Following a delayed presidential election—postponed for a week—and reports of army intimidation and other alleged election crimes, and after a reportedly low turn out of less than 30 percent of voters, the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman Prof Mahmood Yakubu declared Tuesday, Feb. 26 that incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress was the winner of the 2019 Nigerian presidential election.
The announcement came three days after the Feb. 23 rescheduled elections, when the INEC released numbers that showed that Buhari beat his main opponent, Peoples Democratic Party’s Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, by more than 3 million votes.
Almost a million votes in Rivers State were reportedly not cast due to all kinds of machinations and INEC admitted that thousands of votes were disqualified due to multiple submissions on ballot papers in other states, but the Nigerian presidential election is over—save for refusals to concede, murmurings of threatened court actions and protests from a number of the 70 plus candidates and their supporters.
Nigerians will soon get to do it all again. March 9 is the scheduled date for gubernatorial elections.
President-elect Buhari was delighted by his win, praising voters and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the APC.
“I am very grateful to the over 15 million citizens who voted for me, those who contributed in many ways in the running of our successful campaign, and those at home and abroad who expressed confidence in me and the APC government,” Buhari said. “I can assure that you will see a country moving to the next level, as we consolidate on our fundamental areas of securing the country, reviving the economy and fighting corruption.”
However, Atiku has refused to accept the election result slamming the whole military-input declaring, “In some areas of the country, such as Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Imo states, troops deployed for the elections turned their guns on the very citizens they were meant to protect. This is condemnable and should not be associated with our electoral process in the future.”
Champion of the youth vote Omoyele Sowore, the Nigerian and U.S. educated presidential aspirant of the African Action Congress and the grassroots Take It Back Movement, shook up the electorate in the 36 states of Nigeria, traveling in a people’s caravan across Africa’s most populous nation, meeting and greeting with kings, religious leaders, vibrant local people and disaffected youths alike.
The day after the election Sowore acknowledged the reports of election interruptions, intimidation, deliberate interference and sabotage. Speaking from Lagos, Nigeria he told the Amsterdam News, “This was an act of aggression, not an election. But no matter the INEC result, I am the people’s president.”
As he prepared to livestream on social media, Sowore added, “Was it a free and fair election? No, but we move on to bigger and better things. We will be more proactive on ground in the next four years—doing the work in the community, not just campaigning.”
Ogugua Iwelu, campaign adviser, told the Amsterdam News, “As far as I am concerned we are looking at 2023. Now the election is over AAC and our Take It Back Movement will be more proactive as we look to the next presidential election.”
Just back from Lagos, and back in Chicago, Iwelu added, “The election is over. We will learn from it, and move on being proactive, and go in the right direction. We will do the correct thing.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Malcolm Fabiyi, director general of Sowore 2019, issued a statement saying, “The presidential vote count is finally over. Although we fell short of our goal of placing a committed and courageous leader at the helm of affairs in Nigeria, there is much that we can be proud of. Omoyele Sowore ran a long, hard campaign that captured the hearts and minds of Nigerians. We created a movement and established a political party within a year. We recruited candidates to run for over 150 positions from the presidency through to gubernatorial, senate, House of Representatives, statehouse of assembly, local government chairmanship to local councillorship positions.”
As he delivered his anatomy of a presidential run, Fabiyi noted, “We introduced the concept of town halls to Nigerian politics—where candidates engage the electorate in intimate settings that allow for deeper interaction. Our disruptive and innovative approaches to campaigning helped to force the introduction of town hall sessions to the national stage—culminating with the Candidates Forum featuring just four selected parties. With your help, we raised about N150 million, with donations that ranged from N50 to N1 million, demonstrating that a politics devoid of godfathers and special interests is possible in Nigeria.”
Analyzing further, Fabiyi said, “If elections are won based on hard work, engagement with the electorate and passion, then we would have prevailed,” but he lamented that they had to battle established “outright vote-buying and wholesale rigging that occurred. Furthermore, we had a president who openly advocated the shooting of ‘ballot box snatchers’ on Election Day and, as we expected that threat of violence at the polls depressed the votes and made this the election with the lowest turnout since 1999.
“In the final analysis, we did not win this time because the Nigerian people ultimately decided that they would rather choose the lesser of two evils; electing to go with the devil they know, rather than the angel that they do not know.”
London-based activist Odili Obi told the Amsterdam News, “My take is that AAC was only formed five months ago and the likelihood of winning an election comprising 190 million people was not realistic. Eighty million people were registered to vote and the turnout following the postponement of the original date meant the turnout was low and in other climes a 30 percent turnout is not much less than the norm. Yes there was the issue of votes that were canceled for whatever reason and the answer to that would most definitely lie with more voter education/awareness, INEC, and the political parties have to address this to ensure our polity moves on in the right direction.
“There were obvious cases of ballot snatching and voter intimidation by both the established parties, however not enough to have nullified the election one way or the other.”
Obi, who grew up in southern Nigeria, stated that the country is “still growing as a democracy and it would take another year or two before the young parties who partook in the 2019 general election get to speed as the likes of PDP have been in play for over 20 years, and the coalition of parties that formed the APC that won the election in 2015 have been in play for the same period. The successes for the AAC must be emphasized from the perspective of the Nigerian people believing that there are other parties out there, and going forward, a method to be able to challenge structures across the country needs to be built.
“AAC has a senator-elect in Delta state and this could be a platform for its popularity going forward to ensure it remains relevant in the minds of the Nigeria youths more so.”
Obi added to the critique that it must be equally emphasized that the “Northern part of Nigeria had a greater voter turnout—as the average person in the North has a radio where they listen to BBC Hausa service and are aware of issues, which those of us in the South think we are more aware, but is not the case when it comes to voting.”
Fabiyi sort of co-signed the thought saying, “While many of us might be disappointed that the elections ultimately came down to this false choice between the APC and PDP, we must listen to what the Nigerian people are saying. Their votes for Atiku and Buhari were cast reluctantly. Despite the billions of naira spent on these elections by the APC and PDP, only 27 million people voted, a paltry 32 percent of the total number of registered voters. The overwhelming majority chose not to participate.”
Cosmas Collins, a well-known international entrainment promoter, wrote on social media and shared with the Amsterdam News what he asked of the president, “Congratulations president Muhammadu Buhari. I hope you have heard the voice of millions of Nigerians [who] came out for change. No more violence, let us move forward, let’s together fix Nigeria. They call us the giant of Africa, let us work together and make it happen.”