local elections held all over the country.
This practice has become steadily more entrenched in the months since the presidential election of May 2007. It, too, was rigged by the PDP to ensure that Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s chosen successor, beat his two main rivals, Atiku Abubakar (Obasanjo’s former vice- president) and Muhammadu Buhari (the former mili- tary dictator). According to most accounts, the election was anything but free and fair. During the build up to the election, the U.S. State Department issued its an- nual human rights report on Nigeria. It observed that the Nigerian police routinely, and often violently, ha- rassed opposition candidates and their supporters; that the authorities obstructed and illegally detained jour- nalists; that government agents were involved in po- litically motivated murders; and that vigilante groups were hired by incumbent politicians to intimidate their rivals.41
Of the election itself, the European Union’s (EU) observation mission noted that “polling procedures were often poorly followed and the secrecy of the vote was not guaranteed in the majority of . . . stations,” as well as many instances “of fraud, including ballot box stuffing, multiple voting, intimidation of voters, altera- tion of official result forms, stealing of sensitive polling materials, vote buying and under age voting.”42 These criticisms were echoed by the United Nations (UN), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch. In- deed, it “observed violence and intimidation . . . in an electoral process that denied large numbers of voters the opportunity to cast their votes.” And “where voting did occur, it was marred by the late opening of polls, a severe shortage of ballot papers, the widespread intim- idation of voters, the seizure of ballot boxes by gangs of thugs, vote buying and other irregularities.”43