Week's 1st Set of Nigerian Elections Held Peacefully

“None of the Feared Violence,” Says Abuja Archbishop

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LAGOS, Nigeria, APRIL 15, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Sunday’s legislative elections Nigeria came off with “none of the feared violence,” an archbishop says.

“We prayed hard that it would be a peaceful election, and our prayers were answered,” Archbishop John Onaiyekan of Abuja told the missionary agency Fides. “There were some small problems, delays in opening the booths, but Nigerians showed great patience and sense of responsibility.”

The first results give the lead to the party of President Olusegun Obasanjo, People’s Democratic Party, in the southern states while in the north many votes went to the Opposition All Nigerian People’s Party.

“It is too early to comment the results of the election; what matters is that they reflect the will of the people,” Archbishop Onaiyekan said.

“Both parties preferred not to mention the introduction of the Shariah [Islamic law] during the election campaign,” he said. “This is why in the forthcoming presidential election the people will not necessarily vote for a member of the party for which they voted earlier.”

The presidential election will be held on Holy Saturday. The government rejected a request from Christian churches and denominations to change the date for religious reasons.

On the occasion of the forthcoming election, Archbishop Onaiyekan issued a booklet, a collection of reflections, addresses and lectures, entitled “Thy Kingdom Come: Democracy and Politics in Nigeria Today.”

He writes: “The purpose of this booklet is to encourage our fellow citizens and especially Catholics and Christians to take up their civic responsibility to participate fully in the decisions and processes that determine our daily living conditions, to scrutinize the words and credentials of those who present themselves to us as candidate for leadership of our communities.”

In the introduction, Archbishop Onaiyekan affirms: “When Nigeria became an independent nation in October 1960, we were full of enthusiasm and great hopes for the future. We all had great dreams of a great Nigeria. It is now well over 40 years and we are still dreaming.”

He recalls the tragedies that prevented the realization of these dreams: civil wars and long military dictatorships coupled with brief spells of civil administration.

Since May 1999, Nigeria is living a new democratic experiment, from which the archbishop draws these first conclusions: “There is marked improvement in the area of civil liberties. We are beginning to see progress in certain aspects of infrastructure.

“Some state and local governments seem to be taking good advantage of the resources being poured into their laps to carry out projects in the interest of the people. There has also been a marked improvement in the quality of life of some people, especially those in power.”

He continues: “But there are many people, indeed the greater majority, who have seen little or nothing of these goodies and they are already tired of waiting. Worse still, they see no sign that the future will be better. On the national, state and local government levels, many people in positions of public trust still seem to behave with the mentality of military dictators, looting the people’s resources with impunity and not caring about the needs of the poor and the weak.”

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