The joint Nigeria International Election Observation Mission of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) yesterday in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria disclosed that the 2019 general elections, which returned President Muhammadu Buhari and other political officials to power fell below the expectations of many Nigerians.
The indictment was made while the Observation Mission made public its final report on the 2019 general elections organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which many believed favoured candidates of the ruling party over and above other political parties. The election observer mission said that the last-minute postponement of the presidential and National Assembly elections on the morning of February 16 and delays in opening some polling units and other administrative challenges on February 23 undermined public confidence in INEC.
According to them, while INEC distributed materials and opened polls in a timelier fashion for the March 9 gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections, many serious irregularities occurred, including vote buying, intimidation of voters and election officials, and election-related violence.
Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, the Regional Director, NDI (Central and West Africa), who released the report said that Nigeria witnessed a vicious set back in the 2019 elections conducted under the supervision of the Buhari government in terms of the modest improvements it recorded in previous years. Fomunyoh in the report, noted that the last general elections in Nigeria “fell significantly short of standards” set in 2015 and shook the confidence of citizens in the electoral process.
According to the report, “Political parties remain the weakest link among Nigeria’s nascent democratic institutions. Opaque candidate nomination process led to violence in some states and many pre-election lawsuits. The paucity of women and youth nominated to run on the tickets of the two major parties, the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), demonstrated Nigerian political elites’ lack of commitment to opening space for new faces and new voices.
“Moreover, political parties and their leaders did not uphold their commitment to peaceful and credible elections, failed to restrain and hold accountable members and supporters who committed electoral offences.”
While urging stakeholders in the electoral process in Nigeria to take concrete steps to address the concerns of citizens with regards to the polls in order to rekindle their faith in the power and possibility of credible elections, the President of the IR I, Dr. Daniel Twining, said the organisation had made a number of recommendations to enhance the credibility of future elections in Nigeria.
The concerned international election observers expressed regrets that in previous years, suggestions for improvements of the electoral process in Nigeria in the preceding years by reputable citizens and international observation missions went unheeded. They however called for a national dialogue on the electoral process for Nigeria to get its party politics right and conduct free, fair and credible elections. Also, the report recommended early preparation for elections so as to mitigate against and last minute shortcomings.