#WE KNOW THE WINNER
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the 2023 Nigerian Elections
On 25 February, the 2023 Nigerian presidential election was held to elect the president and vice president of Nigeria, establishing, in fact, who is going to lead the nation for the next four years, and the stakes were high. With the election upon them, all civil society groups were calling for was a free, fair, and transparent electoral process.
It is safe to say that the electoral process in Nigeria is a rather complex one, with many moving parts. It is overseen by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is responsible for the registration of voters, the conduct of elections, and the declaration of results. It is also responsible for handling complaints, resolving disputes, and ensuring that the elections are conducted in accordance with international standards.
The path leading to the 25th of February was, indeed, a windy one, with civil society groups protesting for months over the outcome of previous elections, citing irregularities and violence associated with the polls. For the new election, one thing was clear, most people were calling for INEC to be reformed, as well as for increased transparency and accountability in the electoral process.
The protests had successfully drawn attention to the need for electoral reforms in Nigeria and, in response, the government had put forward a draft bill to amend the Electoral Act. The proposed bill would create a new level of oversight for the electoral process, ensuring that the process was free, fair, and transparent. The bill would also make it easier for citizens to register to vote and would create a system for conducting post-election audits. However, the proposed reforms have been met with some resistance from certain political parties, which are worried that the reforms could weaken their hold on power.
However, some civil society groups had raised concerns about the lack of consultation with the public on the proposed reforms. In addition to the need for electoral reform, the Nigerian public was also concerned about the potential for violence during the 2023 elections. Previous elections in Nigeria had been marred by violence, and there was a fear that the upcoming election could be even more violent. To address this concern, the government set up a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission to help ensure peaceful elections.
On February 26th, the results of the Nigerian elections were at the national collation center in Abuja. This announcement was met with immediate opposition, as the data had not been fully uploaded in accordance with the law. Three of the main opposition campaigns - Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the Peoples Redemption Party - as well as some civil society groups and former President Olusegun Obasanjo, all called for the results to be invalidated due to fraud and violence. In contrast, the campaign of Bola Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress nominee who ultimately won the election with 36.61%, urged for the arrest of PDP spokesmen for inciting violence.
Nigerian award-winning novelist, essayist, and Feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has recently expressed her opinion on the 2023 Elections in Nigeria. In a series of social media posts, articles and interviews, she has made her stance clear on the issue, at first calling for a fair and peaceful election process, then expressing her utmost pride for her fellow countrymen, that stood up for their rights to vote despite all the obstacles, that for one reason or another, occurred during the elections.
Adichie has been an outspoken advocate for democracy and free and fair elections in Nigeria for years. She has severely criticized the current government’s handling of the elections and had expressed her concern over possible episodes of violence and irregularities. Adichie really hoped that the Nigerian government would ensure transparency and no form of fraud, intimidation or harassment and manipulation.
Following the elections, in her article "I Have Never Been So Proud of My Fellow Nigerians", Adichie appears disappointed, but her reflections don't focus on the electoral results as much as it really concerns with how the elections in total have been handled by the government. She expresses her being well-acquainted with the political culture of her home country, describing it as one in which “large amounts of money make so many people conscience-deficient,” and in which the mainstream media's instinct is to show “political deference” and the will of the people is often ignored.
Also well aware of the history of Nigerian elections being rigged with “cooked-up numbers and stolen ballot boxes”, Adichie still holds out hope for the 2023 elections, noting that the majority of Nigerians are below the age of 35 and are a “bright, innovative and talented generation, a hungry generation, starved of good leadership, who do not merely sit back and complain but who act and push back and want to forge their own futures.”
Adichie acknowledges the flaws of the electoral process, such as the “technical issues” and “well-funded electoral body” that led to the delay in uploading the election results and how this has caused many voters to assume there was “purposeful intent” behind the delay, and that election workers were instructed not to upload the results to be manipulated.
Adichie firmly believes that for the 2023 Nigerian elections to be successful and credible, there needs to be “radical transparency” and for the international community to pay attention and commit to supporting election transparency. She argues that this is essential not only for the democratic process in Nigeria but for the whole of Africa, as Nigeria is considered to be the continent’s “tottering giant” in terms of population and political and cultural dominance.
Adichie’s opinion is a powerful reminder of the importance of democracy, and of the need for transparency and support from the international community if African nations are to have a chance of achieving it.
Edited by: Sushmita
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