By HUMNEWS in Abuja
(HN, January 14, 2011) - "We have money - that is not our problem." That's what taxi driver Geoffrey Gumaju repeated as he navigated his battered, green taxi along the roads of the Nigerian capital.
Like many of his countrymen, he complains of a horribly-decaying infrastructure, despite the country's oil wealth. Roads are in bad shape, the health system has been described by DFID as on the brink of collapse and millions of youth are unemployed. "I have to bribe someone to get a job," says Gumaju.
Gumaju and Nigeria's 150-million people woke up this morning to news that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan has won the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) ticket for the April presidential elections, handily defeating his opponent - former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Ordinarily, the presidency of this oil rich nation rotates between the predominantly Christian South and the majority-Muslim North. Jonathan, who assumed the presidency last year after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua, a northern Muslim, is a Christian from the South.
The PDP has captured every single presidential vote since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999. It gained independence from Britain in 1960.
In what was mainly a lackluster series of speeches, the three PDP presidential aspirants had little to offer in terms of concrete change. In fact, Jonathan, who spoke last before voting last night, said one of the biggest accomplishments during his term of office is that airplanes no longer get lost in Nigerian airspace. "The whole country is covered by radar now," he said.
Sarah Jibril, a colourful candidate and the lone female contender, was the only speaker to emphasize the need to lift the country's women and children out of poverty.
She said: “I represent ‘zoning neutraliser’. When you vote me, Nigeria will not be called one of the corrupt countries again. We did it in Liberia when we elected a female president. I have the mental capacity to lead Nigeria…I will be Mama President from whom there will be a rebirth. ”
The World Bank on Thursday boosted its growth forecast for Nigeria to 7.1 percent in 2011, from a previous estimate of 5.7 percent. Fresh spending on infrastructure is expected to contribute.
According to the UN, however, more than half of Nigeria's population of 150-million live in poverty, and 20 percent of Africa's poor call Nigeria home. The country accounts for 20 percent of global maternal mortality.
- From a HUMNEWS special correspondent in Abuja