This week in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the critically important party conventions to decide the candidates for the April 2011 elections have been underway.
The incumbent party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), proceeded first on January 13th. The convention took place in the middle of Abuja, the capital city, amidst tight security aimed at preventing a repeat of the Christmas day bombings that resulted in the deaths of several Nigerians out celebrating the holidays. The Movement for the Emancipation of the
Niger Delta (MEND) rebel group claimed responsibility for those attacks and had warned that they would continue to disrupt any attempts to convene political events.
The PDP conventions did go on peacefully, with voting by more than 3,000 delegates representing the 36 states of the country. The last tallies were not called until early on January 14th with the results favoring incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. His main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, secured only 700 of the more than 3,000 votes cast.
The main opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), followed the PDP’s convention with their Lagos-held event, which drew many of the leaders from the Southern States, where the ACN has developed their stronghold, as well as a few northern leaders. The front contender in their convention was Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, popularly known for his role as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes (EFCC) until he was forced to leave following his very successful but controversial efforts to tackle corruption in the government. Shortly after the convention started, the two other candidates withdrew their candidacy, leaving Ribadu to stand as the sole contender and eventually supporting his nomination as the 2011 ACN nominee for the presidential elections.
Last week, the former Head of State Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was elected as the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at its national convention. There was no opposition against him. This is the third time in a row that the former military Head of State is contesting for the presidency of the country. In the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections, he contested on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. It is being speculated that the ACN and CPC will eventually strike a deal and form a coalition against the PDP. This could ultimately prove to be a very real threat to the PDP.
The last major convention scheduled, for the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), will take place tomorrow, Saturday, January 15th, and contenders will include a former presidential candidate, Othman Tofa, the northern Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau and the wealthy politician, Harry Akande.
The response to the results of the conventions held so far have been mixed. Many feel that delegate votes are being bought while others have applauded the transparent manner in which the conventions are being conducted, televised from start to finish. If one were to take a pessimistic view you could say that when you buy votes, you save the trouble of stuffing the ballot box and can conduct “transparent elections”. Without any evidence to substantiate these claims, I’ll take the optimistic view and congratulate the parties for successfully conducted party conventions.