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Will Nigeria Follow Kenya's Example? - 2003-01-03

The outcome of the recent general elections in Kenya has generated some interest and reaction among Nigerian political analysts. Some have hailed the elections for being free and fair while others say it will be difficult for Nigeria to conduct a similar election because the atmospheres for peaceful elections does not exist.

The general election held in Kenya last month created one of the greatest upsets in the African democratic process. This is because the opposition party led by Mwai Kibaki defeated the Kanu party, which had ruled Kenya for over 30 years. Nigeria political analysts followed developments in Kenya with keen interest because general elections are scheduled to be held in Nigeria on April 19 this year.

Keluo Molokwu, a legislator with Anambra State House of Assembly in South – Eastern Nigeria, closely watched the Kenyan elections.

He says, “Obviously, there are certain lessons to be learnt from the Kenyan experience. Elections in Nigeria, particularly at the transmission level have always been marred with one crisis or the other. The problem of Nigerian crisis at the election is the problem of incumbency, trying to come back at all cost. Most times, the incumbent forgot that they were not forced on the people by the time they were coming in. the lesson to be learnt is that we should see election as a football match where you struggle to the best of your knowledge and when you loose you give in”.

Mr. Molokwu, who is a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nigeria, says Kenyans proved to the rest of Africa that an election is not a do or die affair.

Another analyst, Mr. Chudi Offodile, a member of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Nigeria’s National Assembly, says the manner in which Uhuru Kenyatta conceded defeat is a lesson to all.

He says, “I think that the first lesson we should from the Kenyan elections is the manner of concession by Uhuru Kenyatta, the candidate of the ruling party, who conceded victory to President Kibaki long before the final tally or votes were done. I think it was exemplary and we should emulate that”.

Mr. Offodile says Uhuru Kenyatta was convinced that the elections were free and fair before he conceded defeat. He says a similar atmosphere can be created in Nigeria to convince all parties that elections were free and fair.

However, a member of one of the opposition parties in Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (APP), says the Kenyan election was interesting because the incumbent President did not interfer in the election precess.

Benjamin Morah is a member of the ANPP in South – Eastern Nigeria.

He says, “ One things is very interesting in Kenya. That is the power of incumbency. The out going President did as much as possible to ensure, everything was free and fair not minding he had the powers to undo and win the election for his party. It is a big lesson, which like in Nigeria or some African countries, the incumbent governor or president will not like to leave. And insteas of losing the election, they will prefer to have war crisis”.

Mr. Morah says Nigerians should emulate the Kenyan experience by ensuring a crisis free election.

On what the April general elections will be like in Nigeria, Keluo Molokwu says he doubts the elections will be free of violence.

He says, "Going by the situation on ground, I seriously doubt if we can conduct a free and fair election in the PDP primary election. Those who won are declared losers while those who lost are declared winners”.

Mr. Morah agrees with Mr. Molokwu that the general elections may not be free and fair. He says incumbents at all levels will do everything to win the election.

However, Chudi Offodile disagrees and says Nigeria can conduct free and fair elections in April.

He says, "It is possible to have relatively free and fair elections in Nigeria. The political parties must be ready to play by the rules and the independent national electoral commission has responsibility to ensure that the elections are free and fair. I think it’s a possibility but the actors themselves must be ready to do what they must do, to ensure the credibility of that election.”

Meanwhile, some of the political parties have been holding primaries for their candidates in preparation for the general election. The Nigerian government has re-assured its people and the international community that the election will be free and fair and devoid of violence.