President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria likes to present himself as the man who led his country toward democracy. But his reputation — and that of his country — will be deeply marred unless he moves quickly to rein in the chaos and corruption threatening this month’s elections. With regional elections scheduled for this Saturday and national elections a week after that, hundreds of election monitors have yet to be accredited, and several leading opposition candidates have been barred from seeking the presidency for dubious reasons. The US and the EU need to make clear to Obasanjo that failing to fix these problems could seriously damage relations. The attention of key international partners, particularly the US and Britain, might still persuade Obasanjo to push for the accreditation of more election monitors and get him to restrain the violent gangs (and politicians inciting them) who are already trying to intimidate voters.

Grateful for Nigeria’s contributions of peacekeepers for Somalia and Darfur — and ever mindful of its oil reserves — Washington and London have been far too tolerant of Obasanjo’s political machinations. Their silence does Nigeria no favours, and it certainly does not comport with the two countries’ own claims to be democracy’s defenders.