Nigeria is in the grip of election fever, with no less than five elections under way.
Nigeria is in the grip of election fever, with no less than five elections under way. Nigeria has been under military rule since 1966, and the five elections are designed to return the West African state to civilian rule. The elections are the climax of a four-year programme adopted in 1975 -- when a group of army officers overthrew General Yakubu Gowon, then Head of State.
SYNOPSIS: The first election began on Saturday (7 July). In Nigeria's capital city, Lagos, thousands of voters turned up at the polls, in spite of heavy rain and even flooding in some areas.
Saturday's election was for a 95-member Senate, with each state in the federation responsible for electing five Senators. Five political parties are contesting the election. Two of them -- the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the United Party of Nigeria (UPN) -- are fielding candidates in all constituencies.
There are about 48-million Nigerians on the voters' roll. A majority of them are expected to run out for each of the five elections, held at weekly intervals. They'll be responsible for electing a House of Representatives, stat legislative assemblies and state governors. A presidential election was also scheduled for Wednesday (11 July). Nigeria's Head of State, General Olusegun Obsanjo, has told his people that everything possible had been done to ensure that the elections were "free and fair".
General Obasanjo's government is due to step aside on October the first. All five political parties contesting the elections have made similar promises to woo voters. They're offering free medical care, free education, cheaper and better housing, jobs for everyone, self sufficiency in food production and better and cheaper transportation -- to name a few.
After independence in 1960, Nigeria scrapped the british Parliamentary system. A new constitution was written, based heavily on the federal system created by the United States. For many Nigerians, these elections will mean greater political participation and freedom. But opponents of the change say that a civilian government will have a tough time holding Nigeria together -- given its past history of tribal, religious and ethnic animosities.