Opposition parties are disputing the results of Saturday’s presidential election in Nigeria, where the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission has declared the winner to be Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress party. The former governor of Lagos played a key role in helping outgoing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari win two terms in office and campaigned using the slogan “It’s my turn.” Tinubu received about 36% of the vote, and turnout was under 30%. Several of Tinubu’s challengers have disputed the results, alleging fraud, while election observers and voters have cited delays, closures and violence at voting sites. For more on how the election could play out in Africa’s most populous nation, we speak with Aderonke Ige in Lagos. She is a human rights activist and lawyer who works with Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, or CAPPA.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to Africa’s most populous country, to Nigeria, where opposition parties are disputing the results of this weekend’s presidential election. Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission has declared the winner to be Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress party. Tinubu is the former governor of Lagos, played a key role in helping outgoing Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari win two terms in office. He campaigned using the slogan “It’s my turn.” Tinubu received 36% of the vote. Turnout was under 30%.
Several of Tinubu’s challengers have disputed the results, alleging fraud, while election observers and voters have cited delays, closures and violence at voting sites. On Thursday, Peter Obi, who placed third despite winning in Lagos, announced he would contest the election results in court.
PETER OBI: Let me reiterate, and I assure you that, good people of Nigeria, that we will explore all legal and peaceful action to reclaim our mandate. We won the election. I will prove it to Nigerians.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Lagos, Nigeria, where we’re joined by Aderonke Ige. She is a human rights activist, lawyer, who works with Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa.
I mean, you have this election being challenged by civic groups, by international groups, from the EU monitoring group to the U.S. International Republican Institute to the National Democratic Institute, across the board. Describe what happened.
ADERONKE IGE: Thank you, Amy. Thank you for the opportunity to be on your platform again. I’ve been here before.
In a nutshell, what happened on Saturday, which was, of course, the Nigeria’s general election, which was supposed to be also the election that helped the people to bring into office the president and then the legislature at the national level — so, there were three elections on that day: for the presidency, for the Senate and the House of Representatives, which are the legislative arms of government at the national level. I think that it’s not gainsaying that, like you said also in your introduction, a lot of disappointment, a lot of complaints have also riddled or have been the aftermath of that election.
I had the privilege of observing the election, and I also voted as a citizen. One of the first things I would say I immediately noticed was the fact that there was not deployment of even the INEC officers in certain polling units, some of the places where I observed. I had to personally play the role of — because I had observed that for a long time people were just waiting, and then the wait became panic, and it became tension and agitation. So, in that sense, you would have to play the role of a mediator, someone who is comforting, but someone also who wants the process to be as credible as possible.
So, by the time the INEC officers arrived, I was the first person to ask them, “But why this delay?” In fact, I was really imagining that it was because they didn’t have security, maybe. And then, the officer had to say, “Oh no, it was not even security. They just had logistical challenges.” That was what they cited. So, it was not shocking that after the — even as the elections were going on, there were real-time videos, messaging, and so on, of people just complaining about very similar things.
And then, another thing that was really obvious in Saturday’s elections was the fact there were so many irregularities, or at least alleged irregularities, given pieces of evidence that came forward in certain places. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, of course, people said they voted peacefully. There were no issues for them. But then, so I’m trying to balance it here, so it doesn’t look like hasty generalization. But from what we saw, there were also cases of violence, pockets of violence here and there of people being brutalized, or even open intimidation, threats to certain voters, because probably of a tribe and, you know, just locations, and then they were really harassed. And some people could also not vote, at the end of the day. So, that’s the summary of the elections.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about the significance of the ruling party, well, so-called winning, Tinubu continuing on.
ADERONKE IGE: Hello, Amy. Please, can you take that again?
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, I was just asking if you can talk about the significance of Bola Tinubu saying that he won, the ruling party continuing to rule, from Buhari.
ADERONKE IGE: Oh, I mean, OK, so, I think this will take us back a little bit, because I remember the last time I was here, you know, we were talking about the #EndSARS movement, protests that eventually became a movement. And if you remember, Amy, it was also — that movement itself or the series of protests were unceremoniously truncated by what was alleged to have been involvement of the state. And that movement also, that was essentially led and activated by young people, was what, in my opinion and the opinion of so many people, metamorphosed into a certain kind of people power, led by young people who felt that because their voices were not validated or even heard, back then, in 2020, they were going to deploy all of that energy and that anger, raw frustration, into the 2023 elections, meaning that a lot of people also, in that sense, wanted the ruling power, the current ruling power, APC, out of power, most of them young people. So, for those young people, which class I also belong to, it was a time to speak loudly and clearly, probably not on the streets anymore at this point, but through the ballot.
So, for them, because of all these irregularities, which I would also say, categorically, that our election monitoring body or management body — INEC, in this case — played a role in also giving validation to — for them, it was an unfair process. For a lot of young people, also it’s a process that did not allow their voices to be heard. What we saw was, immediately after the truncation of the #EndSARS protest, a lot of the energy that was channeled was not just about waiting to vote in 2023, but also the fact that a lot of young people got involved in the process, even by putting themselves forward for political offices, engaging the system, engaging the politics, and also deciding to be candidates. So, that was a great thing that was really applauded. But with this whole gamut of what happened, it’s also like a dash of hope. It’s a truncation, another form of truncation of the kind of trust that the young people also still reposed a little bit in the system, because this time around it’s meant to be conducted by an Independent National Electoral Commission, not necessarily the ruling party.
And you might find it interesting to also know that between then and now, a lot has happened, including the review or the amendment of the electoral law, which is essentially the Electoral Act of Nigeria, which a lot of people also applauded, because we saw some innovations coming into the act, beginning with even funding, what is now supposed to be a level of financial autonomy for the election management body, also introduction of, or at least legitimization of, technology in the electoral process itself. But all of that has — I think hopes have been dashed. A lot of trust has also been crushed. So, any claim that is being held by any political aspirant or even candidate right now can be subjected to tests.
AMY GOODMAN: Aderonke Ige, we want to thank you so much for being with us, human rights activist and lawyer, joining us from Lagos, Nigeria. On Monday, we’ll continue to look at this election in Africa’s most populous country.
Next up, as Guatemala bans Thelma Cabrera, the Maya Mam environmental and human rights activist, from running for president, in a rare U.S. interview, we’ll speak with Thelma Cabrera and her running mate. Stay with us.