London-based think tank Chatham House has stated that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not learn any new lessons from the presidential election held on February 25.
The organisation said that the election official did not follow its own rules, which it had set out before the election, especially the one about uploading results in real-time.
Last Wednesday, INEC announced that the former governor of Lagos State had won the presidential election, which had been very close. However, the election umpire’s decision was rejected by the contending parties.
Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate for the Labour Party (LP), went to court to try to change the result. On Monday, Mr Abubakar Atiku, the presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led a protest against the result. He had also said he would go to court to challenge the result.
Chatham House said that the results of Nigeria’s presidential election brought disenfranchisement to the forefront. They pointed out that even though Nigeria has the largest voter list in Africa, with 93.4 million voters, less than 25 million valid votes were counted in the country’s 2023 election.
Associate Fellow, Africa Programme, Dr Leena Koni Hoffmann, wrote for the body that because the polls opened late, many people who wanted to vote were not able to.
The Royal Institute of International Affairs, another name for Chatham House, is proud to be an independent policy institute with its headquarters in London. Its stated goal is to comment on world events and offer solutions to problems that affect the whole world.
Chatham House has been around since 1920. It holds open debates between governments, the private sector, civil society, and its members. Before Nigeria’s election for president, all of the major candidates came to the organisation.
Chatham House says that INEC chair Mahmood Yakubu’s announcement of the results showed that the incumbent APC candidate, Tinubu, got 8.87 million votes, about one-third of the total.
The group said that Atiku of the PDP, who was running for the sixth time, and Obi of the LP got 7 million and 6.1 million votes, respectively.
Hoffman wrote, “The INEC’s performance and controversies over these results mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied. As an electoral body, it was significantly less prepared than it claimed.
“The logistical failures of INEC and widespread delayed opening of polling units meant that voters who showed up at the polls early were frustrated and many voters and INEC staff were not able to locate their polling units for several hours.”
Chatham said that Nigerians stood in lines in the sun and rain to vote despite frequent fuel shortages, power outages, high inflation, and a painful lack of cash.
Still, it said that thousands of voters didn’t get to vote, that there were a lot of mistakes, and that election observers saw violence and intimidation.
Chatham House said, “Less than half of eligible voters could participate in the elections, despite the commission’s N305 billion budgetary allocation. While Nigeria’s youth seemed energised leading up to the elections, it seems their ability to turn out is still being hugely constrained by how difficult and potentially dangerous it is to cast a vote in Nigeria.
“The INEC’s performance and controversies over these results mean that the electoral reforms and lessons declared to have been learned were not fully applied.
“At just 25.7 per cent, the elections have the lowest recorded turnout of any election since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, despite being the most expensive. These dwindling numbers highlight how Nigeria’s politics and state institutions continue to exclude rather than include.”
Chatham House said that the commission’s patchy use of technology in its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) was still being closely looked at and criticised.
Chatham House said about INEC, “It failed to adhere to its own statements and guidelines, which derive from its laws, that election results would be uploaded to its portal using the BVAS directly from the polling unit in real-time for the public’s viewing.”
With only 23% of the public’s trust going into the 2023 election, Chatham said that the importance of strict transparency by INEC during this crucial phase of electronic results transmission could not be overstated and should not be downplayed.
The organisation said that INEC’s less-than-ideal performance should be taken seriously because Nigeria’s path to recovery and stability must go through accountability and honest elections.
It went on to say that Tinubu would take over a country economically and militarily weakened by his party’s rule upon taking office.
Chatham said no leader would find it easy to handle the huge problems facing Africa’s most populous country. He also said that the Nigerian people, especially the youngest, have shown a lot of strength and have waited far too long for a country that works for them.
The organisation said, “Tinubu’s party first came into power in 2015 through a campaign of change, and he won in 2023 by running a campaign for renewed hope. But many of the issues that worried the Nigerian electorate in 2015 are a bigger headache in 2023 – significantly due to the self-inflicted fiscal and monetary decisions of the president he will be succeeding.
“In the months leading up to his swearing, Tinubu needs to marshal an extraordinary amount of political capital, goodwill and consensus to redirect and reunite a fractured and volatile Nigeria.”