Nigerian presidential elections Obasanjo’s Poisoned Victory

AMID GROWING charges of vote rigging Olusegun Obasanjo seems to be on course to be declared winner of Nigeria’s bitterly contested 19 April Presidential election. How stable his rule will be is a very different question.

On the surface, the re-election of Obasanjo and the PDP seems inexplicable given the general background of four years of mounting resentment by Nigerians against the rulers elected in 1999.

Vote rigging seems to have played a part in Obasanjo’s victory, especially in the oil producing “South-South” region, (most notably in Rivers state where a nearly 100% turnout and a over 90% vote for Obasanjo is reported despite an opposition boycott call!).

The European Union’s observer team said that the elections were “marred by serious irregularities and fraud”, that in six states the results lack credibility and that they “witnessed and obtained evidence of widespread election fraud in 13 states”. That means rigging in over a third of Nigeria’s states.

Voters’ alienation

But ballot rigging is not the only explanation for the election result.

The PDP, the main ruling party, was able to outspend the other parties.

The reality was that none of the main parties offered any real choice. They represented different bands of robbers who were desperate to win office in order to loot the state treasury provided by the income from oil and gas exports. The most significant differences between them were often their different ethnic origins.

The only party that could be seen as offering an alternative to the looters, the radical National Conscience Party (NCP), did not yet have the strength to be seen by the broad masses as a viable alternative.

In this situation millions did not vote. In Lagos only a minority, 1,914,340 of the 4,558,216 registered voters were officially recorded as having voted.

The re-election of Obasanjo does not reflect the widespread bitterness over the non-performance of the national and state governments elected in 1999.

This will grow because the first objective facing the victorious candidates is to recoup the huge amounts of money they have invested in the election, a task that will be made more complicated by the recent fall in the oil price.

Within the NCP members of the Democratic Socialist Movement, the Nigerian section of the CWI, are explaining that this disputed election will open up a period of turbulence in Nigeria that will give an opportunity to build a mass movement to challenge the existing elite.

Robert Bechert