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Nigerians Reflects on 'Democracy Day'


As Nigerians mark seven unbroken years of democracy, President Olusegun Obasanjo is seeking support for his much-criticized reforms. Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja on Nigeria's democracy day celebration and what is seen as the Obasanjo legacy.

A recent opinion survey says two-thirds of Nigerians believe democracy is a better form of government than any other. Surviving seven years of democracy is a record in Nigeria where frequent military interventions had thwarted previous attempts at democratic rule.

In a televised address to mark what is known here as Democracy Day, President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria has made remarkable progress under his watch and appealed for more support for his reforms.

"Today, we are beginning to see the results of the reform program," Mr. Obasanjo says. "Let us not allow those that seem pathologically fixated on operating a system of anything goes and business as usual, to distract, confuse, intimidate, derail or compromise us as we lay solid foundations for a better future for all."

The poll conducted by a civil society group, Afrobarometer, indicated that Mr. Obasanjo's popularity is at an all-time low, while almost two-thirds of Nigerians believe the economy is in worse shape. Critics say the reforms have created hardships for ordinary Nigerians.

Wunmi Bewaji, is an opposition leader in Nigeria's House of Representatives.

"This government has had in seven years, more revenue than all the other administrations put together, yet you cannot find anything on the streets," Bewaji says. "This is a government that has so much opportunities, too much advantage but refused to make use of it and at the end of the day, the government has failed its people. And people cannot wait for May, 2007 to come and for them to say bye bye to this government that has failed them."

With the stage set for elections, the next couple of months are considered very important for Nigeria's political future. With Obasanjo out of the picture, some analysts say the political scene in Africa's top oil producer is in a state of flux.

Current Vice President Atiku Abubakar and former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida are some of the leading candidates in elections expected next year.

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