How Nigeria chooses a president - politics

Before the presidential election, the Nigerians hope, above all, that the situation will not get any worse. The two major parties seem to have no plans for how the rich country can free itself from the economic crisis and corruption.

From Bernd Dörries, Lagos

Femi Ajose sits in the bleachers of a Lagos football stadium holding a small brush in his hand, waving it through the air. He wears a yellow T-shirt with the printed photo of Muhammadu Buhari and holds a small cardboard box with chicken pieces in his hand, bearing the President's logo: A broom to neatly ditch in Nigeria. Between the bites, Ajose says: "The president has achieved a lot, the economy has improved, the security situation is also and the fight against corruption is progressing." Ajose takes the last chicken snack in his mouth, rinsing it down with a sip of Coke and then gets up to leave the stadium. Although President Buhari has not talked at all.

For days, the 20-million metropolis had been preparing for the president's big election campaign, the first and only one before the elections on 16 February. That was the original date, which was then postponed for a week just before the vote. Anything else would have been a surprise in Nigeria, where little works right away, which involves shifting and delaying to national folklore. So now on Saturday, February 23, a new start will be taken. For Buhari's speech, parts of the city were closed to truck traffic, so that the chaos is not quite as big as usual – although the President by helicopter einwakes. In the morning there might have been 10 000 people waiting for him in the stadium.

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"Most of us got a scholarship," says the woman next to Ajose, who does not want to give her name. Two-thirds of the visitors said they had money to cheer for Buhari and swing the brooms, a few euros and a lunchbox. After the boxes have been eaten empty, many Nigerians are returning home. When the President speaks, maybe 3,000 people are there – in a city that has 20 or 30 million inhabitants, it would be as if only 350 Berliners would come to the event with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

As a "mega rally" Buhari had announced this high point of the election campaign, which then takes exactly three minutes, speaks for so long, or he mumbles to himself. "Thank you for coming, we will keep the promises we have made," says Buhari. Tired applause, a tired-looking Buhari drifts away across the red carpet.

Four years ago, things had looked very different. After his election, Buhari had sparked a certain euphoria, the hope that he would be able to change the country sustainably after the end of the ruling rule of the then ruling party. A land of incredible resources, which for some is like the Americas of the continent, everything seems a bit bigger and louder. Nigeria has everything: it has oil, an incredible wealth of culture, it has Nobel laureates and the best musicians on the continent. Lagos is often described in the West as a Moloch, as ultimately ungovernable. But above all it is a fascinating metropolis, with a lot of poverty, but also with fantastic beaches, bold highways that run on concrete stilts over the sea. It's a city that, despite its size, does not seem unfriendly at all.

But she does not really get off the ground, just like the whole country. In the north of Nigeria, the Islamist terrorists rage from Boko Haram. In the megacity Lagos one can visit in the new settlements on the water, where the oil wealth flows, in large yachts and swanky skyscrapers. All this Buhari wanted to fight, which did not even begin. Maybe he could not, maybe he did not want to.


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