Ambassador Mark Green and Johnnie Carson, two United States diplomats, stated that even Nigerians who supported the winners of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections in the country were dissatisfied with the electoral process.
In a joint statement, the two envoys who oversaw the elections insisted that Nigerians and Africans must quickly learn from the failures of the last election in order to prevent similar problems in the future.
Green and Carson, writing for the President Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, a nonpartisan policy forum that addresses global issues through independent research, noted, among other problems, that many polling stations opened late and poll workers reported material shortages.
While Green served as administrator of the US Agency for International Development, executive director of the McCain Institute, ambassador to Tanzania, and member of the House for four terms, Carson served as ambassador to Nigeria and a number of other African nations.
The ambassadors recalled that on February 25, Nigeria held its presidential election, with millions of Nigerians voting for their new leader, but noted that the process was riddled with irregularities.
Diplomats wrote, “At a time when the world is experiencing a decline in democracy, Nigerians waited in line for hours to have their voices heard.
“Unfortunately, the National Democratic Institute/International Republican Institute Election Observation Mission, for which we both served as observers, concluded that this election did not meet the reasonable expectations of Nigerian citizens.”
Citizens were dissatisfied with the electoral process, including those who supported the winning candidates. Many polling stations opened late, and poll workers reported material shortages, among other problems.
According to the findings of the IRI/NDI joint mission, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fell short of the high standards it had set for itself.
They recalled that Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared president-elect three days after Election Day. They emphasised that the major opposition parties were now contesting the results in court.
According to the envoys, there is substantial evidence that Africans favour democratic systems of government over other types. In addition, they stated that Africans desired accountable governance.
Diplomats argued that, despite improvements over the past decade, governance, in general, has struggled, “flatlining” across the continent since 2019. This is a worrisome trend because it threatens the African Union’s Agenda 2063 objectives.
According to the duo, the success of democracy in Nigeria – the continent’s largest economy and largest democracy – has the potential to inspire democracy in neighbouring countries and across Africa, as Nigeria is one of the most influential countries in Africa – and the world.
While headline-grabbing events such as the Russia/Ukraine conflict and earthquakes in Turkey and Syria “understandably” occupy much of the world’s attention, Green and Carson argued that the world could not afford to ignore events in Nigeria.
“However, the international community cannot afford to ignore elections and, more importantly, democracy in Africa this year,” they said. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa and one of the world’s largest democracies.
Africa is projected to become the third most populous continent by 2050; therefore, it is imperative that a robust democratic system be established to effectively support the needs of the people and advance the continent.
“The focus of US foreign policy towards Nigeria should be the proactive strengthening of democracy and government. Our direct engagement with African leaders and citizens is crucial to achieving this objective, not because we have all the answers, but because we know that democracies build better futures.”
The ambassadors noted that US policy towards Nigeria should consistently advocate for strong civil society participation, strengthen political parties, implement checks and balances on government officials, and establish robust legislative systems.
The envoys emphasised that the United States and other international partners must continue to support civil society and the institutions that uphold democratic principles, thereby strengthening democracy.
Despite the fact that many Nigerians were dissatisfied with the election’s logistics, the ambassadors argued that their continued optimism for their country’s democratic system should inspire all.
In spite of the fact that elections are an essential indicator of democratic development, they assert that the real work of constructing democratic institutions occurs between elections.
According to the ambassadors, what transpires in Nigeria in the coming weeks and months will be crucial. It is essential that the incoming president prioritise the formation of a government that takes into account the opinions and concerns of all Nigerians.
On March 18, Nigerians will return to the polls to elect their state governors and Houses of Assembly, and there will be a number of significant elections on the African continent this year.