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1999: Nigerians vote to break with military
Voters have been thronging to polling booths in Nigeria to elect a civilian president and end 15 years of military rule.

Queues formed at polling stations soon after they opened for registration.

On some street corners groups of exuberant young men shared bottles of palm wine, singing and chanting party slogans.

In the cities of Lagos and Abuja, the turnout is reported to be higher than for parliamentary elections last weekend.

Up to 40 million Nigerians are expected to cast ballots in a contest between former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo, who relinquished power for the last elected president in 1979, and former finance minister Olu Falae.

The vote is being closely monitored by foreign observers.

We have to put our politics in order so that we can put our economy in order
Olusegun Obasanjo, former military leader
Former US President Jimmy Carter, co-leader of the American monitoring team, said: "The turnout has been very impressive and orderly. The officials are all in their posts and all voting materials in place at the right time."

Mr Carter wrote to political parties before the vote to express concern after cheating at last Saturday's national assembly poll.

The ballot will be counted as soon as polling ends at 1330 GMT.

The electoral commission says first results of the election should be in on Sunday. The new leader is due to take office on 29 May.

Former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo - of the People's Democratic Party, which polled the largest number of votes in the parliamentary elections - has called for political reform to help revive Nigeria's moribund economy.

He has pledged to create an anti-corruption agency with wide-ranging powers to seek, search and recover.

"We have to put our politics in order so that we can put our economy in order," said the former military leader.

Joint APP-AD candidate former Finance Minister Olu Falae has also promised to get the Nigerian economy back on track.

"I can have a debt strategy in place, and get foreign investment flowing again by creating an environment that is investment-friendly," he said in one of his last interviews before the polls.

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Former military ruler Olusegun Obasanjo - 1997
Olusegun Obasanjo stepped down as ruler in 1979


In Context
Olusegun Obasanjo won the presidential elections.

He quickly set up an investigation into human rights abuses under military rule and released political prisoners.

He also began a crackdown on corruption.

But critics later accused him of misappropriating funds and at the end of 2002 he was facing impeachment ahead of the next elections in 2003.

He was also accused of failing to halt spiralling violence and religious and ethnic clashes brought on by political liberalisation.

Mr Obasanjo has been praised for improving Nigeria's poor infrastructure but criticised over his general handling of the economy.

He went on to win a decisive victory in the 2003 election and is said to be considering trying for a third term in 2007.

Stories From 27 Feb


 
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