February 20, 2007


Election in Nigeria has US ramifications: Hopes are for first peaceful handover (Roy Greene, February 20, 2007, Boston Globe)

President Olusegun Obasanjo is clear about his plans after finishing his second term and overseeing the national election in April: He will retire to the pastoral life of a gentleman chicken farmer. [...]

On the eve of Obasanjo's scheduled departure, democracy is facing a crucial test in Nigeria, Africa's most-populous country and its largest oil producer. If he hands power to an elected successor, it will be the first such peaceful, constitutional transfer of power from one civilian government to another since Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960.

The stakes in the April 19 presidential election are high not just for Africa but also for the United States, which relies on Nigeria for about 14 percent of its energy resources and is expected to seek more as it tries to reduce its dependence on the Middle East.

"What we have is a president who thinks he's a messiah, and his basic belief is that he has all the solutions," Jibrin Ibrahim, director of the Center for Democracy and Development, a nongovernmental organization based in the Nigerian capital, told a group of visiting US editors. "But he has done his time and must now move on."

Questions about the president's intentions have deepened since lawmakers rebuffed his attempt last spring to amend the constitution to allow him to seek a third term. In recent weeks, the president has insisted the election would take place as scheduled and that he would honor the results.

"By the 29th of May, I'll be back on the farm," he said, referring to the constitutional deadline for him to leave office.

But from the dusty streets of Kano, a regional capital in the predominantly Muslim north, to the steamy coastal city of Lagos, Nigerians are questioning that pledge and how the nation would respond if the president refuses to budge. Some predict massive street protests and even violence.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2007 7:55 AM

There was only one. That's why he was unique, and we are the luckiest people on earth.

Posted by: ic at February 20, 2007 6:18 PM

Lucky and blessed.

Posted by: erp at February 20, 2007 6:51 PM