The generals' election.

Position:Cover Story: Nigeria - Cover Story

On 19 April, Nigeria will go to the polls to chose a president from a parade of retired generals. Leading the pack is the incumbent, President (General) Olusegun Obasanjo. His major challenger is Major-General Muhammadu Buhari. Who will win? looks at the permutations.

"Solider go, solider come" would have undoubtedly been Fela Ransome Kuti's line had he lived long enough to see this day. Nigeria's most colourful musician to date, Fela (may he rest in peace) did not suffer soldiers gladly. How he must be turning in his grave that he an no longer write those biting lyrics. This time, he may well have added "solider no go go, because them compete against themselves, soldier" - a sad reflection of the course of politics in a country of over 116 million civilians where civilians, strangely, can hardly have a look-in when it comes to the top job. The line-up for 19 April is indeed awesome: In Lane 1 is the incumbent, General Olusegun Obasanjo, running (again) for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP).

His major challenger is in Lane 2, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, running for the All Nigerian People Party (ANPP). Buhari was head of state from December 1983 to August 1985.

Facing them in Lane 3 is General Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu, now a senator in the upper house of the National Assembly, who is running for the National Democratic Party (NDP).

In lane 4 is General (sorry, Colonel) Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, running for the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Chief Ojukwu was a colonel in the Nigerian army before the Civil War (June 1967 to Jan 1970) and became a general in Biafra (so, technically he is a general). All four are retired though.

In Lane 5 comes the first "civilian" contestant, Senator Jim Nwobodo of the United Nigerian Peoples Party (UNPP). He is a former governor of the old Anambra State.

In Lane 6 is another "civilian", Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the controversial lawyer and civil rights activist, who is running for his National Conscience Party (NCP). It was entirely due to Gani's effort that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was forced to register additional parties to bring the total to 30.

Gani challenged INEC's guidelines for party registration in the courts, up to the Supreme Court in fact, and won! The Court ruled that part of INEC's guidelines that initially disqualified some smaller parties, including Gani's NCP, were unconstitutional. Another pro-democracy activist, Dr Arthur Nwankwo, is the torchbearer for the Peoples' Mandate Party.

There is just one woman in the race, Mrs Sarah Jubril, running for the Progressives Action Congress (PAC). The other parties may not field presidential candidates. Some are just interested in theother elections, like the local government and state assemblies. For President Obasaanjo, victory at the PDP primary did not come easy. Although he won with a landslide...

To continue reading