News / Africa

Nigerian President Prepares for Inauguration

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (R) is greeted by Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan during his inauguration ceremony at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro, May 21, 2011
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (R) is greeted by Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan during his inauguration ceremony at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny Foundation in Yamoussoukro, May 21, 2011

Nigeria is preparing to inaugurate President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday. But challengers in last month's election are in court contesting the result and alleging vote fraud.  

Nigeria's electoral commission says Jonathan won more than 22 million votes, finishing well ahead of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari's 12 million votes.

But  Buhari says the vote was rigged with electoral commission computers that deflated his share of the vote in northern states and inflated  Jonathan's share of the vote in southern states.

Lawyers for  Buhari's political party are in court asking the Independent National Electoral Commission - or INEC - to hand over materials that they say will allow them to prove scientifically that the vote was stolen. Abubakar Malami is an attorney for  Buhari's party.

"We want to now use the data that has been generated by INEC in relation to the fingerprint vis a vis the fingerprint impression on the ballot papers to cross-match and ascertain whether indeed truly the voters who were registered at various polling units were indeed the people who had actually voted for the purpose of that election,” said Malami.

Jonathan's ruling People's Democratic Party has won every presidential election since Nigeria's return to civilian rule in 1999.  Ruling-party attorney Joe Kyari Gadzama says he is confident the president's election will be upheld. "It is our hope that this journey will be a smooth one because, in the past, we have participated in similar proceedings and all went on well,” Gadzama stated.

Following the vote, Human Rights Watch says at least 800 people were killed during violence by both mostly-Muslim Buhari supporters and mostly-Christian Jonathan supporters.

Gadzama says it is far better for Nigerians to resolve their political differences in court.

"The judiciary is the last hope of the common man.  The judiciary is the stabilizer of our polity in this country.  Nigerians, particularly the politicians, have recognized the need to continually come back to the court for the resolution and determination of all electoral and political matters.  And, that is how it should be,” he said.

Past electoral challenges have taken months for Nigerian courts to decide.  Buhari lawyer Malami says it is not about doing this quickly, it is about ensuring that the outcome of the presidential election reflects the will of the voters.

'The length of time is not an issue, but the fundamental consideration is the truth associated with the election, for us to establish the truth,” he said. “It has been acclaimed to be a free and fair election, and that contradicts our perception of the election.”

Jonathan begins a week of activities leading up to his inauguration in a meeting with private sector leaders chaired by Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General Jeffrey Sachs.

Jonathan is promising to move quickly to improve public infrastructure, power supply, education, health care, and job creation. Sachs says Nigeria's successful elections give it the opportunity to consolidate democracy and rapidly develop its economy.


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