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Democracy in Nigeria:  is it working?

Democratization in Africa is the theme of our continuing feature series this week on Africa News Tonight. Each evening we look at one country, and tonight’s focus is on Nigeria.

Obo Effanga is the parliamentary liaison officer for Action-Aid International in Nigeria. He told Voice of America reporter Cole Mallard that democratization in Nigeria is successful in that there are many more political parties that can contest the elections. He said the number has increased from three in 1999 to thirty in 2003, and by the time of the 2007 elections there will be more than forty, with the capacity to register even more. But he says ironically, the more political parties registered, the less ability they have to effectively challenge the incumbents:

“because…the incumbent party has been growing in leaps and bounds and since they’re in government they are effective on the ground. But most of these other political parties do not have much of a presence across the country” because they are not national political parties in the truest sense of the word. And those that can be called national political parties are not very strong because few of them are in government at the state level.

He adds that many of these national political parties have a long way to go to challenge the party in government now. Effanga says the press is freer now than during the military era, but there is still room for improvement:

“For instance, since the beginning of this administration there has been a campaign to have the National Assembly pass the Freedom Of Information Bureau into an act; that’s not happened so far and there are still some areas the press cannot operate in effectively. They still cannot get certain information that ordinarily they should get if they’re going to enlighten the populace about what is happening in the country.”

Effanga says despite the increase in activity, the political climate is still uncertain:

“The ordinary people are not being taken on board in this exercise. It’s gradually becoming a decision of a small cabal who decides who gets into power and continues in power.”