Corruption and Violence Taint Democratic Elections
April 2007 national elections—the country’s first transition from one democratically elected president to another—were marred by widespread allegations of fraud, ballot stuffing, violence, and chaos. Just days before the election, the Supreme Court ruled that the election commission’s decision to remove from the ballot Vice President Atiku Abubakar, a leading candidate and a bitter rival of President Olusegun Obsanjo, was illegal. Ballots were reprinted, but they only showed party symbols rather than the names of candidates. Umaru Yar’Adua, the candidate of the governing party, won the election in a landslide, taking more than 24.6 million votes. Second-place candidate Muhammadu Buhari tallied only about 6 million votes. International observers called the vote flawed and illegitimate. The chief observer for the European Union said the results “cannot be considered to have been credible.” An election tribunal ruled in Feb. 2008 that although the election was indeed flawed, the evidence of rigging was not substantial enough to overturn the election results.
The rebel group in Nigeria's oil-producing region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, declared a cease-fire in September. Since the insurgency broke out in 2004, Nigeria's oil production has been significantly reduced, from about 2.5 million barrels a day to 1.5 million.
Deadly violence broke out in July 2009 in northeastern Nigeria between government troops and an obscure fundamentalist sect, Boko Haram, which is opposed to Western education and seeks to have Sharia law implemented throughout the country. The group's name translates to "Western education is sinful." As many as 1,000 civilians died in the battles. The fighting began after militants attacked police stations and seemed to be preparing for a pitched religious war against the government. The police, followed by the army, retaliated and unleashed a five-day assault against the sect. The group's leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in the campaign and the group was nearly decimated.
President Umaru Yar'Adua took ill in November 2009 and traveled to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a zoologist, took over as acting president in Feb. 2010. He dissolved his cabinet in March. The move was widely considered an attempt to establish authority over the country. President Yar'Adua died in May, and Jonathan, who is from the mainly Christian south, assumed the presidency.
Sectarian violence broke out in the city of Jos, which is located in Plateau state between the country's Muslim north and Christian south, in Jan. 2010. At least 325 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the fighting. Another round of violence occurred in Jos in March. The victims were mostly Christians who were hacked to death in their sleep. Local officials suspected the attackers were seeking revenge for the murders in January. The number of fatalities ranged from 200 to 500.
Jonathan prevailed in presidential elections in April 2011, taking about 60% of the vote. He defeated Muhammadu Buhari, the former military ruler who is from the Muslim north. International observers deemed the elections fair–the cleanest in decades. The milestone was somewhat marred after the election, however, as Buhari's supporters in the north violently protested the results.