2007 Presidential election results
|Candidate (party)||Number of votes||% of votes|
|Umaru Yar'Adua||24 638 063||69,82%|
|Muhammadu Buhari (ANPP)||6 605 299||18,72%|
|Atiku Abubakar (AC)||2 637 848||7,47%|
|Orji Uzor Kalu (PPA)||608 803||1,73%|
2007 Parliamentary election results
|Party||Senate (109 seats)||House of Representatives (360 seats)|
|Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)||87||263|
|All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP)||14||63|
|Action Congress (AC)||6||30|
|Progressive People's Alliance (PPA)||1||3|
|Accord Party (ACCORD)||1||-|
|Labour Party (LP)||-||1|
After an embarrassing delay and countless assurances that polls would take place unimpeded, Nigeria has had to postpone its general election onApril 2 by a week owing to logistical complexities. The process now kicks off with parliamentary elections on April 9, followed by the Presidential vote on April 16. The election finally comes to an end, with the voting in of governors to the country’s 36 states, on April 23.
The climate in the run-up to the vote has been tense with spurts of violence, particularly in the southern town of Jos. The escalation of violence has led to the death of several people as well as the intimidation of many others for political gain. There is concern that the promise of free and fair elections by Nigerian authorities may be derailed by continued widespread violence.
Political violence is not the only worry, as ethnic and religious tensions continue to plague the country with Christian and Muslim clashes widely reported. In addition, the partly political and partly economic movement known as the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta remains a thorn in the government’s side and an obstacle to oil companies looking to extract the resource from the oil-rich delta region.
Contemporary political history
After several military coups, Nigeria returned to democracy and civilian rule in 1999, with the promulgation of a new constitution that made provision for a representative government through democratic elections. Olusegun Obasanjo became the country’s first civilian president and, in the process, took control of a country faced with a number of problems, such as economic stagnation and the deterioration of State institutions.
Nigeria experienced improved human rights and a greater commitment to democracy under Obasanjo, however, there were recurrent incidents of community and ethnic conflict in the country. This was largely centred around Muslim and Christian conflicts, particularly in the southern regions, as well as wealth distribution regarding land resources and oil wealth. The problem got so bad that Obasanjo formed a National Security Commission in 2001, to address the issue of escalating communal violence in Nigeria.
In 2003, Obasanjo was re-elected for a second term as the country’s President in a deeply flawed vote amid irregularities and accusations of vote rigging. Violence escalated thereafter, particularly in kidnappings and the destruction of oil infrastructure in the volatile Niger Delta, as militants stepped up their campaign in demand for a greater revenue share in the country’s oil wealth. Nigeria’s security forces have been largely ineffective in combating the threat.
In 2006, the National Assembly ruled against attempts by Obasanjo to amend the constitution allowing him to stand for a third term.
The 2007 general election in Nigeria was violent and deeply flawed, following a number of reported irregularities in which several opposition parties filed petitions against the running of the election and challenged the vote. Nigeria’s National Electoral Commission experienced a number of problems ranging from internal political meddling, a lack of independence, a lack of transparency and poor logistical capacity to effectively cater for voter registration and polling.
The newly elected President, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, promised electoral reform, peace and security, in the Niger Delta, to be his main priorities. Despite opposition appeals to the Supreme Court regarding the election results, the court upheld the results granting Yar’Adua legitimacy. Significantly, an appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that approved an opposition party’s gubernatorial appeal, effectively unseating the ruling party’s incumbent governor in favour of the opposition.
Yar’Adua died after an illness in late 2009. Although bringing a degree of stability to State institutions and generally allowing the independent operation of the country’s legislative and judicial branches, much of his intended reforms remain to be implemented.
The death of Yar’Adua saw a National Assembly resolution transfer power to Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan on February 9, 2010, effectively pronouncing him acting President. On March 17, 2010, Jonathan dissolved the country’s cabinet and swore in new ministers. Finally, Jonathan was sworn in as President on May 6, 2010.
The week-long delay in polls has raised concerns that the 73-million registered voters will lose faith in the electoral system, thus detracting from its credibility. Jonathan’s main rival in the presidential race, Muhammadu Buhari, argued that the postponement was an act of sabotage by the ruling party, a claim that the electoral commission and the People’s Democratic Party have rubbished.
Despite this hiccup, the main issue dominating the run-up to the poll is the escalation of violence and intimidation. Rights organisation Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 70 people have been killed in the political violence that has marked the pre-electoral conditions in the country.
Nigerian security forces, to a large extent, have been unable to control the violence and, in some cases, have even turned a blind eye to it or participated in the abuse, according to the group. It is evident that security remains one of the biggest challenges in the election run-up.
The President is elected by direct popular vote for a four-year term. Should a candidate not receive an overall majority, the vote goes to a second round runoff.
Nigeria has a bicameral Parliament consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate has 109 members elected by direct popular vote, in 36 multimember constituencies corresponding to the country’s states –three members are elected for each state. There is also a one single-member constituency, representing the Federal Capital Territory using the first-past-the-post system. Members serve for a period of four years.
The House of Representatives has 360 members who are elected by direct popular vote in single-member constituencies, using the first-past-the-post-system. Members serve four-year terms.
Some analysts have argued that the delay of the elections are a good sign for democracy in the country, as a delay is better than pushing through a poll that will be flawed as a result. According to Jonathan, the delay is an indication of the Electoral Commission’s independence, in that it can make judgement calls free of political pressure or interference, including from his own office.
The delay, however, could cause voters to lose faith in the process and detract credibility from the vote. In a country where problematic elections are the norm, it is likely that voters already have little confidence in the electoral authorities, despite assurances that the elections will be free and fair.
Election-related violence is not only a major concern during the poll but also during the aftermath. A credible poll will go a long way to deter violence and promote confidence in the leadership elect. The violence also has its roots in ethnicity and resource allocation and, it is, therefore, imperative that the government prioritise these issues in a country with increasing poverty.
A major economic fear, especially with the international community, is the tightening affect that election violence is having on crude oil output. With African supplies down as a result of the conflict in Libya, Nigerian oil supplies have become of vital importance. With election-related violence, Nigerian supply has slowed, placing increasing attention on output.
For economic development, it is of critical importance that the incoming regime normalises oil supply. Part of this success rests on the implementation of a free and fair poll that ensures a legitimate government, able to deal effectively with the country’s most pressing challenges.
Bloomberg. Nigerian election violence could add to crude output tightening. (April 5, 2011)
African Elections Database. Elections in Nigeria. (March 31, 2011)
CNN. Violence marks run-up to Nigerian elections. (March 31, 2011).
Business Day. Nigeria races against time to get elections on track. (April 4, 2011).
Reuters. Nigerian election chiefs stand firm on poll dates. (March 18, 2011).
US Department of State. Background Note: Nigeria. (March 31, 2011).