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  • Writer's pictureLolita Chowdhury

The 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election

Former governor Bola Tinubu is set to ascend to the South African presidency amidst allegations of voter fraud (Chatham House, Wikimedia Commons).

On March 1, Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State and nominee from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), won the Nigerian presidency. Taking place throughout February, the election was a fierce battle between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Governor of the Anambra State Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).

Following the announcement, both Abubakar and Obi immediately contested the results. Both the PDP and Labour parties claimed that polling stations across Nigeria failed to send results to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) until several days had passed, which could have allowed the APC to collude with electoral commission officials and retain power. Still, Tinubu has maintained that the election was not stolen.

What is the Political Structure of Nigeria?

Nigeria gained full independence from the United Kingdom in 1960 but suffered severe political and social instability, including a civil war in the late 1960s. Finally, in 1999, the Fourth Republic was established after the first three republics collapsed and has remained Nigeria’s constitution and legal system since.

Composed of 36 states and one federal capital, Nigeria boasts the largest population in Africa, with nearly 220 million inhabitants. Nigeria operates a multi-party system, with the ruling party being the APC and the main opposition party being the PDP. National and state elections are held every four years to elect the president, state governors, and state legislators.

The presidential elections are conducted in two rounds. In the first round, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner if they receive a plurality of the votes cast nationwide and at least 25 percent of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. If no candidate meets these requirements, a second round of voting is held between the two candidates with the most votes from the first round.

What Happened After the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election?

Following the presidential election in late February, election officials declared Tinubu the winner of Nigeria’s presidency on March 1. Tinubu won with 37 percent of the approximate 24 million votes, becoming Nigeria’s first president to take office with less than 50 percent of the vote. According to official results, the main opposition candidate, Abubakar, won 29 percent of the vote, Obi received 25 percent, and Kwankwasos received a small percentage of votes in parts of southern Nigeria. Tinubu and his running mate are both Muslim, which analysts believe helped them secure votes from Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria, which has more registered voters than the Christian-dominated south.

This election recorded the lowest voter turnout since the establishment of the Fourth Republic, with only 26 percent of eligible voters voting. This low voter turnout has been attributed to fuel and currency shortages, voter suppression, and violence. In response, Nigeria’s main opposition parties claimed the results were “heavily doctored and manipulated” by the INEC.

Following the election results, protesters flooded the streets nationwide, especially in the capital Abuja. President-elect Tinubu, in response to the allegations and protests, stated in a press conference that he understood the “disappointment” and “anger” but that Nigerians must “put [Nigeria] ahead of individual grievances.” Current Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) congratulated Tinubu and maintained that the elections were not corrupt, although he admitted the need for “further transparency and credibility to the voting procedure.”

Responses to the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election

A Nigerian Court of Appeals recently rejected the request by the PDP and Labour Party to examine the INEC’s Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the electronic voting machine responsible for collecting the Nigerian votes. Now, the case will move to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, which has never overturned a presidential election despite several challenges in the past.

Due to the commotion caused by the results of the presidential election, state elections for state governors and state legislators were postponed. In a statement, the INEC stated elections were delayed “to ensure that there is adequate time to backup the data stored on over 176,000 BVAS machines from the Presidential and National Assembly… [and] to reconfigure them for the Governorship and State Assembly elections” on March 8. Initially scheduled for March 11, the state elections will now occur on March 18. Elections for governorships will occur in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states.

President-elect Tinubu’s inauguration as President of Nigeria is currently scheduled for May 29. If Tinubu assumes office, he will inherit the reins of a religiously (and now politically) divided nation still reeling economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. Unity will be paramount moving forward, but Tinubu’s efforts rely on whether the people accept Tinubu as their legitimately elected president.



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