State elections in Nigeria that were supposed to take place on Saturday have been postponed, increasing public resentment and sceptisizm about the country’s ability to hold a fair election just two weeks after a presidential election marred by technological difficulties and suspicions of fraud. When it was announced a little over a week ago that Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the candidate of the governing party, had won the presidential election, the most populous country in Africa has descended further into political and economic gridlock. The election for the nation’s influential state governors has now been postponed by a week by the electoral commission, which claims it needs extra time to reset the digital voting machines that were used for the first time in the recent presidential election. The current date for the gubernatorial election is March 18.
Elections for 28 of the country’s 36 state governors was delayed, which is just the latest hardship for Nigeria, a nation of 220 million people that has struggled with fuel shortages, cash shortages, and numerous security challenges. Mr. Tinubu, a contentious figure in Nigerian politics, received 36% of the vote, but the two other leading contenders, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, have demanded a rerun because they claim there was vote tampering. It seems improbable that there will be another election, and Mr. Tinubu will be sworn in on May 29. Before one of the biggest democratic elections ever held in Africa, expectations were high, and Nigerian officials noted fewer acts of violence than in prior elections. But, several errors from voting places that opened late or not at all to the slowness of the vote count have damaged Nigerians’ confidence.
The electoral process is chaotic, with no improvement.
According to Idayat Hassan, the head of the Center for Democracy and Development, a research and advocacy organization based in Abuja, the country’s capital, the electoral process is still chaotic and hasn’t gotten any better from one election to another. Apparently endless currency shortage has made the electoral confusion even worse: New notes that the government introduced just months before the election are still unavailable, while older notes are not valid. At a table, several people count paper ballots while donning bright yellow vests. The Nigerian Supreme Court decided last Friday that due to the policy’s negative effects on Nigerians’ livelihoods, the use of old bank notes should be permitted through December 31. However, neither the government nor the central bank have addressed the problem, so even if some banks are starting to reissue the old notes, most establishments, street vendors, and public bus drivers are reluctant to accept them.
One dealer, Adelaja Adetoun, was attempting to get entry to a commercial bank in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria. She needed to return the old notes she received from the banks since they are being refused. The 67-year-old Ms. Adetoun claimed she had little interest in the state elections, particularly given that they had been postponed. Some observers are concerned that this choice would result in a far lower turnout on March 18 than the presidential election, which saw just over a quarter of the 87 million eligible voters cast a ballot. The turnout was the lowest ever seen in a presidential election in Nigeria. The state elections are as significant in many ways, according to Oge Onubogu, director of the Wilson Center’s Africa Program in Washington.
INEC’s performance has made people feel that their vote doesn’t count.
The presidential election debate revolves around the requirement to adjust the computerized voting equipment before the state vote. Election officials were required to use the devices to confirm voters’ identities and take pictures of the result sheets at each polling place before uploading them to a website that was open to the public after voting on February 25. However, numerous observers claim that the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, fell short of this goal. Instead, the results were uploaded days later, which prompted the parties of Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Obi to charge Mr. Tinubu’s party and election authorities with manipulating the results.
Delays and lack of transparency left a bad taste in the mouths of some Nigerians. According to Joachim MacEbong, a senior governance analyst at Stears, a Nigerian data and intelligence organization, INEC’s performance has led many Nigerians to believe that their vote is meaningless. It’s challenging to imagine how they will regain their credibility. According to Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs in the Obama administration who was in Nigeria to observe the election, the number of administrative and logistical issues tainted the results. According to representatives of Mr. Obi’s party, the results that were obtained by workers for the party after the polls closed did not match those that were posted by the electoral commission. Diran Onifade, a spokesperson for Mr. Obi, declined to share the findings.
Citizens are losing trust in the democracy of the nation.
Before the electoral commission reconfigures the electronic voting equipment for the state elections, Mr. Obi’s team has a few days to inspect them. Both Ms. Onubogu of the Wilson Center and Ms. Hassan, an analyst for the Center for Democracy and Development, agreed that the conduct of the Nigerian elections mattered almost as much as the results. Ms. Onubogu argued that Nigerians needed to be able to see if the procedure was effective. Instead, more and more people are beginning to lose faith in democracy as a whole, according to Ms. Hassan.
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