Democracy? Democracy.

Posted: Apr 18, 2011 11:15 AM
From yesterday:

"Feels-like temperature: 116."

I am back in the capital city of Nigeria which is not Lagos, but Abuja. For two days, I had been in the southernmost state of the country, Akwa Ibom as an International Observer for Nigeria's presidential election which was held on Saturday.

As of about 11 PM last night local time, the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, had opened a two-to-one lead over his nearest rival and seemed the sure winner.

In order to win and avoid a run-off, Jonathan had to get more than 50 percent of the total votes cast, plus get 25 percent of more of the vote in at least 24 of the 36 states.

Think that's confusing? Try explaining the Electoral College to a Nigerian college student.

Nigeria is important to the United States because it is one of our largest oil suppliers. In fact, in January of this year it was our fourth largest supplier behind only Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia and just ahead of Venezuela.

In January we imported just under a million barrels of oil per day from Nigeria. At $110 per barrel, we are pumping $3.3 billion a month into the economy here. That also means we are shipping $3.3 billion a month out of our own economy when we could be using domestic resources, but we've had this discussion before.

Oil money can solve many societal problems, but not all. This country is split between a largely Muslim north and an aggressively Christian the south. Signs for churches - large and small - are located, it seems, on every block at least in Akwa Ibom's capital city of Uyo.

This is still West Africa and not Western Europe. It remains to be seen whether, as the oil money relieves crushing poverty and lack of infrastructure, it uncovers lingering tribal as well as religious tensions. It also remains to be seen whether the oil producing nations of Africa will share their wealth, not only with their citizens, but with their neighbors.

China is in evidence everywhere. Even the plastic voting booths used at the 120,000 polling places were made in China. As China, India, Indonesia and the other massively emerging economies need more oil, places like Nigeria are going to be huge targets.

It would be too bad if Nigeria threw off the yoke of the U.K. only to trade it for pulling a Chinese rickshaw.

This has not all been heavy thinking and wistful reflection. The elections of the 36 state Governors will be held a week from tomorrow. The Governor of Akwa Ibom is a man named - wait for it - Godswill Akpabio. He is of the same political party as the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan. President Goodluck and Governor Godswill. Sounds like the beginning of an Abbot and Costello routine.

I Don't Know's on third.

The story here is, another nation in the world has moved from dictatorship to democracy. That change has been, at least for now, accomplished without the need for government tanks or NATO aircraft.

According to some sources people have been living here for 10 millenia. Over the past half century, since its independence from Great Britain, Nigeria had been under on-again off-again military rule. Civilian government has been trying to sprout for the past decade and this past weekend, it appears to have come into full bloom.

It was very cool to have been here and seen a small part of that.