Nigerians will, Friday, hear a preliminary assessment of the 2019 Pre-Election environment in the country. The assessment will be coming from two US based institutions – the International Republican Institute, (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute, (NDI). The International Joint Election Observation Delegation from the two institutes will be briefing the media in Abuja on the task so far.
According to a statement to that effect, the high-level delegation led by Dr. Pauline Baker, president emeritus of The Fund for Peace (USA) has been in Nigeria since July 12th, 2018 and during which they observed the July 14th, 2018 Ekiti State gubernatorial election as well as hold consultations with key actors. Among these are the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC), political parties, civil society organizations and other stakeholders in relation to assessing election preparations and exploring ways of fostering peaceful and credible polls in Nigeria.
Other members of the team are Lauren Blanchard, a specialist in African Affairs from the U.S. Congressional Research Service, (USA); Christopher Fomunyoh, a Senior Associate and Regional Director for Central and West Africa, NDI (Cameroon); Jan Surotchak, Regional Director for Europe, IRI (USA); and Terry Tselane, Vice Chairperson, Electoral Commission of South Africa (South Africa). They are all keen to be sharing their findings with the media and other stakeholders, said the statement which added how IRI and NDI have organized more than 200 international election observation missions around the globe and earned a reputation for impartiality and professionalism.
Emphasising how the IRI-NDI mission to Nigeria conducts its activities in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct adopted by the United Nations in 2005, the statement points to the Nigerian laws and international standards for elections bases for the findings and recommendations by the Pre-Election Assessment Mission (PEAM). It also assures of how all activities were conducted on a strictly nonpartisan basis without interfering in the election process.
The 2019 General Election in Nigeria is gradually coming under risk scrutiny of operators in the realm. Recently, a United States Institute of Peace, (USIP) study conditioned peaceful elections in Nigeria in 2019 on intensification of preventive international diplomacy to pre-empt and mitigate electoral violence. Experts from the institute and authors of the study, therefore, stressed the need for the U.S. and other international supporters of the electoral process to better coordinate their approach to mitigation and augment their diplomatic efforts now. That, according to the experts, would mean conveying expectations for political parties to effectively address their internal divisions and advocate for intensified election security planning in the near term. Additional to that is African leaders being encouraged, supported and ready to mediate disputes as well as working toward peaceful acceptance of the electoral process during the campaign, polling and results announcement phases of the process.
The research report is bound to interest social scientists generally, students of political violence and peacemaking as well as the security establishment and the diplomatic community who are certain to want to know the nature of the research respondents and USIP researchers’ grasp of the contextual issues that drive violence in Nigeria, historically.
The study, “Nigeria’s 2019 Elections: Change, Continuity and the Risks to Peace” is scheduled to be published in full shortly and made available on the website of the institute, (www.USIP.org). According to the study which was based on interviews conducted in Adamawa, Anambra, Ekiti, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Plateau and Rivers states, and in the capital, Abuja, the approach to confronting electoral violence in Nigeria has changed little since 2015, despite significant shifts in the political and security context. These shifts include changing narratives about insecurity and the increased prominence of intra-political party disputes relative to the previous elections, suggesting that significant electoral violence is likely to occur in the period before balloting.
A majority of respondents reportedly feel that peaceful elections in 2019 would be contingent on the performance of INEC and that both political parties and politicians needed to do more to demonstrate the political will to mitigate violence. “Many people told us that any regression from the performance of 2015 could result in violence, given higher expectations for these elections,” said Dr. Chris Kwaja, the study’s co-author, a USIP senior advisor and senior lecturer at the Center for Peace and Security Studies at the Modibbo Adama University of Technology in Yola.
Though the risks of violence are high, the picture varies considerably across the country, said the research report which points at the conduct of local government elections as a plausible driver of election violence in the general elections even as successful cases of innovative violence mitigation are being attempted across Nigeria. The research is not saying that there is anything that makes electoral violence inevitable in Nigeria.
The USIP researchers began a series of meetings to disseminate the findings of its study described as a major research study on Nigeria’s 2019 elections. The study examines the risks of election violence for Nigeria’s upcoming elections, scheduled for February and March 2019. The USIP research team briefed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and representatives of the federal government yesterday and will hold public meetings in Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt this week.
Oge Onubogu, who leads USIP’s work in Nigeria has said that the research complements USIP’s ongoing works in Nigeria to support strategies that prevent and resolve violent conflict. “It demonstrates the need for urgent innovation by all involved and especially by institutions like INEC, the police, and the security agencies”, she said.
Contrary analysis to the USIP research is that the current tension will subside as soon as the differing elements who find themselves in opposition today finds that single politician who can act as a unifier of the power elite now in total disarray. Once that happens, according to the analysis, fault lines such as ethnicity, regionalism and religion would ebb considerably as to make all predictions of electoral violence untenable. Those who subscribe to this analysis believe that opposition strategy of isolating President Buhari would work and neutralise whatever electoral capacity incumbency might give the ruling party. The defeat of the PDP in Ekiti State last Saturday is not taken as a repudiation of this analysis by those who believe it.
There are fears, however, particularly of what is being called the minor crease in the strategy. The said crease refers to the president’s shifting focus in terms of what he really would want to do or can do between now and May 29th, 2018.
Either way, analysts point at the near impossibility of predicting elections in Nigeria because, unlike Brazil, Mexico, India and wherever else dominant or ruling parties suffered defeat in the past decade across the world, the Nigerian middle class is not an electoral factor as far as provoking such electoral earthquakes. There is no alliance of workers, middle class professionals, NGOs and Left parties in Nigeria as to make a decisive shift as happened in India a few years ago or in Mexico recently. The real tragedy of 2019 might not be electoral violence per se but that nothing about the poverty stricken majority would feature. Only the in-fighting between the few but powerful elements in the society will feature, thereby confirming the notion of the defeat of democracy, especially in Nigeria.