Nigerians fear new MPs will fail democracy

NIGERIA is in danger of jettisoning democracy before it has even sampled it - because feuding politicians are putting their vanity ahead of issues crucial to a successful transition from military rule, according to foreign and local observers .

This weekend, the political parties of the world's biggest black nation - governed by the military for all but 10 of its 39 years of independence - are choosing candidates for the presidential election on 27 February. Next Saturday parliamentary elections will be held.

Olisa Agbakoba, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer who in the first half of last year was imprisoned by the military, said: "The politicians have learnt nothing except to give way on nothing. I fear we will inherit a very fragile democracy."

The military ruler of Africa's most populous country, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, has pledged to hand over to a civilian government on 29 May, a year after he took power following the death of the tyrannical General Sani Abacha.

Gen Abubakar, who is seen as having no political ambitions, has drawn praise internationally for instigating the current electoral process and promising that the military will give up political power - a sort of African Gorbachev.

The developed world is eager to do business with Nigeria. Its oil companies have been unable to do so properly since November 1995, when Gen Abacha ordered the execution of the author Ken Saro-Wiwa.

Nigeria was placed under UN sanctions and excluded from the Commonwealth after the hanging of Mr Saro-Wiwa and nine other environmental and human rights activists from the oil-rich Ogoni region. Oil companies did not leave but scaled down their activities.

Last week, in a show of support for Gen Abubakar's transition programme, Royal Dutch/Shell announced that it would invest $8.5bn (pounds 5.3bn). Nigeria wants the world to come back: it earns 95 per cent of its foreign currency from oil.

Nigeria's 108 million people certainly want a government which will bring back wealth and foreign investment to their potential African powerhouse.

European and US companies are dying to return, now the word "democracy" can be said to be part of Nigerian politics.

But every election candidate knows the military will never be far away, even if there are no overt coup threats.

All of this, and the fact that Nigeria has only once before experienced a military-to-civilian handover which has worked, has given rise to a thoroughly compromised political class - usually businessmen dabbling in politics for the vanity of it.

The line-up of candidates for selection by the primaries this weekend of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the All People's Party (APP) and Alliance for Democracy (AD) contains few surprises. The PDP's top two candidates are Olusegun Obasanjo, 61, the favoured candidate of the military, who in 1979 became the first general to hand over power to an elected civilian, and Alex Ekwueme, 66, vice-president in Nigeria's last civilian regime.

The APP and AD have said they will back a joint presidential candidate. Front-runner is Olu Falae, 60, a former finance minister who is the favoured choice of the economically-powerful and southern-based Yoruba ethnic group.

Mr Agbakoba and other observers fear all the candidates are still too mired in former tie-ups with military regimes. In the last three months, newspapers have been full of scandals, all aimed at tarnishing one politician's reputation more than the last.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...