Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo’s crushing victory in a presidential poll last Saturday has stoked tension in Africa’s most populous country and raised fears of further instability in the world’s eighth biggest oil producer.
Obasanjo’s main challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim whose power base is in the largely Islamic north of the country, has shelved his threat of “mass action” after the president’s camp vowed to crush any “rebellion.”
Buhari’s All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP) also appears to be distancing itself from the uncompromising stance of the retired general and former military ruler .
Nigerian police patrol
The party said on Wednesday it would go to electoral tribunals to challenge Obasanjo’s victory by a margin of 2-1 and a near clean sweep of the governorships by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
On Thursday the re-elected ANPP governor in Kebbi state, in the heartland of Buhari’s northern stronghold, held unexpected talks with Obasanjo in Abuja.
Emerging from the meeting, Governor Adamu Aliero denounced Buhari’s call for mass protests. “I think it is bad for anyone to call for mass action,” he said. “The normal procedure is for those aggrieved or disputing the results of the elections to take their protests to the election tribunal.”
Anger is still simmering in parts of country over the presidential poll’s declared result.
The political leadership in the northern half of the multi-ethnic country gave its influential support to the opposition’s assertion that the vote was crudely rigged.
At least 25 people have been killed since Saturday’s vote but much of the country was tense but calm on Friday.
Meanwhile, the government has reacted badly to criticism from foreign observers and media about alleged vote-rigging and intimidation.
A policeman watches the
Information Minister Jerry Gana has slammed coverage by the foreign media and said the European Union’s report on the elections, which was highly critical, was “unacceptable.”
The United States issued its own assessment. Although far less damning than that of the EU, the state department nevertheless urged Obasanjo to investigate poll fraud allegations in significant parts of the country.
While congratulating Nigerians for what it said “was a peaceful exercise of their right to vote in many parts of the country”, it noted that monitors had reported serious irregularities in one-third of Nigeria’s 36 states. It urged politicians to bring such cases before electoral tribunals.