Difficulties encountered during Nigeria’s weekend presidential elections included faulty ballot papers, late deliveries, stolen ballot boxes, long delays at polling stations, violence, and widespread accusations of rigging. Some voters endured the long wait, but many opted to not to vote. Given the widespread discontent, critics are wondering if the election could be tied up and what the chances are that Saturday’s vote may be scrapped and rerun. Political analyst and Executive Director of the First Bank of Nigeria Lamido Sanusi says he’s not at all surprised that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Umaru Musa Yar’Adua holds a strong early lead.
“Given the way the elections went last week (April 14) and the massive rigging, I think it was a foregone conclusion that the president (Olusegun Obasanjo) was not going to hand it over to anyone other than his anointed successor,” he said.
Sanusi says he does not think it is realistic to expect elections to be nullified and held again, given the strong hold maintained by the PDP over the country.
“The president has never shown that he is capable of listening to international opinion on these matters. I do believe that unless severe pressure is brought upon him or if there is a credible threat of a response from the Nigerian population, I don’t see him actually canceling these elections,” he said.
Given the strong desire by the Obasanjo government to hand over power to the winner of the elections by May 29, when the Nigerian president’s second term expires, Sanusi says he doubts the ruling party has any reason to preclude election results.
“The reality is that President Obasanjo will hand over to whom he wants to hand over – not who won the election. The funny thing is Yar’Adua may have won anyway in a free and fair election. Maybe the margin may not be anywhere like the one they’re going to announce, but certainly the PDP would not have won 30 states in Nigeria, or 29 states. Most of those were rigged, and that’s what makes it very sad,” he said.
Widespread rejection of Nigeria’s voting procedures over the weekend has included calls by leading opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari and embattled Vice President Atiku Abubakar to scuttle the vote. Lamido Sanusi says he would have liked to have seen the leading candidates agree in advance to a boycott of Saturday’s vote.
“Had they boycotted the elections, we probably would not have had this because, I think, it was very clear what was going to happen. Maybe they have gone far, far beyond what anyone would have expected they would do, but I think everybody knew that they were going to rig the elections,” he argues.
Sanusi argues that had there been a successful boycott, Nigeria’s post-election political landscape would have been better off.
"I think if there had been a boycott, then you would have had the PDP presidential candidate winning and the PDP candidates winning all the seats. They would have found it very difficult to run a government. And I think the opposition would have been perfectly within their right to conclude that given what happened last Saturday (April 14), they did not believe that INEC (the International National Electoral Commission) was an impartial umpire and they did not believe that the police were impartial, and they did not believe that they would get free and fair results. Now that would have compelled some kind of a postponement and some kind of an election to ensure that we got fairer results,” he said. “I think participating gave the whole process some legitimacy, even though everybody knew this was going to happen.”