/ 26 March 2015

Tight race predicted in Nigerian poll

Free to run: The opposition’s chief contender
Free to run: The opposition’s chief contender

Nigeria is on edge ahead of Saturday’s elections, whose outcome analysts say could plunge the country into chaos.

Adding to the tension, this week former president Olusegun Obasanjo spoke openly about a rumour that President Goodluck Jonathan is planning to hand power to the army if he loses the presidential election.

Obasanjo said this would undermine Nigeria’s integrity. “I hope we will soon go away from the rumor of handing over to the military, because the military is not meant to run the affairs of a nation in terms of running government.”

Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose slammed Obasanjo for his comments. “At his age, one would expect that the former president should stop peddling rumours, as this may cause confusion in the polity. Being a former military leader and also a retired general, whatever Obasanjo says will carry weight and some people will believe that. Or is it that General Obasanjo has some ‘boys’ touting the idea of a coup? Maybe he is the person planning one.”

Obasanjo recently tore up his party membership card to mark his exit of the ruling People’s Democratic Party. He accused the PDP of various transgressions, including corruption, and called on the electorate to vote for opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), whom he described as a disciplined and patriotic citizen.

Rumours emerged on Thursday of Jonathan meeting Buhari, adding to speculation of a unity government but these could not be confirmed.

Court challenge
A last-minute court hearing on Wednesday almost derailed the poll after a court challenge was mounted to the candidacy of Buhari. The election is expected to be a race between Buhari and Jonathan. The high court in Abuja adjourned the applications to April?22. This means the elections for the governorship and the state houses of assembly will be held on April 11 before any challenges to the eligibility of candidates are heard.

Buhari breathed a sigh of relief as the previous day he had failed to stop the court from hearing the bid of those seeking to halt his candidacy. The applicants allege that Buhari committed perjury by falsely claiming to have attached his academic qualifications to his candidacy form.

The APC’s counsel, Wole Olanipekun, argued that the court process had not been followed diligently and that as far as he and his client were concerned, no suit existed before the court for determination.

Olanipekun also argued that even if they assumed that the court papers had been properly served, the matter before the court was one of perjury, a criminal offence that could not be initiated by way of a summons.

On Tuesday APC spokesperson Lai Mohammed said the ruling party is sponsoring the court cases as a ploy to disqualify Buhari. The PDP dismissed the claims, saying the APC is simply engaging in electioneering.

At a rally, first lady Patience Jonathan fumed that she would send “Holy Ghost fire” to consume Buhari.

She also praised her husband’s efforts, saying he should be re-elected for improving infrastructure.

“When my children were small, they asked me what a train was. I had to take them to London and we entered a train from London to Paris. But the PDP government has brought trains back to Nigeria.”

Journalists detained
On Thursday, Al Jazeera demanded the release of Nigerian journalists Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa, who it said have been detained by Nigerian forces in their hotel room since Tuesday. The two were producing a special report on the Nigerian army’s campaign against Boko Haram.

Their camera equipment was confiscated after they were accused of not having accreditation, but the network said they had been accredited. – © Guardian News & Media 2015

Who is Muhammadu Buhari?

• He is the presidential candidate for Nigeria’s opposition All Progressives Congress. 
• He is 71 years old.
• He lost presidential elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 amid allegations of electoral fraud.
• He is a retired major general who did his military training in Nigeria, the United States and India.
• He led Nigeria for 20 months in 1983 after a coup that overthrew the government.
• He is known for his tough stance on corruption. During his time in office, he led a “war on indiscipline”, allowing soldiers to whip members of the public who did not queue in an orderly fashion in public places.
•He was ejected from power in a coup by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1985.
• His tough approach to governance and economic policy is widely known as “Buharism”.