Nigeria's Botched Election Process, 2007

An NGO worker showed me pictures of pre-teens waiting in line to vote, in voting centers with no security, but with muscle men of unknown orders standing around.

Journalists used the words shambolic, selection not election. Besides the usual violence before and during voting, lack of centers in opposition areas, there was also no vote counting, no individualized release of results, no evidence of local tallies, just the announcement of a general result.

Gaunt, small, thin, discreet, ailing, mouse-like, the man of the sham hour walked in like a dead man walking.

Nigeria’s President-elect Umaru Yar’Adua shuffled through journalists packed at his campaign headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria, shortly after being declared the winner in the most botched and poorly organized election process I have ever witnessed.

Give him time, another journalist said, he will grow into his stature as the president of Africa’s largest oil producer. At the helm of the most corrupt and incompetent state, given the riches of Nigeria and the hustle, bustle and drive of its people, I thought.

He sat against a wall along a bare table with a cabal of democratic usurpers, some of them, including the vice-president elect, wearing Al Capone style hats, squeezed in by the throng of rat pack journalists, who asked about legitimacy issues and fraud.

After he eloquently answered the questions, looking directly at each questioner with yellow eyes, but before the champagne was uncorked, the journalists left.

We went back out in the mugginess of the start of the rainy season, from the traditional Islamic trading center of Kano, where people begged for better distribution of oil wealth, to the oil-rich creeks themselves, where farmers and fishermen complained of pollution, no jobs, no respect for locals, an endless insurgency of government henchmen turning for and against, kidnapping, using violence as their only means to extract money, to believe in themselves.

I went to the smashed up home of Indians working for an Indonesian-owned company. They had just been kidnapped. The door to their home was open. Their empty shoes were neatly arranged in a row.

One of the frightened guards at the home said he had recently moved to the Niger Delta to also get a job.

He said he missed the smell of their Indian cooking, but that he had never tasted it.

Another missed opportunity in globalization.

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