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Nigerian Democracy Grows Up

ABUJA – Nigeria’s legislative elections, to be followed by a presidential poll on April 16, indicate that the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has lost its near-total grip on the country’s politics. Of the four main opposition parties that fielded candidates for the 469 parliamentary seats in contention, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) took the bulk of the votes in the southwest of the country, felling such PDP stalwarts as House speaker Dimeji Bankole and Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The PDP did, however, fend off challenge in the oil-producing Niger Delta, President Goodluck Jonathan’s home region. It also held its own in the predominantly Igbo southeast and the middle belt, home to several small ethnic groups.

Bitter controversy marked Jonathan’s ascension to power in May 2010, following the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua after only three years in office. Some PDP politicians in the Muslim north insisted that their region be allowed to present a candidate, as Obasanjo, who was viewed as representing the Christian south, had served eight years. They were rebuffed.

The party then hemorrhaged influential members, particularly in the north. Analysts predicted that a large share of the region’s votes would go to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), led by Muhammadu Buhari, a northern Muslim from the state of Katsina. Buhari is also the party’s presidential candidate. The CPC won the majority of the seats in Katsina, but the PDP still managed to maintain its dominance of that volatile region’s politics.