Weekend that shook the world | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Weekend that shook the world

Posted: Apr 7, 2015 at 4:55 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Hassan Zaggi / Abuja


Between March 28 and 30, the whole world had literarily stood still, watching keenly what would be the outcome of the presidential election in Nigeria. In these three days, the number of international observers that were in the country to monitor the elections was unprecedented. In fact, some of them had come into the country weeks before the rescheduled elections.

Analysts told Daily Independent some of that these observers may have come due to witness the end of the Nigeria following the prediction that Nigeria may not survive 2015. Others, on the other hand, are of the views that the foreign countries showed interest in the election because of their economic interest in the country.

Head of ECOWAS Observation Team, John Kufuor (right), Kadre Ouedraogo (middle) and Dr. Remi Ajibewa, during preliminary declaration of report of March 28  presidential election

Head of ECOWAS Observation Team, John Kufuor (right), Kadre Ouedraogo (middle) and Dr. Remi Ajibewa, during preliminary declaration of report of March 28 presidential election

The height of the interest shown by other countries of the world in the election was displayed on March 30 when the election results started coming in. The governments of United States and United Kingdom had issued a joint statement expressing what they called a “disturbing indications that the collation process may be subject to deliberate political interference.  “This would contravene the letter and spirit of the Abuja Accord, to which both major parties committed themselves,” the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry; and U.K’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond had said.

Even though the observers gave the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a pass mark in conducting the elections, it was however not devoid of myriads of challenges which the observers clearly mention in their preliminary reports. INEC is now faced with another election this weekend even as the international observers proffer some suggestions.

For example, the European Union Election Observation Mission in its preliminary report which it tagged “Strong Electoral Competition and Commitment Demonstrated Despite Systemic Problems,” commended Nigerians for their commitment to the overall peaceful and orderly elections.  The EU EOM Chief Observer, Santiago Fisas during the presentation of the EU EOM’s preliminary statement in Abuja noted that “the European Union Election Observation Mission commends the Nigerian people for their commitment to the overall peaceful and orderly elections this weekend – despite frustration and challenges caused by often late opening of polling sites, failing biometric voter verification, some regrettable violent incidents, and re-polling on Sunday.”

The mission concluded that “various legal shortcomings remain. Reforming the law would strengthen the electoral process and the full enjoyment of democratic rights. These include inadequate legal provisions for the right to stand, campaign finance, transparency, and opportunity for remedy.” The EU EOM’s further revealed that voters were able to access a variety of views through the media. However government-controlled broadcast media failed to comply with legal requirements on equitable coverage, clearly advantaging the incumbent at federal or state level. Such bias remained essentially unchallenged by the regulatory body. Positively some private media offered relatively balanced and diverse coverage of election campaigns. The Chief Observer called on candidates, parties and citizens to respond peacefully to the announcement of results vowing that the EU EOM will continue observing the process until May.

The EOM in its statement after the elections disclosed that Nigeria’s March 28, 2015 presidential and federal legislative elections met the “criteria of being free and transparent,” despite “pockets of incidents and logistical challenges.

The 250-member Mission of Long-term and short-term observers headed by former Ghanaian President John Kufuor said in its five-page Preliminary Declaration on Sunday 29 March 2015, that the “shortcomings” require remedial action by the authorities to further enhance the credibility of the electoral process.

“Notwithstanding these shortcomings, the organization of the election can be considered as generally acceptable,” the Mission said in the 22-point Declaration.

The challenges highlighted by the Mission included the Card Reader malfunctioning in some polling stations, especially in the finger print identification of voters resulting in the resort to the use of manual accreditation of voters; insufficient and/or non-availability of electoral materials like ballot papers, indelible ink and incident forms in some polling stations; late arrival of electoral officials and materials; and delay in the voting process.

“The Mission regrets the violent incidents that occurred during the electoral process in some parts of the country which in some cases led to the loss of lives,” and expressed its condolences to members of the families of those who lost their lives.

It commended the enthusiasm, maturity, patience and sense of civic responsibility demonstrated by the electorate, and expressed the hope that the same spirit of respect for order and discipline will characterize the rest of the electoral process.

The Mission noted the generally high voter turnout, with voters displaying commendable level of patience, discipline and organization, and laudable participation of women and young people, and urged voters to maintain their high sense of responsibility and tolerance during the remaining election period.

It however advised relevant authorities to take necessary measures to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

The Mission commended the Federal Government of Nigeria and all other stakeholders for “ensuring a peaceful and orderly election, thus making it a historic step for the strengthening of democracy and good governance in Nigeria.”

In particular, it congratulated the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for “its leadership and professionalism” and also “paid tribute to the security agencies for their impartial and exemplary conduct during the elections.

“The Mission applauds the National Peace Committee for its spirited initiatives and efforts in facilitating the commitment of all the presidential candidates to a peaceful electoral process as enunciated in the Abuja Peace Accord and for using its good offices to impact positively on the electoral process.”

It equally congratulated the “Presidential and other candidates, their party members and the electorate for the successful conduct of the 2015 Nigeria General Elections and calls on all candidates to accept the outcome of the polls and where necessary, resort to constitutional and legal processes to redress contentious issues.”

In response to questions from journalists, the chief of ECOWAS poll observation Mission explained that the Declaration represented preliminary observations since the elections were continuing in some parts of the country on Sunday, while the governorship and State Assembly polls come up on April 11.

The ECOWAS poll observers were deployed in five and Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones – (North Central, North-West, South-East, South-South, South-West), while the West African Peace building Network (WANEP), one of ECOWAS’ Civil Society Organization partner, provided updates on the North East geo-political zone to the ECOWAS Situation Room.

On the other hand, the International Republican Institute Electoral Observer Mission, as part of its report, called on Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure the success of the Card Readers and strengthen its training for polling officers in future elections.

The IRI delegation led by Thomas Garrett disclosed that at many polling units, the officers’ unfamiliarity with operating the card readers led to significant delays in accrediting waiting voters, and thus affected the timeliness of the entire process.

The Delegates observed that some card readers did not register a voter fingerprints, a requirement for full accreditation, and some polling officers were unsure of backup procedures it the card readers failed.

Garrett said, while the card readers worked in a majority of polling units, a minority experienced malfunctions which caused voting to be extended to a second day under Nigerian election procedures.

With all these observations raised by the international observers, it behoves on INEC to put its house in order to ensure all the deficiencies are corrected to enable Nigeria have a near perfect election that will be acceptable to all parties involved.

In its recommendations, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) charged Nigerian stakeholders to address immediate challenges identified in the March 28 election before the April 11 gubernatorial and state House of Assembly elections in order to enhance citizen confidence and participation and hence mitigate violence during and after the state polls.

This piece of advice, INEC must take serious in order to prevent Nigeria from boiling and engulfing in unimaginable crisis on or after April 11. This is because, the maturity and statesmanship displayed by the President Goodluck Jonathan in accepting defeat despite the irregularities in the election may not be condone by some state will-be governors and their supporters.