Early results are being released from Saturday’s state and gubernatorial elections in Nigeria, with indications that candidates of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are taking a commanding lead in many jurisdictions. Partial figures issued by INEC, Nigeria's Electoral Commission, show that President Olusegun Obasanjo's party has won ten states, while opposition parties are carrying two. Political Science Professor Usman Mohammed of Abuja University has just returned to the capital from visiting polling places in the northern states of Katsina and Kaduna. He says that barring possible surprise decisions this week from the Federal Supreme Court favoring embattled Vice President Atiku Abubakar, or a last-minute effort by dueling opposition parties to unite around a common candidate, this week’s results could easily signify a boost for the ruling party in next Saturday’s presidential vote.
“Most of the results have been coming out, putting PDP in the lead. It’s a major decider of what might come next week,” he said.
There had been talk that various opposition parties were considering supporting a consensus unity candidate to oust the PDP’s hold on the presidency in next Saturday’s chief executive round of voting. But Dr. Mohammed says that should have been done long ago.
“You must understand that to drop down the PDP, this coalition was expected to have been formed since January or February. But they have been confronted by the Atiku camp that have not made it very possible for a coalition to have been concretized earlier. And up to now, there have been certain problems in the coalition. And also, you would notice that the AC (Atiku Abubakar’s Action Congress Party) might not willingly go into coalition with ANPP (the All Nigeria People’s Party of Muhammadu Buhari) because they feel that the victory is about to be theirs. So the contenders are not actually going to enter into a coalition now,” he said.
60 million of Nigeria’s 140 million eligible voters are registered to participate in next weekend’s presidential race, and if the April 14 results continue to favor the PDP, Dr. Mohammed says it will give President Obasanjo’s handpicked successor, Umar Yar’Adua, a distinct advantage.
“This is because he has the majority of the legislators and the governors to consolidate from this election by Saturday. And definitely, he will not take it away from him when you have a majority of these guys on the ground and not any other party at all. So secondly, the benefit will be like a landslide,” notes Dr. Mohammed.
The Abuja University professor says last weekend’s elections will have some lessons for Nigerian electoral and law enforcement authorities to draw on for next weekend’s vote.
“I must tell you that the election process has been relatively peaceful in some areas. But in some other areas, like Port Harcourt, we have heard what happened, and also in Kogi and Bauchi states because of violence. We find that the boxes that have been provided in this election, anybody can snatch them and go away with them. There were such incidents in Katsina and also in Kaduna. And we just wish INEC will realize that there are certain things to improve on, especially in the northern states because of the two contenders for the presidency, General Buhari and Yar’Adua,” he said.