Is Nigeria ready for fair and clean elections? With just weeks before general elections, most politicians appear to have failed to convince a sceptical Nigerian electorate that they are prepared to play the game honourably. But will the 9 April polls prove that Africa's most populous country has finally metamorphosed into a stable, progressive democracy? Osasu Obayiuwana finds out.

Author:Obayiuwana, Osasu
Position::Nigeria
 
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AS KNOWLEDGEABLE OBSERVERS OF THE COUNTRY'S political landscape are acutely aware, the period running up to general elections is a characteristic mix of the not-so-good, the downright ugly and, of course, the unpredictable.

Whilst the undisputed winners of January's party primaries, as certified by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have long begun their campaigns, those at the losing end of the New Year contests are refusing to lick their wounds and ride quietly into the political sunset.

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Atiku Abubakar, the former vice-president, who was soundly beaten by incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the Peoples' Democratic Party primaries in Abuja, by a margin of 1,929 votes (2,736 for Jonathan and 807 for Atiku), is the major politician, amongst many others, who has refused to concede defeat.

In an eight-page petition, dated 27 January and signed by Ben Obi, the director-general of the Atiku Campaign Organisation, they have asked Professor Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman, to invalidate the PDP primary on the grounds that:

"Atiku lost the primary election not to the best candidate but due to the manipulations of the delegate list and the entire voting process.

"Consequently, the polling agents ... did not sign the final result notwithstanding the provisions of Section 9 (b) & (c) of the [PDP] Electoral Guidelines 2010, that gave the panel the absolute power to uphold and release the result with or without their endorsements," it went on.

"We call on INEC to jettision [sic] the result of the said primary and cancel same, as having not been conducted in accordance with the provisions of the extant Electoral Act 2010, PDP Constitution 2009, and the PDP Electoral Guidelines for Primary Elections 2010."

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The strongly worded petition also accused President Goodluck Jonathan of doling out "$7000 to each of the delegates, thus using financial inducement to make them vote for him." But this has not been substantiated.

Jonathan, who refused to be baited by Atiku at the primaries, when he was accused of having no respect for the law or PDP rules, has also kept his counsel since. But Sully Abu, the media director for Jonathan's campaign organisation, accused the former vice-president of being a sore loser who should gracefully accept defeat.

"What is his evidence [that Jonathan rigged the PDP primaries]? Nigerians have a right to expect him to show more grace in such obvious defeat rather than play the spoiler in the nation's democratic process," he told the NEXT newspaper.

In the meantime, party stalwarts are hoping the olive branch offered to Atiku by President Jonathan, as he called for "dialogue" to resolve the PDP's internal squabbles, will eventually heal the rift between the two political heavyweights.

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And the level of discord in the self-styled "largest...

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