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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/4/11

Nigerian Elections: Candidates, as Revealed by WikiLeaks Cables, Still Register to Vote Multiple Times

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"Like velveeta cheese, the labeling claims it is a party, but upon further inspection, it lacks key ingredients most political parties share," writes then-Charge d'Affairs Lisa Piascik. She expounds upon this belief:

This is in large part a result of its history and inception in 1997 as a coalition against the self-succession plans of military ruler General Sani Abacha rather than as a political party. Even the party's mission statement and directive principles lack an ideological basis upon which to form party policy. The PDP remains an agglomeration of interest groups formed around persons of prominence and power which are loosely tied together by a desire to remain in office and maintain access to the "national cake" or resources of the state. The main networks in the party currently center around former President Obasanjo and current President Yar'Adua, although other lesser players continue to have influence, and a new network of former governors is gaining influence. When viewing and interpreting developments such as the scandals surrounding House Speaker Patricia Etteh and Senate President David Mark or the intrigues surrounding investigation of former PDP governors, it is important to remember that the largest opposition to the PDP continues to come from within the party, not without.

And, she provides a brief summary of the history of the PDP:

Early in 1997, as military ruler Sani Abacha planned his self-succession and transformation into a civilian president, a group of 18 prominent northern politicians (later known as the G-18), some of whom had served previously as ministers under Abacha, came together to oppose Abacha's continued leadership. Southern politicians then joined in the opposition and the group came to number 34 members (G-34). With the 1998 death of Abacha and dissolution of the five parties his regime had established, the G-34 movement was uniquely positioned to form a new political party because of its already existing loose coalition and structure. As the movement declared its political ambitions, it was joined by several strongly pro-Abacha officials, a group of retired army generals, and several other smaller political associations. The new "party" was divided from the start along these lines. The PDP Mission statement and Directive Principles reflect the lack of any ideological consensus and call simply for the creation of a dynamic economy and democratic society.

The PDP's history is possibly why, at the end of President Obasanjo's presidency in May 2007 he "had completely taken over the organizational machinery of the PDP" and was "making all major decisions on membership, candidates and matters of party structure, including amendments to the PDP Constitution in December 2006 which virtually guaranteed him Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees."

"The lack of internal democracy in the party has continued and was particularly evident in the lead-up to the 2007 elections and the selection of party candidates for state and national office," concludes Piascik. "The PDP as a party remains fractious and bound only by the desires of those within it to maintain their seat of power and access to the nation's resources. The factions (or networks) within the party, overseen by highly placed "godfathers," are fluid and continue to evolve and change."

As of 2010, Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer indicated that Nigeria suffered from a high level of corruption. Fifty percent or more respondents reported having to pay bribes when in contact with customs, education, judiciary, land-related services, medical services, police, registry and permit services, tax authorities and utilities. When asked how they thought the level of corruption had changed in the past three years, seventy-three percent said it increased. And, when asked to determine on a scale of 1-5 (5 being "extremely corrupt") how corrupt institutions in Nigeria are, the results were a 4.5 for political parties, 4.2 for parliament/legislature, 3.5 for the judiciary, and 3.3 for public officials and civil servants in government.

Shell Oil Corporation continues to hold a grip over Nigeria. This revelation was one of the first revelations to come out of Cablegate. Recall, in December it was found out through a cable that the Government of Nigeria often "forgets" (or possibly doesn't know) that Shell has people in "all the relevant ministries" and "access to everything" done in those ministries. That, in addition to the newness of democracy in Nigeria, only complicates matters further as the people of the Niger Delta, where Shell's operations are primarily based, are not happy as their human rights are violated . A number of Nigerians are willing to act out and have acted violently against Shell.

Nigerians are immensely frustrated with the postponement. Professor Jega of INEC has lost much credibility after he was given one billion dollars to run the election and was unable to hold the election on time and avoid a fiasco. More importantly, it appears some high profile candidates have registered to vote multiple times in the election.

Jega, according to NEXT, refused to share names but said that "high profile double registrants" could face prosecution if they seek to manipulate votes in their favor by voting more than once. In response to Jega's admission, a spokesperson for the Nuhu Ribadu presidential campaign shared his belief that "all of the offenders were in the PDP."

It is highly likely that corruption takes place and that the political class, in their jostling for access to money and power, deprives the Nigerian people of open, free and fair elections.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for
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