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Last Updated: Friday, 13 April 2007, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
Waiting for water from Nigerian polls
By Senan Murray
BBC News, Bauchi

Rabiu Usman, 13, is struggling to pull a bucket of muddy water from an open well in a poor neighbourhood in north-eastern Nigeria's Bauchi town.

Rabiu Usman at the well
Rabiu Usman does not have high demands for politicians

The bucket out of the well, he takes a swig and says he is desperate to vote, even though he is under-age.

However, his mother has taken pity on him and promised to cast her vote for a candidate of his choice.

"So, I told her to vote for someone that will give us good water. My father says we need change and that election time is time for change," he says.

While most international attention will be focussed on next week's presidential elections in Nigeria, it is the winners of this Saturday's state polls who will have the most effect on the daily lives of the 140m inhabitants of Africa's most populous state.

Rigging

Under Nigeria's federal system, the governors of its 36 state wield huge powers and are responsible for the provision of basic services, such as water, schools and healthcare.

Eunice Folorunso
The biggest issue in the elections is the future of my children, the future of Nigeria's children
Eunice Folorunso

Furthermore, much of Nigeria's huge oil earnings are shared out at state level, raising the stakes of the electoral contest.

Nigeria's anti-corruption agency has said that most governors were being investigated for corruption, however only a handful have been charged.

Much of the violence seen in the campaign has been between supporters of local, rather than national, candidates.

In past elections, rigging was also carried out on the orders of local politicians.

With much funding coming from the central government, however, governors from the ruling party at national level enjoy a distinct advantage, so it makes sense for them to try and ensure victory in both polls.

Leadership crisis

Not too far away from young Rabiu, a governorship campaign rally is under way in the final days of campaigning.

"We will provide electricity, free education, hospitals... if you vote for our party," the wind carries the promises to the well.

Yakubu Lame
From the result of the governorship elections, you should have an idea of where the presidency is going
Yakubu Lame

"My mother won't vote for that one because he didn't say water," the teenager says.

But his friends do not share his optimism that his mother's vote, combined with that of his petty trader father, would make any change.

Eight years after the massive enthusiasm which greeted the elections which ended years of military rule, apathy is gaining ground in Nigeria.

"It is instructive that even kids are now saying they don't trust politicians," Yakubu Lame, former university teacher and politician told the BBC News website.

"We have had a major leadership crisis in this country starting from the very top to the bottom," he says.

"But the positive side to it is that the difficulties of the past have led to a new awareness among the people such that even children now have an opinion on politics."

'Totalitarian tendencies'

Mr Lame, who is a member of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP), says the past eight years could have been more fruitful for Africa's largest oil producer.

"But totalitarian tendencies at the federal level of government have denied people the benefits of eight years of democratic rule.

PDP supporters campaign in Nigeria
Some campaigning has spilled over into violence

"That is why these elections are important and the people are aware of this.

"The elections won't be business as usual because people are more interested in the exercise."

Already, there have been reports of violence and killings in the build up to the elections.

The governorship elections are also critical to the outcome of next weekend's presidential election, he says.

"From the result of the governorship elections, you should have an idea of where the presidency is going."

Rabiu will still be too young to vote in the next nationwide elections in four years' time, so may have to wait until 2015 to cast his ballot.

By then, maybe he will have running water and he will have a more ambitious demand for the politicians to meet.


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