Monitors, opposition reject Nigeria vote
By Barry Moody

ABUJA, April 22 (Reuters) — International and local monitors rejected Nigeria’s election as a failure on Sunday in scathing verdicts on the first handover from one civilian president to another.

The opposition and foreign observers called the vote, marred by rigging, a shortage of millions of voting papers and violence in which 16 people were killed, the worst in Nigeria, plagued by years of military rule since independence from Britain in 1960.

As early results showed the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate Umaru Yar’Adua heading for victory, the main opposition party said it would not accept the poll and called for President Olusegun Obasanjo to be impeached.

The chaotic poll dashed hopes it would boost democracy in the West African giant, where corruption and the decades of military rule have left much of the population of 140 million still cursed by poverty despite the country’s huge oil wealth. “The system failed the Nigerian people and suffers from a lack of credibility…the Nigerian people were failed by their leaders,” said Pierre Richard Prosper of the International Republican Institute, which monitored the vote.

The IRI, a U.S.-based pro-democracy group, said both Saturday’s presidential election and regional polls a week ago fell below international standards.

The biggest local monitoring group, which had 10,000 observers across Africa’s most populous nation, said voting was either delayed for hours or did not occur at all in many areas.

“We are going to call for a rerun of elections. You cannot use the result from half of the country to announce a new president,” said Innocent Chukwuma, chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group.


Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, the leading opposition candidate, told Reuters in an interview: “We will not accept it. Clearly there was no election in more than half of the states.” He said he would ask the National Assembly to impeach Obasanjo.

Rivers, the first state to publish its results, showed a landslide for Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s chosen successor as he stands down after allies failed to secure a change to the constitution to allow a third term.

Senate leader Ken Nnamani, the third most senior state official and a member of the PDP, said Nigeria had abdicated its role as an example to the rest of Africa.

“There will be a legacy of hatred. People will hate the new administration and they will have a crisis of legitimacy,” he told Reuters by telephone.

But the government said criticism was part of a coup plot and accused Nnamani of being involved. “These people have no shame,” he responded, saying he had no interest in a coup.

The electoral commission acknowledged late arrival of materials in some parts of Nigeria but said this would not invalidate the result. “The poll we had yesterday was free and fair. Nobody was molested,” commission chief Maurice Iwu said.

The government alleged coup plotters were trying to discredit the poll and fan protests, after failing to blow up electoral headquarters on Saturday with a petrol tanker.

The opposition said it might bring its supporters out on the streets if the PDP claimed victory.

“This is the worst election ever in Nigeria … They have no alternative than to cancel the election altogether,” said outgoing Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, arch-enemy of Obasanjo.

The president tried every possible manoeuvre to exclude Abubakar, who stood for the opposition.

Definitive results are expected on Monday.

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