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The Context And Outcome Of Nigeria's Election

On Saturday, February 15, Nigeria held its presidential election. The election process was extremely competitive. Research associate Reina Patel said the election served as  “a powerful affirmation for the democratic process.” After heavily disputed voting procedures, politician Bola Tinubu won the race with 8.8 million votes. 

Tinubu is recognized across Nigeria for his political prowess and wealth. According to BBC journalist Nduka Orjinmo, Tinubu is “widely accredited with reshaping Nigeria’s commercial hub Lagos,” a state he governed between 1999 and 2007. During his tenure, Tinubu invested in improving civil service. He improved infrastructure and created new lanes meant to mitigate notorious traffic jams. Before being involved in politics, Tinubu worked as an accountant and executive of Mobil Oil. The president-elect has established supporters and international prominence. 

Despite his accolades, Tinubu’s image is not free of controversy. Lagos remains filled with incomplete infrastructure projects, water shortages, and housing problems. Tinubu was accused of using the firm Alpha-beta for money laundering, tax evasion, and fraud. He has also faced accusations of holding sway in state finances despite his term in Lagos being over. In a country with a history of political corruption, many voters question if Tinubu is reputable enough to be an honest leader of Nigeria.

As a result, many voters set their eyes on new candidates this election. The second-placed candidate, Atiku Abubakar, was the vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007. Representing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Abubakar has an established reputation in Nigeria. Unfortunately, he only won 29% of the main vote on February 15th. 

Following Abubakar, the dark horse candidate Peter Obi took 25% of the main vote. Obi was a candidate backed by younger demographics in Nigeria, with his more devoted supporters calling themselves “obidients”. Former Anambra state governor Obi was perceived as an honest president-elect that was a refreshing and credible alternative to the political hierarchy established in Nigeria. Earlier in the election, Obi shocked everyone by winning Lagos, an unprecedented outcome, given the history Bola Tinubu has in the state. Despite this victory, Obi did not win the presidency, much to the dismay of his active supporters. 

When the election results were declared, both runner-up candidates protested the outcome, stating that the voting process was rigged. This sentiment may have some ground to stand on, as Nigerian citizens and politicians stated the election process lacked transparency. According to INEC, despite 93 million voters registering to vote, only 87 million received a voter card. The actual voter turnout was a shocking 26%, but many voting polls are ridden with low-level violence that held many voters back from attending.  

Aderonke Ige, a lawyer with Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, summarized the voting procedure of Saturday’s election: 

Another thing that was really obvious in Saturday’s elections was the fact there were so many irregularities, or at least alleged irregularities, given pieces of evidence that came forward in certain places. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, of course, people said they voted peacefully. There were no issues for them … but from what we saw, there were also cases of violence … of people being brutalized, or even open intimidation, threats to certain voters … and then they were really harassed. And some people could also not vote, at the end of the day.”

The difficulties voters endured to cast their ballot are viewed by many as justification to investigate the outcome of Saturday’s election. The likelihood of significant change happening is slim. According to journalist Chinedu Asadu, “none of Nigeria’s presidential election results has ever been overturned by the Supreme Court.” 

Despite the questionable integrity of this year’s election, it looks like the outcome will remain definitive. It will take time to evaluate the impact of Bola Tinubu's presidency on Nigeria. However, by being cognizant of the history that backs this election, citizens can decide how to feel about the politics that govern their communities.





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Tags: #foreignaffairs #internationalpolitics #nigeria #peterobi #bolatinubu


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