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Nigeria's Elections May Bring a Political Re-Alignment - 2003-04-09

With just a few days left until Nigeria's general elections, some political anslysts say the future is uncertain for one of the country's first registered political parties. They say the Alliance for Democracy, or AD, may be on the verge of collapse.

The AD controls six Yoruba-speaking states in Nigeria’s southwest. But analysts say it’s showing several signs of weakness, including corruption and in-fighting. They note the party is now divided into two factions. One -- headed by Alhaji Abdukadir -- enjoys the official recognition of Nigeria’s electoral body -- the Independent National Electoral Commission. The second faction – which is not as well financed – is headed by Yusuf Mamman. Most of the differences between the two groups are based not on issues, but on the personalities of their leaders.

Analysts say another concern includes charges of corruption within the party. Some have left the AD over a disagreement over the selection of candidates for the upcoming elections. Critics accuse some governors of choosing candidates from among their cronies – rather than allowing voters select them during the primaries.

Bashorun Ali-Balogun represents the Ibadan north constituency in the house of representatives. He is now a senatorial aspirant in the newly formed United Nigerian Peoples’ Party, or UNPP. He used to represent the AD in the House.

Mr. Balogun said he wanted to run as an AD candidate for the senate – but bowed out once he saw the governor had his own favorite in mind for the seat. According to Mr. Balgoun, " When I saw the handwriting on the wall [the governor’s favorite being chosen] I with drew from the (party) primary. I didn’t take part." He says afterward, the Governor of Oyo State, Alhaji Lamadesina, promised to let him run again as the party's candidate for the House of Representatives. But Mr. Balogun told VOA "his executives sold the slot to somebody else -- somebody less qualified than me -- because the (aspirante) gave them money. It was disgusting that the Alliance for Democracy (the party) would sell elective posts to members. So i left them. I was disappointed. "

Another cause of concern is what some see as a breakdown in party discipline. Originally, the AD was seen as a vehicle for the pan-yoruba social and cultural group called the Afenifere. But there’s a widespread perception that the Afenifere has lost its influence to a number of powerful AD governors – who set their own agenda.

Some of those tied to the fenifere have left the AD to be the candidate for governor for other parties. Some say another form of weakness is the a-d’s refusal to name a presidential candidate. But one political scholar does not agree.

Wale Adebanwi teaches in the political science department at the university of ibadan. He says political parties do not need to control the presidency in order to be powerful, or influential: "There could be parties that are just organized around Ibadan here just to ensure that we have a safe and efficient public system in the city."

Dr. Adebanwi says even if the ADcollapses, it will be replaced by another progressive Yoruba party.

But others say concerns about the demise of the AD are premature.

Bunmi Ayoade is political science professor at the University of Ibadan. He says it’s natural for people to move among different political parties. And, he says it’s a sign of political maturity that AD members split their votes between Yoruba candidates of other parties.

The professor says all Yoruba – including those in the AD -- should rally around the candidate who represents their own best interest. He says that’s president Obasanjo of the PDP – and the only Yoruba candidate running for the presidency.