Monday, April 09, 2007

Nigeria’s Political Outlook

Event Title: Nigeria’s Political Outlook: The 2007 Elections and Beyond
Sponsor: Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins
University African Studies Program
Location: Johns Hopkins University, SAIS Kennedy Auditorium
Date: 9th March. 2007
Time: 11:15am-12:30pm
Approximate Number of Attendees: 50
Intern Attending: Aramide Bajulaiye

Featured Speakers: Mr. Stephen Morrison Chair of Center for Strategic and International Studies; Mr. Innocent Chukwuma, Transition Monitoring Group; Mr. Nate Van Dusen, International Foundation for Election Systems; and Ms. Stephanie Blanton, International Republican Institute

The first of four conferences on Nigeria’s 2007 elections focused on the election preparations and oversight within Nigeria. The panel discussed several issues facing Nigeria’s 2007 elections. These included issues of transparency, public response to the results, communication and transportation during elections, international aid, ‘03 and ‘07 election comparisons, and the survival of democracy.

Africa's most populous nation was ruled almost continuously for three decades by a military regime. Hostile, opaque elections characterized the political process in the past, and have remained a feature of political life in the world’s eighth largest oil exporter.

2007 will mark the first time a third consecutive presidential election will take place, and the first time one elected leader will succeed another. Because of the country’s history of electoral fraud, which often has led to political tension and violence, many observers fear that upcoming elections could destabilize the country. A flawed election will shake the people’s confidence for a future democratic Nigeria. However, if the election is carried out in a peaceful, transparent and credible manner, Nigerians have reason to hope for a democratic future.

But peaceful elections may be strained by the communication and transportation situation. Officers are being supplied with arms instead of hand radios and vehicles to get them to the election booths on election day. If violence breaks out, officers only have violent measures with which to counter it.

Mr. Innocent Chukuwuma, from the Transition Monitoring Group, noted that it is important to also highlight positive steps taken in the electoral process. He mentioned that there is now electronic voting, campaigns are active, and parties have concluded primaries. However, the question of how many Nigerians eligible to vote who actually have access to the machines on election day still remains.

Education is a key aspect in voting this year. Many voters are unsure which candidates are running on which party ticket, or what the ballot procedure will be on election day. Additionally, newspapers are circulating unsettling signs of political assassinations. It is essential that citizens be aware of their rights and duties. Civic education should not be held too close to election day, because this does not allow enough time for citizens to adequately weigh the candidates. In this way, they will not be swayed by politicians who use religion, ethnicity and blackmail as tools of political manipulation. With no educational programs on voting, the hope of having transparent, credible and fair elections is dampened.

No comments: