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Nigeria Decides 2023: Highlights of Nigeria’s Presidential Election

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Note: this article was originally published in February, 2023

Nigeria’s presidential election has certainly caught the world’s attention—even before it started as US President Biden called for a peaceful and transparent election process last Thursday.

The election has been described by many as a turning point for the African Giant, either for better or for much worse. It has also been dubbed the most competitive election the country has seen since military rule ended in 1999.

The electorate is mostly split between the three front runners: All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party (LP) candidate Peter Obi, who seems to be the beacon of hope for most Nigerian youths.

The major events surrounding the election, which is coupled with the senatorial and house of representatives elections, so far are:

Electoral Fraud Allegations

On 24th February, just a day to the election, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) intercepted N32.4 million ($70,302) allegedly meant for vote-buying in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital. The news, first shared on EFCC’s official Twitter account, stirred mass anger on the platform, with several Nigerians calling for the law enforcement agency to name and shame the culprit in their usual fashion. Many also lambasted the banks which released the cash for such, in light of the harrowing Naira note scarcity currently plaguing the nation.

On the election day, Nigerian press agency People’s Gazette reported that APC runner Tinubu planned to give $170 million to officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to carry out vote rigging nationwide. However, Tinubu has denied all accusations of corruption in relation to the election.

Following the elections, both the general public and political party members have contested some of the reported results, citing discrepancies in the numbers they calculated themselves and the ones reported by INEC. PDP member Senator Dino Melaye demanded that INEC show uploaded results from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).

BVAS is a device used to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate voters. After votes are manually counted by agents at the polling units, the results are written on a polling sheet then the BVAS is used to take a picture of the sheet and upload it to INEC’s Election Result Viewing Platform (IREV) which is open to the general public. INEC’s failure to upload several of the results to the IREV is a source of concern to many.

Nationwide Delays

The election was slated to take place between 8:30 AM and 2:30 PM WAT across the 176,606 active polling units (PUs) on 25th February, however, several PUs reported delays.

Some were due to the late arrivals of INEC agents, in which case some voters took it upon themselves to organise other voters according to assigned numbers pending the officials’ arrivals. Voters were at some polling units till as late as midnight to give their votes and witness the vote counting, to guard against foul play.

Also linked to INEC’s seeming incompetence, they were delays due to the absence of election materials.

One Twitter user lamented, “Every 4 years, INEC acts like it’s their first time conducting elections.”

In a few of the country’s 36 states, voting was extended by 1 or 2 days.

Electoral Violence

Typical of Nigerian elections, there were reported cases of violence carried out by thugs who came to suppress votes from opposing parties. The military eventually came to restore the peace in many of such PUs, although many questioned why there was no military presence from the onset.

Police officers who were positioned at some PUs did not seem to take any action to stop the violence. In response to queries from the public, Benjamin Hundeyin, the PR officer for the Nigerian police, claimed the police were in no position to stop it since they were unarmed, a decision that was made in order not to scare voters away.

Many took to social media to share videos of thugs snatching and—in some cases—burning ballot boxes, and assaulting those who did not vote for their preferred party. Thugs also snatched phones in an attempt to suppress evidence. In Abia State in South-East Nigeria, two people were reportedly killed during electoral violence. In Lagos state, over 20 people have been arrested for electoral violence.

Candidate Wins in States

Winning the presidential elections in Nigeria is not as straightforward as having the highest number of votes. According to Section 134 of the Nigerian constitution, a presidential candidate shall be duly elected if he has the highest number of votes and if “he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election each of at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja”. This means the presidential candidate must also win at least 25% of votes in at least 24 of the country’s 36 states to be considered the winner. If that is not the case, a second election between the two top candidates shall be conducted.

Thus, much importance is placed on the wins accumulated by candidates across states.

It was widely projected that the electorate would vote along tribal lines, as the three front runners represent 3 major ethnic regions in Nigeria: Tinubu for the South-West, Obi for the South-East and Abubakar for the North. It was also projected that the South-South region would gravitate towards Peter Obi.

The wins secured by front runners as of the time of writing this report are:

·         Bola Ahmed Tinubu: Tinubu takes the lead with wins in 6 states so far, most of which are in the South-West region with the exception of Jigawa State which is in the North.

·         Atiku Abubakar: Abubakar has won in 5 states so far. Abubakar beat APC in President Buhari’s home state, despite the latter’s endorsement of his party member Tinubu.

·         Peter Obi: Obi has only won in 2 states so far, however, the results from the South-East and South-South regions are mostly yet to be reported . Obi beat the ruling party’s candidate Tinubu who scored 572,606 votes. This came as a big shock to many, considering Tinubu’s strong political influence in the state where he formerly ruled as a governor for 8 years.

Sources: Vanguard, Channels TV, This Day, Arise News.

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