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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 April, 2003, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Nigeria's elections in the south-west

By Joseph Winter
BBC News Online, Lagos, south-west Nigeria

Nigeria's south-west has undergone a remarkable political transformation since the 1999 elections.

1: South East 2: North 3: North West 4: South 5: South West 6: Plateau State

Then, President Olusegun Obasanjo got very few votes from his fellow ethnic Yorubas based here.

Since then, the perception that he has appointed many of his kinsmen to key positions has boosted his popularity in the south-west, while he has lost support in the north.

But ordinary residents of Lagos, Nigeria's largest city, say they have seen little benefit from Mr Obasanjo's time in office.

Makoko slum

"The politicians have promised lots of things but done nothing," says traditional healer Oreli Lagoye as she cuts up some herbs and roots in the slum of Makoko.

Whatever medicinal properties they may have are likely to be greatly diminished by their surroundings.

Healer
Traditional healer Oreli Lagoye says she will still vote although promises of politicians are unfulfilled
There are no drains in Makoko and rubbish and raw sewage litter, before eventually becoming part of, the soft ground, spreading disease with them.

Many Makoko residents are fishermen and women and they live in wooden shacks built on stilts over the water.

Fisherman Adehoya Agunto told BBC News Online that he preferred to live on the water, so he could see straight away if the tide had turned, bringing more fish.

But isn't it hard, needing to get into a boat, just to go to the market or visit a friend?

It's like living in a big house where you get around in cars, he replied.

"Our boats are our cars."

Sewage

But the water is just as filthy as the ground. Lumps of human faeces bobble along just yards from where children are swimming and not too far from where fish are caught.

Home
Fishing families prefer living on the water, despite the filthy surroundings
For toilets, the residents leave a small hole in the floor of their houses, surrounded by wooden planks to preserve their modesty.

The smell of raw sewage mixed with fish being smoked was a potent one, which almost made me physically sick.

"We want roads, we want drains, we want drinking water," the healer says.

She says she will vote, in the hope that before the next election, some of these will be delivered.

Elections

While not much has happened in four years, there has been some action as election-time drew near.

Tower
Maybe Makoko will get drinking water before the next elections
The governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu from the opposition Alliance for Democracy (AD), opened a gleaming water tower in the centre of Makoko.

The only drawback was that it is not yet functioning. Cynics wonder if the taps will be turned on just before the next election, delivering two signs of "progress" for the price of one.

In 1999, the AD dominated the south-west but now Mr Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party (PDP) has gained significant ground in the region.

The AD did not field a presidential candidate against Mr Obasanjo, believing the PDP would respond by not contesting too hard against the re-election campaign of the region's AD governors.

But the PDP has denied making any deal and won most of the seats in last week's legislative elections, prompting allegations of rigging from the AD.

Campaigning

In Makoko, the PDP have a novel and surprisingly practical campaign tactic.

Sweeping the streets of sewage
Visible campaigning by the PDP at election time
Groups of PDP activists go out and shovel mud and sewage off the roads, to ease the chronic traffic congestion caused by flooded and impassable roads, especially during the rainy season.

Nnenna, who teaches some 20 young children in a wooden structure, says she will vote for the PDP, believing they will make a difference to the residents of Makoko. Her complaints are economic.

"The cost of living is very expensive - food and accommodation. Things are very tough," she says.

A taxi driver said that Mr Obasanjo was wary of stepping on too many toes by being radical in his first term in office.

He is widely expected to be re-elected.

"Now, he will do something for the people," the driver said.

But judging by the squalor of Makoko, whoever wins these elections is letting themselves in for a mammoth and thankless task.




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