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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 April 2007, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
Millions lacking basics in Lagos
By Alex Last
BBC News, Lagos

Tailors in Lagos use foot-pedalled sewing machines and sew by hand to enable them to work without electricity
Many businesses in Lagos cannot rely on a regular electricity supply

Just before dawn in a poor district of Lagos, the daily struggle begins for millions of Nigerians who live without running water, or electricity.

Augustus Nwafor is polishing his shoes, getting ready for work.

His commute on several yellow minibuses takes hours so he leaves home by 0530 local time, and does not get back till nine or 10 at night.

He earns just $200 (105) a month and he has a family to feed - though he only gets to see the children at the weekend.

But to some he's lucky, he's got a job.

This April he gets a chance to vote in elections and he wants to see change.

"We must have a steady power supply, good roads, and basic pipe-borne water for each citizen. We need good education, affordable housing - we need to tackle unemployment, so I hope that the politicians who are now making their campaigns and promises, will be able to provide this, to make life easy for ordinary Nigerians like me."

Saturday's state polls in Lagos, an opposition stronghold, were won by Action Congress with the backing of the outgoing governor.

Voting was delayed but relatively peaceful. The result is a relief to many, as serious violence was expected if the ruling party had been declared the winner in Lagos

Massive toll

But Augustus doubts whether any politicians will live up to their promises.

"I hope so. I think so, but I am afraid because in the past they have made a promise and they could not fulfil it. They failed us."

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

Nigeria should be a very wealthy country.

It's a huge oil producer.

Decades of corruption have taken a massive toll.

But after eight years of President Obasanjo's civilian government, tens of millions still live in poverty without basic amenities.

Mega cities like Lagos have been swamped by urbanisation. Unemployment has fuelled disaffection, crime rates are very high.

But under the outgoing administration, banking and telecoms have boomed. Shiny new buildings and a few skyscrapers stand in the wealthy financial district of Lagos.

'Potential to stabilise'

So for some, the key issue is that there is a smooth transition of power.

Man on bicycle cycles past police on patrol in Lagos
Voting in Lagos' state polls was delayed but relatively peaceful

Tomi Davies is a businessman and consultant.

"The elections actually have the potential to stabilise the country, and that means developmental growth. And from a business standpoint that means growth across the piece.

"We are hoping that because it's moving more away from personality politics to issue-based politics that we will get some results. There have been quite a few with this administration, it's had its upsides and downsides, but it has delivered quite a number of changes.

"It is still only top level and so the grassroots people are waiting for some of those benefits, but I expect to see more of that starting to filter down."

In Lagos, many walls, bridges and lampposts have been covered in multicoloured fly posters, showing the beaming faces of various different candidates. All those running in the election say they stand for integrity, honesty and that they will actually get things done.

Money and power

The problems is that Nigerians have heard these promises before and previous elections have been marred by widespread allegations for vote rigging.

So there is a lot of scepticism.

map
Bamidele Aturu is a lawyer and political analyst. "These elections will not be free and fair unless the people insist of protecting their mandate," he said.

"We have to change this country through peaceful means, through the ballot. But unfortunately we find that the elite, particularly those that have taken over power since the 60s, have been recycling themselves and have been using power for their own base, personal, selfish agenda."

So most Nigerians, have their doubts that politicians will deliver on their promises or even that their vote will count.

Traditionally, politics in Nigeria is not about the poor, it's a battle among the elite - a battle for money and power.

But for people like Augustus these elections should at least be a chance to express their hope that someday, someone, will deliver.


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