A woman casts her vote at a polling place in Daura, Nigeria. Voters in Africa''s most populous nation are deciding Saturday whether to keep their accidental president in power, though unease in the country's Muslim north could force a runoff. (Photo: AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Nigerians went out en masse today to choose their next president.
Delayed a week, thanks in part to the late arrival of the voting materials, the election pits opposition leaders Muhammadu Buhari and Nuhu Ribadu against incumbent leader President Goodluck Jonathan who took over when President Umaru Yar'Adua died a year ago. Jonathan has promised that Saturday's elections would be free and fair, a contrast from past elections fraught with fraud and voter intimidation. As Africa's most populous nation and top oil producer, millions of dollars are at stake. Can Nigeria hold an election without violence or corruption?
While analysts predict a Jonathan win, tensions run high between the Muslim-controlled north and the Christian South. Since Nigeria has a high population of Christians and Muslims, it has become an unspoken rule to rotate leadership between the two groups, especially in Jonathan’s political party, the People's Democratic Party. When Jonathan announced his intention to run for president, many Muslims were angered since Jonathan is a Christian. Many feel it is now a Muslim's turn to run.
Jonathan runs on a platform of improving infrastructure and creating employment by spending money on creating new roads and railroads. His opponents counter that during his year in office, Jonathan has done little to address the issues of corruption and violence. Both Buharu and Ribadu are running on anti-corruption platforms. Buharu is a former military leader who ruled Nigeria from 1983 to 1985. He is a member of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) party. Nuhu Ribadu is the former executive chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and a member of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
If Jonathan does retain his office and can make good on his campaign promises, it can go far to help the Nigerian people, many of which live on less than $1 a day.
While Nigerian election process has been plagued with violence and corruption, last week's legislative election was conducted without incident save for two bombings in Northern Nigeria. Hopefully this is the start of a new economic day for a country that is the fourth largest oil provider for the United States. If Jonathan can find a way to use Nigeria's vast wealth potential to develop its people, it could become the world's next superpower.