March 22, 2023

On March 1, Nigeria’s Unbiased Nationwide Electoral Fee (INEC) declared Bola Tinubu of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) the winner of the 2023 presidential election.

It stated the 70-year-old former Lagos governor received the race with 37 % of the vote, whereas his foremost rival, Individuals’s Democratic Celebration (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar, got here second with 29 %. The Labor Celebration’s Peter Obi, who had turn into a shock favourite within the run-up to the election, got here third with 25 %.

Quickly after the outcomes have been introduced, congratulatory messages began pouring in from throughout Africa and the world. The chairperson of the African Union Fee, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the chairman of the Financial Neighborhood of West African States (ECOWAS), Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo, congratulated President-elect Tinubu on his win. So did the leaders of Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and the Gambia.

The US Division of State, in the meantime, congratulated not solely Tinubu however all Nigerians for what it seen as a “aggressive election” that “represents a brand new interval for Nigerian politics and democracy”. UK Overseas Secretary James Cleverly additionally issued a press release, commending Nigerian voters “for his or her participation within the Presidential and Nationwide Meeting elections and for his or her persistence and resilience in exercising their democratic rights”.

Regardless of these waves of reward and celebration, nonetheless, the election was hardly with out issues.

It recorded the bottom turnout since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, with solely 27 % of eligible voters casting ballots. There have been widespread allegations of voter suppression and vote shopping for in addition to a number of remoted incidents of violence. Most crucially, each Abubakar and Obi disputed the end result and vowed to problem it in Nigeria’s highest appeals courtroom.

However, regardless of being removed from excellent, Nigeria’s largely peaceable and considerably effectively carried out election – which obtained a stamp of approval from the African Union Election Remark Mission – was a much-welcomed sight in a area lengthy affected by navy coups and strongmen clinging to energy .

The top of the ECOWAS Observer Mission to Nigeria, former Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, had acknowledged the regional significance of this election days earlier than the polls opened. “Nigeria’s election stays a information to West Africa,” Koroma stated on February 23. “Its failure would spell doom for the sub-region”.

Koromo felt the necessity to underline the significance of this election as a result of within the days main as much as it, there have been rising issues about the potential for electoral violence and different probably obstacles to a peaceable switch of energy – and for good purpose.

In the previous few years, Nigeria has been grappling with extreme socio-political and financial challenges, together with underfunded public companies, police brutality, a stagnant economicsand countrywide insecurity brought on by Boko Haram, armed bandits and separatists, Coupled with an extended historical past of navy rule, all this raised fears that Nigeria might expertise some democratic backsliding on this election cycle.

However regardless of rising tensions, Nigeria efficiently carried out its election and decided its subsequent president with out a lot disturbance. The navy stepped in to make sure the safety of the polls, however made no transfer to intervene within the democratic course of. Positive, Obi and Abubakar dispute the outcome, however they seem decided to take action not by means of violence and populist provocation, however by authorized means.

All this stands in placing distinction to the remainder of Nigeria’s quick neighborhood, the place many international locations are struggling below navy juntas or struggling to carry free and truthful elections.

In Sudan, for instance, an October 2021 navy coup ended the nation’s temporary flirtation with democracy, simply two years after longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s elimination from energy by means of a well-liked revolt. For the reason that 2021 putsch, the navy has often cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations and it stands accused of abducting, rapetorturing and killing protesters,

Equally in Chad, civil rights teams have been dealing with violence and threats because the navy took management of the nation following President Idriss Deby’s dying in April 2021. Led by Deby’s son Mahamat Idriss Deby, the coup leaders suspended the structure, dissolved the parliament and dismissed authorities. On October 2022, the navy authorities postponed the nation’s deliberate return to democratic rule for an additional two years and stated it will proceed to stay in management till then.

Burkina Faso can be experiencing excessive political instability. Final 12 months, it underwent two navy coups within the house of 9 months – one which eliminated President Roch Kabore in January 2022, and one other that deposed navy chief President Paul-Henri Damiba in September. The navy authorities now in energy says the nation is not going to return to civilian rule till a minimum of 2024.

Mali has additionally skilled two navy coups – one in August 2020 and one other in Might. 2021 – and is meant to revive civilian rule in 2024,

In the meantime, Guinea’s first democratically-elected chief Alpha Conde was toppled by troopers in September 2021, following widespread protests towards the veteran politician’s controversial transfer to “reset” his time period restrict in a constitutional referendum and search two extra phrases.

There have been additionally failed coup makes an attempt in Guinea Bissau and the Gambia in 2022.

So it would not be improper to say Nigeria’s neighborhood is suffocating below a darkish cloud of lawlessness, democratic regression and navy interventions.

ECOWAS has tried to defend democracy within the area, albeit with out a lot success, by means of ostracising navy governments and establishing progressive insurance policies and measures. It has suspended Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea from the union indefinitely and imposed journey sanctions on senior leaders and authorities officers from these international locations, presumably till civilian management and democracy are restored,

Moreover, it has twice tried to introduce a two-term presidential limits – that are already in place in Nigeria – for its member states, first in 2015 after which in 2021, to counter the rising development of “third-termism” and advance regional stability. Regrettably, it has did not safe a unanimous settlement.

On this context, the election in Nigeria was a breath of recent air. Granted, the polls weren’t freed from sporadic violencelong delays and technical issues, However as the pinnacle of the African Union Election Remark Mission, former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, stated in a February 28 assertion, the “electoral surroundings was typically peaceable regardless of remoted incidents of violence” and “voting and counting befell in an open and clear environment within the presence of observers, get together brokers and media”.

Certainly, the political environment earlier than and after the elections has served to substantiate the willpower shared by most Nigerians to protect civilian rule and strengthen democracy.

On March 6, for instance, Abubakar led a whole lot of PDP supporters in a peaceable march to INEC’s places of work in Abuja, the place he delivered a attraction and reiterated his get together’s choice to problem the outcomes of the presidential election. Abubakar’s obvious willpower to watch the rule of regulation as he disputes the election result’s affirmation of the arrogance Nigeria’s main opposition events have within the nation’s democratic processes and establishments.

So positive, there was a lot that was improper with Nigeria’s election. However regardless of all of the controversies and disputes, Nigeria efficiently carried out a democratic election and introduced the area with an (albeit imperfect) instance to look as much as. And for this, it needs to be applauded.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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