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Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential Election: A Global Perception
Published Mar 23, 2023 IN Editorial,
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IN the eyes of the democratic world, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not fully succeed in its duty to give citizens a free, fair and credible presidential election on February 25, 2023 as earlier promised by it. According to the international observers that witnessed the poll, the INEC failed to abide by its electoral guidelines, which derived from the Electoral Act, that election results will be uploaded to its portal using the Biometric Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) directly from the polling unit in real time. 

The United States of America-based International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) concluded in the summary of the election report as falling “well short of Nigerian citizens’ legitimate and reasonable expectations.” International media organizations that covered the presidential election faulted the entire electoral process, which they claimed gave room for massive manipulation and rigging of the poll. 

The election result as declared by the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, showed that Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 8.7million votes, followed by Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party who scored 6.9million votes, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party who received 6.1million votes. The INEC chairman declared Tinubu as winner and President-elect. 

A more damning report yet of the February 25 presidential election came from Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, confirming earlier observations of international monitors of the election. “The electoral umpire failed to adhere to its own guidelines, which it enunciated before the poll, especially the one bordering on the uploading of results in real-time,” it said. 

Chatham House, an independent policy institute based in the United Kingdom, interrogated the voting strength of the electorate as per the poll. It said the country had the biggest electoral register in Africa with 93.4million registered voters. Of this figure, 87.2million collected their permanent voters cards (PVCS). But fewer than 25million valid voters were counted in the presidential election, it observed, noting: “The presidential election results had put disenfranchisement in the spotlight.” Actually, only 24.9million persons reportedly voted during the election. 

Less than one-third of eligible voters participated in the poll, which Chatham House said had N305billion budgetary allocation to INEC. “At just 25.7 per cent, the presidential election had the lowest recorded turnout of any election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999 despite being the most expensive,” the organization noted. 

The international rating agency before whom prominent presidential candidates appeared in the run up to the election described as patchy INEC’s deployment of technology, namely the use of BVAS in the election. “The need for strict transparency by INEC in the crucial phase of electronic results transmission could not be overstated and should not be downplayed.” 

Another independent international rating agency, Fitch Solutions, re-echoed the position of Chatham House, declaring that Tinubu received a weak mandate, just 36.6 per cent of the national vote. “This is the first time since the return of democracy in 1999 that a president has been elected with less than 50 per cent of the vote.” It noted that the low voter turnout at a time voter enthusiasm (massive youth participation) was high will give rise to the perception that “widespread voter suppression took place.” 

The above analyses by international observers coupled with the observations of local election observers are clear indications that the poll conducted by the Mahmud Yakubu-led INEC failed the electoral integrity test. It’s our esteemed view that the concerns of the observers, both foreign and local, should not be taken lightly and swept under the carpet as in previous times. 

Perhaps, what INEC and its collaborators in the presidential election reiterated is that “our votes don’t count.” But our votes were meant to count this time. What, with the massive mobilization of the youth for the election with the ultimate motive to effect a fundamental change in Nigeria’s political structure and elections. Given the election results, we can reasonably infer that the vote of the people considerably counted. There were unprecedented electoral upsets that were replicated nationwide but dangerously curtailed. 

For now, the process and outcome of the presidential election have been challenged at the election tribunal by the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party. While we await the outcome, we implore the judiciary to rise to the historic challenge and take the engagement quite seriously because Nigeria’s path to recovery and stability, according to Fitch, must follow the way of accountability and electoral integrity.



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