Nigerians head to the polls this month in a series of elections to pick members of parliament, state governors and president. Hampered at first by logistical problems in distributing ballots at some polling stations, the nation nevertheless has an opportunity to demonstrate its capacity to both manage and hold democratic elections, which are the desire of its people. Seventeen African nations are scheduled to hold elections this year, and Nigeria's commitment to constitutional and democratic rule can be an example for its neighbors, and indeed all nations.
It is essential that Nigeria conduct this year's polling better than it did in 2007, when elections were poorly administered and poorly run. They were marred by significant violence as well, which has no place in a democratic society or in the democratic process. All of Nigeria's leaders must work to do everything they can to ensure the safety of polling places and make these elections as free of violence and intimidation as possible.
A flawed electoral process will lead to a loss of confidence by Nigerians in their leaders, their country's governing institutions and democracy itself. Nigerians, indeed all Africans, have the right to participate in the election of their local, regional and national leaders, and those elections should be transparent, fair and credible.