The United States has said it is disappointed by low voter turnout and reports of voter intimidation, vote-buying, interference by security forces and violence in some locations during Nigeria’s 2019 elections. In response, the nation’s electoral agency, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said there could never be any perfect election anywhere in the world.
The US observation: The United States Embassy in a statement in Abuja on Thursday commended the commitment of Nigerians to the democratic process, noting that it would continue to closely follow the ongoing polls.
“As noted by many observer groups in their preliminary reports, we too were disappointed by the low voter turnout as well as credible reports of voter intimidation, vote-buying, interference by security forces, and violence in some locations.
“We are saddened by those acts of violence and extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those who lost their lives, including those who worked for the Independent National Electoral Commission and the security services,” the statement said.
INEC responds: The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, said that no country in the world could conduct a perfect election, adding that the US observations were not enough to discredit the integrity of the elections.
“As one of our important partners, the Independent National Electoral Commission appreciates the United States’ interest and support for Nigeria’s electoral process. However, there is no country in the world where general elections are perfect from the beginning to the end. In our reckoning, coupled with various reports released by local and international observers so far, the 2019 general elections were a success, but by no means perfect,” he said.
“There are lessons to be learned and there is room for improvement. The commission will continue to do its best to deliver credible elections with the hope that the major players will appreciate the importance of playing by the rules and ultimately accept that no political office is worth the precious life of any human being. All is vanity.”
Bottom Line: It is not surprising that INEC is publicly defending the way the polls were conducted. Hopefully, in private, INEC officials are more honest in their assessment. When countries say elections are not perfect, it is unlikely that they are referring to burning of ballot papers, intimidation of electoral officials, uneven conduct of polls where card readers are used in some places and not in others, vote-buying, non-arrival of materials in some places, among others.