoples Party (UNPP).

Political violence occurred at federal, state, and local levels, as well as within political parties, but statistics on political violence were difficult to obtain. Even NGOs within the country could not agree on what constituted political violence or how many such incidents occurred. By March 30, 51 cases of killings, kidnappings, and clashes among supporters in Bayelesa, Bauchi, Benue, Rivers, and Delta states were recorded by the Nigerian Alliance for Peaceful Elections. The South Africa-based Institute for Democracy claimed that as many as 280 persons were killed in the country between February and March. The government made little effort to investigate or bring charges in any of these cases of political violence.

Incidents of political violence include the February 2007 case in which at least 35 persons were killed during seven days of clashes in the Ogoni region of Rivers State, where two of Governor Peter Odili's associates were fighting over political control. On 10 March 2007, fighting broke out between PDP and ANPP supporters in Abeokuta, Ogun State, after PDP supporters allegedly forced ANPP vehicles to stop. Four persons died and others were critically injured, several vehicles were destroyed, and ANPP gubernatorial candidate Senator Ibikunle Amosun was arrested on March 11 for inciting the violence. Amosun was held for two days before being released, and no charges were ever filed.

On 20 March 2007, armed DPP supporters in Gombe stormed a magistrate's court, forcibly freeing DPP gubernatorial candidate Abubakar Habu Hashidu and wounding the judge presiding over his case. On March 18, Hashidu and 14 of his supporters were arrested for allegedly inciting a riot in Gombe. Hashidu and his supporters maintained they were defending themselves against an attack by a group called Yan Kalare, widely believed to be a PDP-supported group.

US and international observers reported overall a seriously flawed process with credible reports of malfeasance and vote rigging in some constituencies. The scope of violence that occurred also was regrettable. There were considerable degrees of difference in the conduct of elections among states, but serious differences were also observed within states during the two polling dates. The main opposition parties, All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and the Action Congress (AC), as well as numerous smaller political parties and the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) filed petitions to challenge the results of gubernatorial elections in 34 of Nigeria's 36 states.

The government, through INEC, undertook voter registration; however, this effort was poorly organized, seriously flawed, incomplete, and not widely publicized. Although INEC claimed 60 percent voter turnout nationwide, most independent observers estimated it at less than 20 percent. In some states, local and international observers reported that they were unable to locate any open polling stations where voting was supposed to be taking place, despite INEC's later claims of voter turnout well above 50 percent for those polling stations. In other states, observers noted polling stations did not open until the late afternoon and were forced to close in the early evening due to darkness or state curfews, thereby restricting the number of voters who could be processed and allowed to vote.

International observers and several Nigerian parties alleged fraud, irregularities, and politically motivated violence in the elections in 2007. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who observed the elections, called the electoral process a step backward. The National Democratic Institute, one of the institutions that observed the elections, reported that the 2007 election was full of irregularities (including underage voting, ballots that did not include all the names of the candidates, errors in voter registration, lack of secrecy of voting, and inadequate polling stations), in addition to improper conduct such as stealing ballot boxes, intimidation, and vote buying. The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), which was also one of the observers, found that the elections did not meet basic regional and international standards. It concluded that the elections were, among other things, marred by poor organization, lack of essential transparency, widespread procedural irregularities and significant evidence of fraud.

In a nationwide radio and television broadcast on April 24, President Olusegun Obasanjo admitted problems in the conduct of the elections, but advised aggrieved parties "to avail themselves of the laid down constitutional procedure for seeking redress in electoral matters." In his 15-minute speech, President Obasanjo said the Nigerian constitution and legal system anticipated that participants in elections might feel aggrieved and provided built-in mechanisms for redress. While acknowledging that the general elections were characterized by logistical problems, the President said the results of the elections "had not deviated materially from the average projections of the polls." The lack of credibility of the 2007 elections was also recognized by Nigerian President Umaru Yaradua, who soon after his inauguration in 2007 formed the Electoral Reform Committee, with the specific mandate of devising ways of making elections in Nigeria free and fair.

The Court of Appeal received 1,527 petitions, a tripling of the 527 petitions filed and received in 2003. Nigeria's National Electoral Commission (INEC) experienced significant problems, including politicization and lack of independence; lack of transparency in its operations and decision-making; and persistent failure to make adequate logistical arrangements for both voter registration and polling. However, Nigeria experienced its first transition of power between civilian administrations when President Obasanjo stepped down on May 29, 2007. Newly-elected President Umaru Yar'Adua, a respected governor from the northern state of Katsina, pledged publicly to make peace and security in the Niger Delta and continued electoral reform his top priorities.

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Page last modified: 03-08-2013 19:15:31 ZULU