Nigerian Democracy’s Uncertain Future

Last month, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a 76-year-old former military general, won his second term in an election marred by low voter turnout, legal controversy, and violence—which left at least 50 people dead. The outcome of the process was not merely a travesty for Nigeria; it was a warning sign to advocates of democracy and open society everywhere.

Just hours before polls were scheduled to open, the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission postponed the vote by a week. By then, thousands of registered voters had made long journeys to their home districts to cast their ballots and literally could not afford to wait idle for another week. Threats of violence by Islamist extremists, logistical breakdowns, and deliberate intimidation of voters played a role in the low turnout of voters across the country. Worrying cases of intimidation of officials of the election management body added to a pattern of orchestrated attempts at undermining key democracy institutions.

When Muhammadu Buhari won his first election in 2015, he became Nigeria’s first political leader to succeed an incumbent via the ballot box. This was a milestone for multiparty democracy in Africa. The recent election, on the other hand, represents a setback for Nigeria—and for Africa as a whole. Indeed, there is reason to fear that if the decline in standards is not urgently addressed, it could be the beginning of a progressive decline in the quality of elections throughout the region.

In the face of these challenges, civil society groups throughout the country still worked diligently on behalf of Nigerian democracy, partnering with institutions focused on the nuts and bolts of the electoral process. They also developed a so-called threshold document to outline a set of conditions that electoral institutions, political parties, and security agencies must fulfill to give credibility to the electoral process. Despite these laudable efforts, however, there is no denying that, by the standards of an open society, the election was a failure.

What lessons can civil society groups, in Nigeria and beyond, draw from this experience? How can civil society organizations broaden their constituencies and bring leaders from business, labor, and organized religion into campaigns for credible elections? With more than one-third of the world’s population set to vote in elections this year, these are not abstract questions.

First, there must be a comprehensive audit and review of what happened in the 2019 elections. This process must be independent and driven by the Nigerian people (in close collaboration with international experts). It is imperative to identify what went wrong with the electoral process and to examine the influences in Nigerian political society that makes electoral malpractices acceptable.

Second, Nigeria’s government should establish an electoral offenses commission which is empowered to hold accountable those that committed offences during the election process. To be sure, given the government’s obvious interest in avoiding scrutiny, the international community should join with those in Nigeria who are calling for such a commission. The international community should consider sanctioning individuals guilty of inciting electoral violence, as well as applying political pressure to the Nigerian government if it continues to reject accountability.

Along the same lines, and because no real democracy can exist without the rule of law, domestic and international pro-democracy groups should closely monitor President Buhari’s policies with regard to Nigeria’s judicial system, which many observers fear is being compromised by those who want to shield the election results from scrutiny.

Finally, civil society groups in Nigeria must resist the temptation to retreat into apathy and cynicism. We must not forget that serious and systemic change is a long-term process, and that the fruits of today’s efforts may take years to fully ripen. Initiatives focused on bringing more Nigerians—especially young Nigerians—into the political process should be encouraged. The Not Too Young to Run campaign, for example, which was launched by a coalition of youth organizations and successfully lowered Nigeria’s age limit for seeking office, is a crucial investment in changing the dynamic between Nigeria’s citizens and those elected to serve them.

Civil society must work to ensure close collaboration amongst its ranks and consistency in its values. This will help it sustain the respect and trust of the citizens, and it will make mobilization easier in the future. While international organizations and domestic civil society groups have an enormous role to play, ultimately, the country’s political landscape can only be reconfigured by a popular movement of Nigerian voters demanding reform. That is the promise of democracy—in Nigeria, and around the world.

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The Controversy of elections results in African political Democracy is a direct result of foreign and/or international interference under the pseudo deguise of "good governance", "anti-corruption" and "Participatory Democracy".
This is in lieu of a series of identification of the few external factors that inhibit the full bloom of our democratic evolution hitherto the colonial legacy of historical past...
In fact, Africa and its Civil societies is and has always been an open stream for influence...

As an end result; such vulnerable opness begot Western influence (financial, ideological, sociological), which in turn begot an imperialist of the African social fabrics of construct of "Independence", "National Identity" and alien social behaviours detriment to our Socio-economic and "Democratic" and political future...

Herein lies the Dilemma and failure and disappointment of an African Electoral Systems; willingly and unwillingly disintegrated by external forces beyond reasonable responses to IMPACT the collective future "People Power".

Everyone else has stakes in Africa, except the Africans!!!

The campaign of "Not-Too-Young-To Run" is laudable; however, without the necessary tools for accountable responsibility, the entire initiative becomes counter-productive to our Political sustainability and the future of the African Continent...

Now is the time that We Africans independently re-evaluate the state of our Democracies free of external distortions, influences and meddles!!!

I believe this is the most sustainable method for achieving long lasting results to the dillenam faced and experienced across the entire Continent!

yes, helping congo kinshasa, we are able to deal.

What happened last month and weeks ago was not democracy but civil rule. It seems the western world imposed democracy without teaching our people how democracy works . It should be able to vet some people traveling to their countries by telling them face to face :"you rigged and manipulated the election and so you're not welcome here. " As long as the western world are accepting their coming to them despite their misbehavior change will not be done.

In 2013, I attended the conference, "Corruption," at the New School for Social Research in NYC and spoke with attendees from Nigeria who were very interested in a comprehensive model for municipal open governance being pursued by OpenPittsburgh.Org. The model is based in large part upon a proactive public participation process for regional transportation planning used in southwestern Pennsylvania from 1994-98. During those years, the US Federal Highway Administration used it as their example of excellence in public participation in working with communities across the country. (Local officials eliminated it, though, after some participants reported a series of improprieties and falsifications to the US DOT Inspector General, exposing a deliberate misallocation of $12 Billion in federal transportation funds.)

Since top-down approaches tend to be ineffective, I have found the solution must start from the bottom-up, beginning closest to the individual members of a society, at the local municipal level. Incorporating lessons learned from the earlier public participation process, the model would expand it across the entire municipal sector, including all boards, authorities, etc. Numerous other provisions are also added, based upon nearly 40 years of experience exposing and combating public corruption. The result is a comprehensive model for municipal open government that is built upon the four necessary pillars of open governance: 1) transparency & access; 2) timely notification; 3) proactive public participation; and 4) official accountability.

The model is designed to provide average citizens with the tools and a powerful framework by which they can work together to effect positive change in their communities. The intention is that after an initial demonstration of the first implementation, an organization and program can be established to promote and assist use of this comprehensive open governance model by other municipalities and even, with appropriate adjustments, at other levels of government.

Interest in the potential of this model has been expressed by residents of other cities in the US and Europe, as well as Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. Though one may think such a comprehensive model for open governance should fit perfectly with the goal of developing open societies, alas, it doesn't match the specific requirements of OSF calls for proposals that are applicable to the US. Perhaps if there were more interest expressed in Africa of pursuing the open governance model's comprehensive approach, it could garner support among funding avenues that apply there.

After reading George Soros I was glad because he is a big player in international affairs. We are the people to make things work. Outsiders can only encourage us. Our zeal is what is what can make them mount pressure on government to do things right
Therefore it is a very welcome development if pursued without bias.

Nigerians must see themselves as Nigerians and not their ethnic groups for the electoral system to be better than the former. There should be a law that will protect the citizens from being killed before, during and after elections. That if any is killed on election, the parties should be compelled to pay billions in Nigerian currency to the family of the deceased person.
Parties should be prosecuted for any injury or death caused by elections violence.
Most importantly, there should be a law for social security service to all ages not the co-called empowerment programmes, of getting voters to vote, but on the fact of citizenship.

Nigeria has problems with respect for law and its institutions are terribly flawed

I have idea of Nigerian Democracy's.

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