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Will Nigeria have its first-ever democratic transition of power since independence?

Millions of Nigerians are expected to turn out for tomorrow’s delayed election, which pits President Goodluck Jonathan against former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari in a tight race, with fears of terrorism looming. Jeffrey Brown learns more about the significance of the election from Michelle Faul, Nigeria bureau chief of the Associated Press.

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    And joining me to discuss tomorrow's election and what it means is the Nigeria bureau chief for the Associated Press, Michelle Faul.

    Welcome to you.

    So, is this election now about the two men, the two regions, the economy, Boko Haram? What's it coming down to?

  • MICHELLE FAUL, Associated Press:

    I think it comes down to the future of Nigeria.

    And President Obama in his message to the Nigerian people was very clear when he said that this is a matter of keeping Nigeria together, of the need for Nigerians to unite. And there are very real fears of violence here. And that's because the contest between these two men is so incredibly close.

    And that's a good thing, in a way. As the human rights commissioner said, it's a cause for celebration. It should be a sign that Nigeria's democracy is maturing. But in fact what's happened is, even before the voting started, a campaign that's degenerated into the kind of worst hate speech.


    How much is the outcome determining the fight against Boko Haram and how that proceeds from here?


    There are lots of people who will tell you, critics of President Jonathan, that reason that, at this point, the military were able to announce today that they have cleared Boko Haram out of the three northeastern states, is that that was done because of President Jonathan's reelection bid as a political ploy.

    The military have said that they were waiting to get the arms and training in order to make this push against Boko Haram. But, either way, on the eve of the election, we have this major announcement of victory over Boko Haram, one, by the way, that I do not think is likely, you know, that they have absolutely done away with Boko Haram.


    You mean because they have announced such things in the past and it's hard to verify at this point?


    Well, because of that, and also because I think, from speaking with analysts and diplomats and just my own knowledge of what's happening on the ground there, that this is not going to be a campaign to annihilate Boko Haram, that the best you can hope for is that you push them out of the territory that they have been holding now, as the West Africa franchise of I.S., and you're left with a situation where they will continue to make hit-and-run attacks and you will continue to have suicide bombings.


    What is the potential that the vote, because it is close, will be inconclusive? And there is talk about a potential for violence in its aftermath.


    There are great fears.

    I mean, the pre-election violence has been unprecedented. Dozens of people have been killed. And, if you remember, after 2011 elections, again, the same two contenders. General Buhari lost President Jonathan won. The north went up in flames, riots, and over 1,000 people were killed then. And this is much more contentious, the reason being that Nigeria's political landscape has just been transformed.

    Two years ago, the main political parties came together and formed an opposition, not just formed an opposition. They have united behind one candidate, which for the first time in the history of Nigeria — and that's since independence, 1960, from Britain — for the first time in its history, you have the possibility of an actual democratic change of power. It's never happened before.


    All right, Michelle Faul of the Associated Press in Nigeria, thank you so much.


    Thank you.

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