|After three postponements, elections for most parliamentary seats were held on 9 April 2011, one week before the presidential polls.
In the previous elections (April 2007), the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP), which had won all three elections since military rule ended in 1999, increased its share in both chambers. It won 260 seats (up from 223) in the House of Representatives and 85 (up from 76) in the Senate. The main opposition All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), led by former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, lost seats in both chambers, taking 62 in the House (down from 96) and 16 (down from 25) in the Senate. The Action Congress (AC) of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar took 32 and six seats respectively. The remaining seats went to small parties.
In the presidential elections, Mr. Umaru Yar'Adua (PDP) was declared the winner with 70 per cent of the votes.
Since the PDP's arrival in power, its leadership had alternated between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south after two terms (eight years) in office. Mr. Yar'Adua (a northerner) was due to hand over to a southerner in 2015. In late 2009, however, his health deteriorated and he left the country for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. He returned in 2010, but his Vice-President, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan (a southerner), effectively continued to run State affairs. In May 2010, President Yar'Adua passed away and Mr. Jonathan was officially sworn in as President. He is the first President from the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
Mr. Jonathan's succession was reportedly opposed by some northerners in the PDP who saw their tenure shortened from eight to two years.
In March 2010, ANPP leader Buhari announced that he would join the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC, a party formed in December 2009). In the following months, AC Chairman Bisi Akande announced that his party would be transformed into the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The ACN comprised the AC, the Democratic People's Party (DPP), an ANPP faction, and a number of former PDP members.
In January 2011, Mr. Jonathan won the PDP presidential primary. He defeated several opponents, including former Vice-President Abubakar, a northerner, who had returned to the PDP in 2009. Mr. Abubakar had urged PDP members to respect the alternation of power between north and south.
Although the 2011 elections were initially scheduled for January, in November 2010 the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) announced that parliamentary elections would be held on 2 April 2011, to be followed by presidential elections a week later. According to the INEC, more time was needed to revise the voters' roll.
Even though Nigeria is the world's sixth largest oil producer, the majority of its 158 million people still live below the poverty threshold and unemployment is rampant (up to 50%) among young people, who account for 70 per cent of the population. The country suffers frequent black-outs and produces only 4,000 megawatts of electricity, far below the 10,000 megawatts that the government says are needed for the country's industrialization.
In 2011, 56 parties fielded parliamentary candidates. At stake were 360 seats in the House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate. In addition, 20 candidates were running in the presidential elections. The frontrunners included incumbent President Jonathan (PDP), Mr. Buhari (CPC), who drew his support from the north, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, representing the ACN, and the Governor of Kano state, Mr. Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP).
The PDP pledged to uphold its policies and build a modern democratic State founded on "justice, equity and fair play". It promised to be committed to democracy, good governance, freedom, human rights and human dignity.
The ACN promised to improve the people's well-being and issued a manifesto focusing on human and economic development. It pledged to create more jobs, especially for young people.
The CPC pledged to work for Nigeria's security, stability and prosperity by providing better infrastructure and diversifying the economy.
The ANPP ran on its candidate's record in Kano state. Mr. Shekarau emphasized that during his eight years as governor, Kano had invested more than any other state in education.
Voting in the parliamentary elections started on 2 April. After it had begun at several polling stations, however, the INEC announced that it would postpone the polls to 4 April owing to logistical problems. It cited the absence of voting materials in many polling stations. The following day, it further postponed the parliamentary polls to 9 April and the presidential polls to 16 April. In 15 senatorial districts and 48 federal constituencies the elections were postponed to 26 April. The leaders of all political parties subsequently endorsed the new timetable.
Turnout among the country's 74 million registered voters was reported to be high. On polling day, a bomb went off at a polling station in Maiduguri in the north-east of the country, wounding several people.
The PDP's representation decreased in both chambers. It took 202 seats in the House of Representatives and 71 seats in the Senate. Major PDP candidates who lost seats included outgoing House Speaker Dimeji Bankole and Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, the daughter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The ACN came in second in both chambers, taking 66 seats in the House and 18 in the Senate. The CPC took 35 and seven seats respectively. The ANPP followed with 25 and seven seats. The remainder went to small parties.
On 6 June, the newly elected National Assembly held its first session. The House of Representatives elected Mr. Aminu Tambuwal (PDP) as its new Speaker while the Senate re-elected Mr. David Mark (PDP) as its President.