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Vol 44 No 3

Published 7th February 2003


A victory for the generals

A soldier - serving or retired - will be running Nigeria by June after a hard fought election

Nigerians now have a choice of presidential candidates in the 19 April election which almost exactly reflects the nation's schisms and idiosyncrasies (AC Vol 43 No 25 & Vol 44 No 1). The four leading candidates in a field of 13 are all retired generals. The incumbent and former military head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, is a proselytising evangelical Christian from the south-west. His most serious opponent, Muhammdu Buhari, is another former military head of state from the north-west and a fervent supporter of the Islamic (Sharia) criminal code and its penalties of amputation and stoning to death. From the east, come two more retired generals: former Biafra leader General Emeka Ojukwu is standing on an irredentist ticket. With stronger nationalist credentials but the least fancied of the quartet is Gen. Ike Nwachukwu, whose father is Igbo, mother is Hausa and wife, Yoruba. He speaks all three languages. Lurking in the background is another former military leader and probably the wealthiest man in the country, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, whose voting intentions are a matter of consuming national interest. However, in this political theatre, the voices of the growing civic organisations, human rights groups and trades unions have almost been completely marginalised. Nigerian politics is overwhelmingly an elite and money-centred pastime even if the parents of many of today's practitioners were themselves poor farmers.

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