Tomorrow, Nigerians head to the polls. I recently spoke on Nigerian Radio Continental with popular host “Citizen Jones” about the importance of this election – not only for selecting the nation’s president – but for why it matters to the rest of the world.
As a veteran CNN journalist and current business consultant who has spent months working with hundreds of students and professionals in Nigeria, much is at stake.
Incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan is squaring off again against former military leader Mohammadu Buhari. It’s the fourth time Buhari has tried for the highest office since he took charge after a coup back in the 80s and it’s the second time he’ll face Jonathan. Latest polls show the race is a tight one. But this contest is more than betting on the long-running horse race of Buhari’s persistence.
From my perch, the top issues facing Nigeria are:
- Maintaining and improving the country’s economy
- Curbing widespread corruption
- Eradicating Boko Haram
Economy. Nigeria is proudly Africa’s number one economy – taking the title away from South Africa for nearly a year now. Its vast oil riches support its base and analysts say it is bolstered by strong agriculture, information and communications technology.
But the chasm between the haves and the have-nots is evident the moment you arrive. Tin-topped shanty neighborhoods mushroom under the shade of sprawling gold-encrusted McMansions. Customized Range Rovers share the road with dilapidated, exhaust- spewing yellow “danfo” vans dangerously filled with poor commuters.
Corruption. Everybody knows it goes on. And everybody has a story. Like last September when I was touring the country on a training circuit and kept reading headlines about the private plane that left the capital city of Abuja for South Africa. When it landed, officials discovered it was carrying 10 MILLION dollars in cash. There was plenty of speculation about who had chartered the plane and what the money was planned for but I never heard any real answers.
One step toward righting this ongoing wrong would be for peace and fairness to be found at all Nigeria’s polls tomorrow. In 2007, antics during the elections prompted the US State Department to describe them as “Flawed.” There was substantial improvement in 2011’s election, but observers still claimed there was widespread fraud and voter rigging.
A smooth and peaceful election this weekend could set a standard and example for other developing democracies across the globe. Both candidates publically signed an agreement this week promising to respect the election’s outcome and urging their supporters to refrain from violence.
Boko Haram. This month’s announced alliance between Boko Haram and ISIS dramatically illustrates that rooting out terrorism is the world’s problem, not simply the country in which the terrorists are residing and fighting.
Whoever wins Nigeria’s election must seek out and forge strong alliances with partner countries to put an end to the madness – for everyone.
As I discussed with the other panelists on Radio Continental, journalists have a responsibility to accurately – and independently – cover and report tomorrow’s elections. Together, Nigerian journalists and its government can work together to build a better nation – and a better world.
I’ll be back on Radio Continental on Monday and I hope we’ll be talking how it was an unprecedented peaceful weekend of hope and fulfilled promises by both political parties.
Copyright 2015 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.