The Nigerian opposition set off the alarms of possible fraud in the February 25 elections. The Popular Democratic Party and the Labor Party assured that there were failures in the electoral process that have “corrupted” the elections and have rendered them invalid. For this reason, they demanded the resignation of the INEC president, the annulment of the elections and their repetition on March 4. All while the country is plunged into a strong economic crisis and insecurity.
The most populous country in Africa is close to the publication of the electoral results, but that could change. This Tuesday, former president Olusegun Obasanjo asked the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, to annul and repeat the elections held on February 25. The reason is the technical problems that the electoral authorities alleged during the elections. Something that has led the opposition to raise the alarm about an alleged fraud.
“Your Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, the tension is building. Please allow the cancellation of all elections that do not pass the credibility and transparency tests,” said Obasanjo, president of the People’s Democratic Party, in a letter posted on social media.
AN APPEAL FOR CAUTION AND RECTIFICATION
Nigerian Brothers and Sisters, greetings to you all.
I am constrained to speak at this point.
— Olusegun Aremu Obasanjo (@Oolusegun_obj) February 27, 2023
Preliminary results give advantage to the ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu, with 44% of the ballots. Atiku Abubakar, a candidate from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, trailed with 29%, with almost 6.4 million valid votes. Peter Obi, bet of the Labor Party, obtained 25%, about 5.5 million votes.
Many polls predicted the victory of Peter Obi, but the results have left him in last place among the three applicants. However, Obi scored unexpected success in Lagos State, with the country’s largest city and a stronghold of Tinubu, who ruled there for eight years.
About 87 million people were registered to vote, but far fewer ultimately participated. The two main opposition formations, the Popular Democratic Party and the Labor Party, pointed directly to the Electoral Commission (INEC, according to its acronym in English) for trying to favor the pro-government candidate and called for the immediate resignation of the organization’s director.
“We demand that this sham election be annulled immediately. We have totally lost faith in the whole process,” said Julius Abure, chairman of the Labor Party.
Dino Melaye, spokesman for the Popular Democratic Party, claimed to have evidence of the fraud but, for the moment, has not presented it. His theory is that the results were taken to the homes of members of the government and, there, they were manipulated. Accusations that the Executive has flatly denied.
“The president of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can claim ignorance, but he cannot sit back and do nothing when he knows that the electoral process has been corrupted,” Obasanjo said.
In response, the Independent National Electoral Commission already declared Monday in a statement that it took “full responsibility” for the logistical problems and delays.
Many Nigerians hoped that the elections would put the country back on track after eight years of rule by President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator (1983-1985) who democratically became president in 2015.
Under his tenure, the African giant went from one economic crisis to another, with more than 60% of the population living in poverty. The security crisis has also escalated with kidnappings, terrorism and fights over oil-rich areas.
Now, the opposition’s accusations could culminate in a crisis of confidence if Tinubu ends up becoming president without clarifying the gray points of these elections.
“Technical and human failures during the vote have weakened the public perception of transparency and accountability, instead of strengthening it,” said Idayat Hassan, director of the Center for Democracy and Development, to the newspaper ‘The New York Times’.
International observers have also recorded irregularities. The mission of the European Commission pointed to a lack of transparency and operational failures, and that of the African Union “isolated episodes of violence.”
Faced with doubts, the opposition has suggested holding new elections on March 4.
The problems that the winner will have to face
Nigeria’s electoral system is complex. In order to take office as president, the winning candidate must obtain, in addition to the majority of the votes, more than a quarter of the ballots in at least two thirds of the country’s states -24 of the 36 that exist-. That is, a candidate may lose if he has an overwhelming majority in some regions but very few votes in others.
If these requirements are not met, the nation goes to a second round within 21 days of the final publication of results.
If achieving this is already difficult, governing the nation that the victor will inherit will be even more difficult. And it is that Nigeria is marked by growing insecurity in some parts of the country, which the State does not reach effectively. Terrorist groups, independence rebels and criminals of all kinds use the kidnapping of civilians as a mechanism to demand large sums of money as ransoms.
In addition, the next president will also have to deal with the devaluation of the local currency due to inflation and high levels of unemployment. Something paradoxical if one takes into account that Nigeria is the main oil producer in the area but, as happens to many developing countries that have raw materials, the problem lies in the mismanagement of resources.
Amid all these problems and widespread discontent, it is feared that frustration over the process could lead to more violence in Nigeria.
With Reuters, EFE and local media