Nigeria’s 2011 Election is Postponed

Nigeria’s parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2, 2011 were postponed due to the late arrival of voting materials. Maria Owi, a resident electoral commissioner stated that “she had ballot papers for the House of Representatives but no results sheets and results sheets for the Senate but no ballot papers.”  The delays hit the nation hard in hopes that this election would not mirror the previous chaotic elections that were marred by fraud and violence. The polls will be seen as a test as to whether Africa’s most populous nation can break the cycle of corrupt elections. Although many Nigerians were outraged by the delays, Attahiru Jega, Head of the Independent National Electoral Commission stated that the elections would have been inconclusive if they were held on April 2nd.

The electoral commission has implemented stringent measures to prevent cheating and intimidation from elections. This was a concern of foreign observers of Nigeria’s 2007 election, as to whether voters were forced or intimidated into voting for certain leaders. In 1999, Nigeria returned to a civilian government after fifteen years of military rule. This 2011 election will demonstrate how democratic the nation has become after ending its military rule, more than a decade ago.

Not only is Nigeria Africa’s most populous nation, but it is Africa’s top oil producer and the fifth largest source of U.S. oil imports. There is tremendous potential for Nigeria to grow as a global power. Having successful elections would be reassuring to foreign investors in Nigeria and would strengthen Nigeria’s international clout.

Andrew O’Connell, the CEO of Guidepost Solutions, a global investigations and security company, spoke on how high the corruption rate in Nigeria is for foreign direct investors tapping into the market. Do you see a correlation between having a successful election and lowering corruption for foreign investors? How important is it for a host nation to have free elections (an essential feature in a democracy)? Will this election strengthen Nigeria’s position as a global player, or do fundamental reforms need to be in place?

One comment

  1. Unfortunately, Nigeria has a rather holistic problem with corruption. Government officials and police are notorious for extortion and violence. Nigerian state actors engage in extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests in order to maintain their political power. Moreover, though Nigeria enjoys hefty revenues from its oil industry, these do not filter down to the country’s populace. All of Nigeria’s wealth is basically siphoned off by the state and multinational corporations. Altogether, in fact, foreign investment has not been wholly positive for people in Nigeria. There has been a lot of unrest in the country’s oil producing regions because local populations have been marginalized and because oil companies have contributed to increasing levels of militarization – which have also been fueled by religious turmoil. The structural adjustment programs put in place by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1970s and 1980s were supposed to liberalize Nigeria’s economy and government, but while they were successful in privatizing industry and opening up investment, the correlation between business and democracy in this respect did not pan out. All in all, I think history shows that the link between political and economic liberalism is fraught in the developing world. In short, there need to be fundamental reforms. An un-chaotic election in Nigeria may signal political stability and generate investment, but the corruption that Nigeria faces is more than just superficial.

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