Attacks on the Press
igeria’s diverse and freewheeling press weathered a tense political
period in 2007, a year marked by fierce disputes surrounding April presidential and legislative elections and a surge of violence in the oil-rich Niger Delta region. Ruling party candidate Umaru Yar’Adua was declared winner of the April 21 presidential vote, the first transfer of power between two elected civilian leaders in Nigerian history. The elections were marred, however, by serious logistical flaws, widespread violence, and falsification of results. A report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group concluded that the election was “poorly organized and massively rigged.” The private press was harassed and intimidated by authorities in the run-up to the vote, starting in spring 2006 when the media took a leading role in opposing outgoing President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unsuccessful attempt to amend the constitution so he could seek a third term. Yar’Adua, a former governor from northern Nigeria who was largely unknown at the national level before being nominated as the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, sought to smooth tensions by inviting his erstwhile rivals to join a “government of national unity” and making peace in the Delta the cornerstone of domestic policy.