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Successful Nigerian polls will echo across Africa, says Kufuor

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John Kufuor. Photo: Gregory Jones

A well-organised vote as Nigerian voters go to the polls this Saturday would “resound to the good of all of Africa”, according to John Kufuor, the head of the African Union election observation mission in Nigeria, and former Ghanaian president. Kufuor spoke to RFI about what the mission has observed in the days leading up to the presidential vote.

Interview: John Kufuor, head of the AU election observation mission

What have you witnessed during the African Union’s election observations in Nigeria?

The African Union has sent a team of about 40 people here, some of whom observed the national assembly and senate elections last Saturday. All of us are going to observe the presidential elections this coming Saturday. The group has made contact with various parties, has made contact with the Independent National Electoral Commission and has also met some civil society organizations. Some of the members have also been deployed in four of the six political zones of the country. We’re just observing the state of law and order of the system – Inec’s prepared-ness – its ability to deploy the resources so the voters would be serviced duly and in time. Also, security agencies and their prepared-ness to maintain law and order throughout.

Do you think the deployment of the security services across Nigeria has in any way frightened voters? Do you think it has made them apprehensive about going to the polling stations?

I don’t think so. I believe everything has been quite measured so far. We expect, perhaps, the remainder of the process might even be better still than we’ve observed so far. People have not been cowed by the presence of security agencies. The security agencies themselves seem to be mindful of not causing undue stir within the population.

Will the deployment of the security services prevent any further violence? The head of the electoral commission, Attahiru Jega, told a news conference on Wednesday that violence had killed at least 35 people.

I would expect that the awareness of the security services would be heightened because the bombers wouldn’t come more or less open-faced. Suppose a bomber would leave an innocent looking parcel somewhere, only for it to explode later. That would take more than just a regular presence of the security agencies to stop. What I would expect of the security agencies would be to heighten their awareness and search, so as to stop the would-be bomber.

What about the delay to the election – we’ve had a number of delays – how do you think that will affect the polling?

Initially the delays really caused a lot of eyebrows to be raised. But I believe the population generally is accepting that the electoral commission perhaps was right in taking pains to ensure that everything was done in an orderly way.

Two of the main opposition parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change, were trying to reach a deal to form an alliance against President Goodluck Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party. But they’ve failed to do so. How do you think this will play into the race?

If you care to hear from me personally – I think people are free to do their arrangements. Also, to remove themselves from whatever ploys they were engaged in. As to the electorate generally – voting one way or the other – that’s again the preserve of the electorate and I don’t expect that the outcome of the election would be much affected by the failure of the two parties we talked about to come to any terms.

Recently there have been a few issues with elections in Africa and specifically in West Africa, with Cote d’Ivoire being the most prominent example. How do you think these Nigerian elections will play into democracy in Africa and West Africa?

The successful conclusion of the Nigerian elections would resound to the good of all of Africa – Nigeria being the most populous nation on the continent and it’s not just populous, also very strategic, and very important with far-reaching influence on the continent. So when the elections come through successfully here, I’m sure they would set a good pace for the rest of Africa to emulate.

Radio France Internationale

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