Africa

PDP election losses 'have changed Nigeria'

Men gather at a newspaper vendor's stall in Lagos, Nigeria
Image caption Results are being announced at a state level - the official results will be out late this week

Preliminary parliamentary poll results revealing big losses for the ruling party show Nigeria "has changed", an analyst has told the BBC.

"It tells a story to every politician: You can no longer take Nigerians for granted," Victor Burubo said.

High-profile PDP casualties include speaker of the lower house Dimeji Bankole and ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo's daughter in the senate.

Despite some violence, observers said Saturday's poll was well-conducted.

The initial vote had to be postponed from 2 April after voting material failed to reach many areas.

Previous elections since the return to civilian rule in 1999 have been marred by widespread fraud and intimidation.

Elections for the presidency and state governorships were also delayed and are now to be held on 16 and 26 April respectively.

Bad luck for president?

With more than 70% of preliminary results announced at a state level, President Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) has suffered significant losses.

The party that has dominated politics since the military returned to barracks has so far taken 59 seats in the 109-member senate and 140 seats in the 360-member House of Representatives.

Correspondents say it is not clear whether the PDP will lose its absolute majority in both houses as voting in some 13-14% of parliamentary constituencies - where polling had begun on 2 April - has been delayed until 26 April.

The party has lost out to two newly formed parties, the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the south-west and to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in parts of the north.

There was another embarrassing loss for the PDP in the northern state of Katsina where Maryam Yar'Adua, daughter of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua, failed in her bid get into the House of Representatives.

But Mr Burubo, who leads the National Ijaw Council in the southern oil-rich Niger Delta, said the PDP's bad showing on a parliamentary level would not affect the presidential vote.

"I have a feeling that a good number of areas where the PDP has been beaten will still revert to the PDP candidates, Dr Goodluck Jonathan and his running mate Sambo because of who they are are - not just because of the party," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

He said Mr Jonathan, who is from the under-developed Niger Delta where inhabitants have felt ignored by politicians, is popular in the region.

His main opponents on the presidential ticket are former anti-corruption campaigner Nuhu Ribadu for the ACN and former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari from the CPC.

Nigeria: A nation divided

To win at the first round, a candidate not only needs the majority of votes cast, but at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states. Goodluck Jonathan, of the PDP, reached that threshold in 31 states; runner-up Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC only did so in 16 states.

Nigeria's 160 million people are divided between numerous ethno-linguistic groups and also along religious lines. Broadly, the Hausa-Fulani people based in the north are mostly Muslims. The Yorubas of the south-west are divided between Muslims and Christians, while the Igbos of the south-east and neighbouring groups are mostly Christian or animist. The Middle Belt is home to hundreds of groups with different beliefs, and around Jos there are frequent clashes between Hausa-speaking Muslims and Christian members of the Berom community.

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states. While in the oil-rich south-east, the residents of Delta and Akwa Ibom complain that all the wealth they generate flows up the pipeline to Abuja and Lagos.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

Female literacy is seen as the key to raising living standards for the next generation. For example, a newborn child is far likelier to survive if its mother is well-educated. In Nigeria we see a stark contrast between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. In some northern states less than 5% of women can read and write, whereas in some Igbo areas more than 90% are literate.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and among the biggest in the world but most of its people subsist on less than $2 a day. The oil is produced in the south-east and some militant groups there want to keep a greater share of the wealth which comes from under their feet. Attacks by militants on oil installations led to a sharp fall in Nigeria's output during the last decade. But in 2010, a government amnesty led thousands of fighters to lay down their weapons.

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