On Wednesday, February 27th at 4:38am, Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari was declared winner of the 2019 Presidential Elections and returned elect. Upon his inauguration on June 12, Buhari will serve as Nigeria’s president for another four-year term, from 2019 to 2023.
ActionAid Nigeria as an accredited observer of the 2019 general elections, observed in 11 states (Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi, Akwa Ibom, Kebbi, Ondo, Kogi, Kwara, Delta, Ebonyi and Lagos) and the Federal Capital Territory and deems it fit to comment on the outcome of the presidential elections as follows:
The Electoral Process – Turnout, Challenges and Credibility of the Elections.
- The turnout of eligible voters on Saturday, February 23 was relatively low at 35% when compared to the total number of accredited voters and this has been largely attributed to the postponement of elections which led to voter apathy. Added to this are logistic delays; late opening of polling units and late arrival of necessary supplies such as ballot papers, stamps and markers across the country which was put at 55%.
- The most serious issue is that of electoral abuses. Polling units in different areas of the country reported various types of electoral interference, from the destruction of ballot papers and boxes to the use of scare tactics, such as firing weapons into the air, to disperse potential voters during which 39 Nigerians lost their lives.
- Another issue was the improper use of card readers. Based on ActionAid’s observation of the election, the major issue with card readers were improper handling and use of the
machines as most of the polling officers appeared unfamiliar with the gadget.
- A significant issue is low voters’ education. ActionAid Nigeria observed that most voters,
especially in the hinterlands are still unaware of the voting process and this is evident in the large number of void votes across polling units in the country.
- Worthy of mention is the poor welfare of INEC ad-hoc staff, especially Corps members
which can make them vulnerable to manipulations by political actors.
- Although ActionAid Nigeria sees the electoral process as relatively peaceful, there were a number of issues that are of concern and need to be addressed before the next presidential elections in 2023, and ideally before Nigerians head to the polls again on March 9th to elect State Governors and members of the State Houses of Assembly.
Call for Post-Election Peace
“Nigerians are a passionate people,” says Country Director, Ene Obi. “But we must never let passion overrun our logic; reacting to the results of an election with violence is deeply illogical. ActionAid urges all Nigerians to accept the results of the elections in good faith so that we, as a united nation, can move forward in building a better Nigeria.
For those who reject the credibility of the elections, we encourage them to take appropriate legal action. Violence will not resolve the issues; it will only create new one.
What Issues Should the President Prioritise?
While there are a great number of issues that undoubtedly need to be urgently addressed.
ActionAid believes that insecurity, human capital development, poverty eradication and corruption should be prioritised by the re-elected president.
“Addressing poverty must be an immediate and long-term priority for the re-elected president. The current levels of poverty in the country are completely and utterly unacceptable,” says Ene.
“We are the richest nation in Africa and yet over 87 million of us live in poverty. It is deeply unjust, but more than that, it is dangerous.
“Boko Haram was able to take hold in Nigeria as a direct result of the impoverishment and marginalisation of the people. It is no coincidence that the insurgents’ stronghold is in the north-east of Nigeria, where poverty is at its worst. It is evident that an effective
implementation of pro-poor policies is needed to defeat them.
“To bring an end to poverty and insecurity in Nigeria, Buhari must vastly improve public services and infrastructure, intensify efforts in tackling the corruption that plagues this country, and look for alternate revenue sources, such as the proper taxation of foreign companies. Currently Nigeria loses an average of 15 billion USD a year to illicit financial
flows, of which most are harmful tax practices. This lost revenue could put millions of out-ofschool children back in the classroom.”
Holding the Government Accountable
While the President is ultimately responsible for the state of the country in the next four years, citizens also have a key role to play. “Nigerians are a very politically aware people,” states Ene,
“but for too long we have chosen to discuss our political opinions and complaints
with friends, neighbours and colleagues, rather than actively engage in the political process. This needs to stop. Citizenship comes with responsibilities as well as rights; it is now the responsibility of Nigerian citizens to spend the next four years holding Buhari and his government to account.