Experts Hail Historic Nigerian Elections As Success, Note Challenges


Nigeria’s first-ever transfer of power between parties via a presidential election marks a great success April 1, according experts at two conferences April 9 in Washington, DC.

Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria“When power alternates between parties the likelihood of coups goes down and confidence in democracy goes up,” said American University Professor Carl LeVan, speaking at a forum organized by former U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Sanders. “This will be good for competitive democracies and those other issues like security and corruption.”

Sanders, warned, however, that the newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) (shown in a file photo), “has a relatively short honeymoon” following his defeat March 31 of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the long-dominant Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). “People are going to want to see how these elections Nigeria voting Flickr Photo Courtesy of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung [including regional elections Saturday, April 11) translate on the ground.”

Concurring with such views were four other experts convened at a separate forum, entitled, “Nigeria's Milestone Election: Assessing the Presidential Polls” and hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The panelists agreed that Buhari clearly won the election according to both official results (54%) and a “quick count” of polling (59%) by a coalition of more than 400 civic groups called the Transition Monitoring Group (TGG). A photo of voting courtesy of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung via Flickr is shown, via CSIS.

"However, the TMG's Quick Count Estimates strongly suggest that turnout was inflated during the collation process in the South South, according to a post-election statement by TMG Chairman Ibrahim Zikirullahi distributed at the CSIS conference, which featured experts from two U.S.-sponsored democracy-building groups, the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute.
Voting totals appeared inflated by about 10 percent in the five southern regions of the country, according to the TMG analysis. The south heavily supported Jonathan, a Christian from the South. Buhari, a former leader of the country, is a Muslim from the north.
Among the many reasons that the voting has global importance:
Nigeria is Africa's most populous and resource-rich nation. The former British colony suffers, however, from great income inequality and widespread public concerns Goodluck Jonathan World Economic Forumabout corruption in government, including the elections process. At the Gallup conference, the company's Regional Africa Director Jay Loschky presented polling results from 2014 showing that only 13% of Nigerians felt confident its elections would be conducted fairly, the lowest total in all of Sub-Sahara Africa. By contrast, 81% of those from Namibia expressed confidence in their voting system.
In addition, Jonathan has been widely criticized in his country for ineffectual responses to the radical Muslim Boko Haram terror group that has become notorious for kidnapping, killing, and enslaving civilians in the predominately Muslim northeastern part of the country.
On a brighter note, Jonathan (shown at left) was praised also last week for gracefully conceding the hard-fought election.
Former U.S. Ambassador Robin Sanders
More generally, Gallup's polling showed that 91% of Nigerian believed corruption in their country was "widespread." This number ranked Nigeria as among the lowest in the world in such beliefs along with Lebanon (at 93%), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Indonesia, Italy, and Lithuania virtually tied with Nigeria in public perceptions.
The former ambassador Sanders was among the international observers who visited Nigeria during the voting to help improve accuracy and public confidence. Shown in a file photo, she currently leads a Washington-based FEEEDS, a non-government organization whose acronym stands for goals in Food Security, Education, Environment-Energy, Economics, Development-Democracy, and Self Help.
She called voters the "super heroes of the elections" because they "engaged fully and turned out in record numbers." Also, she praised the leadership of the Independent Election Commission (INEC) for its leadership in a number of innovative reforms. Voters had a lengthy, 10-step process to deter fraud. Also, 1.7 million election assistants helped the process but were unable themselves to vote because of their duties, officials said. Sanders said that future elections will need to include such voters and should focus also on enabling those Nigerians living overseas to vote.
Both the FEEEDS/Gallup and CSIS conferences attracted about 80 participants. One attendee at FEEEDS/Gallup was Dr. Ade Adefuye, Nigeria's ambassador to the United States. He is shown at left in a White House photo with President Obama.
The CSIS election coverage supervised by Jennifer Cooke, shown in a file photo, is part of a series supported by the Ford Foundation to bring Nigerian officials, civil society activists, and opinion leaders to Washington, D.C. to engage with U.S. policymakers and Africa experts on how best to ensure that Nigeria's elections are peaceful, credible, and free. Details are here.
Richard Klein, the National Democratic Institute's senior director for election processes, said his analysis from polling was that Buhari should have won by about 15 percent instead of the narrower margin. However, the apparent fraud did not affect the result and may help lead to punishment that will help future elections be even more fair.  He said the fraud apparently stemmed from the "collation" process of tabulating large numbers of votes, not the actual local registration, voting, and counting process scrutinized by poll watchers.
Buhari, a former general, competed unsuccessfully against Jonathan in the 2011election.
Note: This editor has performed strategic consulting series for Nigerian businesses and civic groups in the past but nothing regarding the recent election.
Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Related News Coverage

2015 Elections

CSIS, Three Cheers for Nigeria, Jennifer G. Cooke (shown in a file photo), April 1, 2015. Jennifer Cooke CSISThe 2015 presidential elections should be a source of pride and celebration for Nigerians of all political leanings because of what the peaceful transfer of power from one party to the other says about Nigeria’s political maturation. But, equally important, they should serve as a happy rebuke to those who would choose to see in the country only the worst possible outcomes.

Reuters via The Star, Nigeria's Buhari praises Jonathan for peaceful handover, Alexis Akwagyiram, April 1, 2015. Nigerian election winner Muhammadu Buhari (shown in a file photo) congratulated outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power on Wednesday, a day after becoming the first politician in Nigeria's history to unseat a sitting leader at the ballot box. In an unprecedented step, Jonathan phoned Buhari to concede defeat and urged his supporters to accept the result, a signal of deepening democracy in Africa's most populous nation that few had expected. "President Jonathan was a worthy opponent and I extend the hand of fellowship to him," Buhari, told reporters and supporters to loud applause. The 72-year-old general, who first came to power three decades ago via a military coup, campaigned as a born-again democrat intent on cleaning up Nigeria's corrupt politics. Jonathan, wearing a hat, is also shown in a file photo.

Terror Problems

Abubakar Shekau Boko Haram Leader from October 2014 videoWashington Post, War-torn Nigerian town shows devastating legacy of Boko Haram, Kevin Sieff, April 11, 2015.  This was once a bustling Nigerian city. Then Boko Haram took it over. Gwoza was uninhabitable by the time the militants left, and residents tell stories of rape and violence. Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau is shown in a screen shot from an October 2014 video

2011 Elections

British Broadcasting Corp., Riots break out in the northern cities of Kano and Kaduna as presidential poll results show Goodluck Jonathan is set to win, Komla Dumor, April 18, 2011. Riots have broken out across northern Nigeria as presidential poll results show Goodluck Jonathan is set to win. Homes of supporters of Mr Jonathan, the incumbent, were attacked in the cities of Kano and Kaduna. Young supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, who is popular in the north, have been clashing with police and military. They feel that the elections have been rigged in some areas of the south.

Sahara Reporters, Election 2011: Propaganda Battle Shifts To Washington, DC, As Diplomats Pressure Buhari To Halt Protesters, Site Administrator, April 20, 2011. As violence spreads and worsens in the Northern part of Nigeria in reaction to perceived irregularities in last Saturday’s presidential polls, the INEC-declared “President-elect” Goodluck Jonathan has stepped up his campaign to put a gloss of credibility on the elections. Mr. Jonathan’s handlers are focusing on selling his message to an increasingly jittery international audience. The US state department in a press statement today noted that the elections which had been widely celebrated as the freest and fairest by the Jonathan team and supporters "was far from perfect". The US government listed, "under-age" voters, violence and intimidation, ballot stuffing, and inordinately high turnout in some areas of the country" as discernible flaws of the presidential election.

U.S. Election Frauds

OpEdNews, Code Red: Jonathan Simon's Hail-Mary for Democracy, Joan Brunwasser, April 12, 2015. My guest today is Jonathan Simon, co-founder and currently Executive Director of Election Defense Alliance.

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Jonathan. You wrote Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century, and more recently the post-2014 edition. Why did you write this book?

Jonathan Simon: Why did Doug Flutie throw his "Hail-Mary" pass? Because the clock was running out and the end zone was a mile away.

I have been witness to and participant in more than a decade of strenuous but essentially fruitless efforts to challenge the passivity with which America has collectively accepted an "upgrade" that gave us a concealed, computerized, privatized vote counting process--a Trojan Horse which the forensic evidence we have painstakingly gathered links inextricably to a bewildering political sea change tantamount to a rolling coup. It became clear to me that a massive boost of public awareness would be essential as a foundation for the kind of determined and dramatic action needed to restore observable vote counting to our wounded democracy. CODE RED is my hail-mary pass to bring about that awareness.

I also state my purpose explicitly in Code Red, if I may quote myself:

"My goal in writing this book has been to bring the issue of vote counting, and the perils it presents in the New American Century, into the public discourse. I hope also that reading CODE RED will help those who have been keeping to themselves their suspicions, concerns, or outrage about our faith-based, man-behind-the-curtain electoral system to recognize that they are neither crazy nor alone."