Saturday, April 16, 2011

Good Luck, Goodluck

Elections began today to determine the future President of Nigeria.  There are sixty-three registered political parties and 21 official candidates on the ballot. 

Goodluck Jonathan, the current president, is running for reelection and he is predicted to win.  He has promised free and fair elections and so far, most are pleased with the turnout and legality of the voting.  In the past, Nigeria has lurched between military coups and flawed elections.  They returned to the democratic system in 1999, making this only the third time general elections have been held in Nigeria since military rule ended.  The previous ones - in 2003 and 2007 - were marred by allegations of widespread rigging, voter intimidation and ballot vote snatching.



The eyes of Africa are on Nigeria and the country hopes to set an example to the rest of the continent with a credible election.  "Nigerian vote MUST succeed for the good of the image of Africa around the world", stated Kufuor, ex-President of Ghana.  "There are other elections pending in many parts of the continent.  If things should go awry here, I am afraid to think of what may transpire elsewhere.  Nigeria is too important for Africa."  

As Africa's most populated country and its largest oil producer, Nigeria must play by the rules.  In order to support this goal, officials fought back hard for the first time.  They introduced a new voting system which severely limits fraud, using a clever mix of high-tech and low-tech.  All 75 million voters were fingerprinted and screened to prevent duplication.  Most polling booths opened only for an hour or so to stop multiple voting.  Electoral officials tallied the results in front of the voters.  Independent monitors collected the numbers instantaneously using mobile phones in an exercise called "crowd tabulation".  And elite young voters with smart phones have been encouraged to use Twitter to tweet security concerns, reports of rigging or fraud, along with reports of violence or areas of police misconduct to the central voting office.  The process has been expensive and the government has set a record for public spending on elections.  Western donors argued that the system was too complex for a developing nation to handle; thankfully they were wrong.  

Parlimentary polls held last weekend were seen as a major step forward for the country, and social media has been a great advantage.  In this country of 150 million people with 80% of the population living on less than $2 a day, it is amazing to see the technology used to assist in the growth and safety of its people. 

I thought this quote from a newspaper today said so much..."We have accepted democracy as a way of life and there is no going back".  How fascinating to be here and witness a significant and 'fair' election as Nigeria progresses forward into the future with democracy at the helm. 

For us, it has been a no-movement day and we have enjoyed the peace and relaxation in our compound.  We can only hope for the same peace today for the country of Nigeria as they move closer to a true democratic environment. 

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