Voters Registration and 2019 Elections Experience


By Jerome-Mario Utomi

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recent declaration with excitement that it has received 42,211 online applications nationwide within the 24 hours of the resumption of its Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) naturally jogged my memory of a reported comment credited to President Muhammadu Buhari a few days after 2019 general election. 

Mr President had in Abuja while declaring open the 25th Nigeria Economic Summit (NES) with the theme Nigeria 2050: Shifting Gears stated that the peaceful conduct of the 2019 general elections was clear proof that Nigeria’s democracy was maturing.

The elections, he said, have come and gone. “Our country, once again, has shown the world that we can choose our leaders in a peaceful and orderly manner. Apart from a few pockets of unrest, the majority of voters exercised their civic rights without hindrance.

“Furthermore, we also saw an increase in the number of aggrieved candidates and supporters, who took their concerns and grievances to the courts as opposed to the streets. This is how it should be. What this clearly shows is that our democracy is maturing,” he had said.

Admittedly, there existed as it were, the reason to believe the above statement considering the prominence of the speaker and clarity of his message. But then, wisdom teaches that life is like photography and photography is like life. You need the negatives to fully make valid sense of the true positive picture. From this standpoint, can one judge Mr President’s assertion as correct?

To provide answers to this question, let’s first refresh our minds, by taking a sincere look at comments/reports by foreign observers about the 2019 general election in Nigeria.

Out of many, this piece will focus on three.

First is the cold fact from John Campbell, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria. He said that; “When Nigeria transitioned from military to civilian rule in 1999, the effects on West Africa were palpable: coups lost their legitimacy, and the region has pursued a positive democratic trajectory ever since. But the latest presidential election is far from an example for those African countries consolidating their democracies or emerging from quasi-authoritarian regimes to emulate.”

Before the dust raised by John Campbells’ comment could settle, that of the American Government was up. They stated; ‘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, and 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 (INEC) and the security services.

As if that was not enough evidence for the nation to understand that all may actually not be well with our just concluded election, the European Union Observation Mission led by the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena in their preliminary report came with another troubling aspect that INEC had many operational shortcomings and particularly lamented the killing of almost 35 people on the election day as well as the late arrival of election materials at the polling units.

The implication of these findings is that the electoral process in Nigeria including that of 2019 is rendered vulnerable to abuse, through massive rigging and other forms of electoral malpractices by political parties- especially by those in power as they seek to manipulate the system to serve their partisan interest. Elections, which are a critical part of the democratic process, therefore, lose their intrinsic value and become mere means of manipulation to get to power.

Using these hard facts and factors discussed above as a benchmark, particularly that by the European Union Observation Mission led by the EU Chief Observer, Maria Arena, it presents Mr President’ claim as untrue. The reason is simple; an electoral exercise where over 35 citizens lost their lives cannot be described as peaceful or growing.

More precisely in my views, recording an increase in the number of aggrieved candidates, and supporters, who took their concerns and grievances to the courts, as opposed to the streets, or having an increase in the number of registered voters should not be the Key Performance Indicator (KPI), to decide whether the nations’ democracy is growing or not as there are other perimeters and parameters to identify such development.

Democracy is not an end in itself and it is not about the number of registered voters. The world is in agreement that for democracy to be considered as developing, it should underwrite social justice and social mobility. But unfortunately, this has not been the case here in Nigeria since May 1999 as it only fuels hopelessness.

Substantively also, the above reality places another potential downside to the recent claim by the All Progressives Congress (APC) that they are loved as a party because they placed before Nigerians policies that focus on delivering prosperity to all Nigerians through enhanced security; eliminated corrupt practices in public service; support sectors that will create jobs, and promoted socially-focused interventions to support the poorest and most vulnerable among us.

Empirically, aside from the fact that some analysts have described the Party’s comment as a resemblance of someone calling his puppy a lion, democracy in Nigeria of today says the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria in one of their reports, cannot enjoy such attributes outlined by APC in the face of the present happenings in the country.

The Nigerian State, they noted, is much endowed with natural, human and spiritual resources; but, political authorities have not been completely diligent in relating to these resources nor have they been fair and equitable in distributing them.

Many instances of killings still exist as a result of banditry, kidnapping, assassination, armed robbery, reckless use of force by security agencies, lynching, reported an upsurge in the cases of suicide, even among our youths, clashes between herdsmen, communities and the activities of Boko Haram insurgents have continued, in which many innocent people lose their lives.

To reap the fruits of a maturing democracy, we must first go beyond superficial voter registration to recognize that how elected officials treat their people after elections is the major indicator of a growing democracy.

Very key also, Nigeria and Nigerians must admit without a doubt that the world qualifies election as credible only when it is organized in an atmosphere of peace, devoid of rancour and acrimony. The outcome of such an election must be acceptable to a majority of the electorate and it must be acceptable within the international community. If elections are to be free and fair, laws designed in that regard must not just exist; they must be operational and be enforced. And the power of freedom of choice conferred on the electorates must be absolute and not questionable.

Thus, while this piece encourages all Nigerians to participate in the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), the nation of Nigeria must find ways of keeping faith with the four basic conditions necessary for holding free and fair elections. These include; an honest, competent and non-partisan body to administer the election, the knowledge and willingness of the political community to accept basic rules and regulations governing the contest for power, a developed system of political parties and teams of candidates presented to the electorates as alternative choices. And an independent judiciary to interpret electoral laws and settle election disputes.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via [email protected]/08032725374.

Related Stories

Development: Why Revolutions Fail in Africa

By Nneka Okumazie Revolutions are often based on change, but the success of any revolution is not just the change of power. Africa has been running on the assumption of revolution for new power for decades but no African country has gone far with replacements of people in power across levels of government. Two of the factors that make revolutions succeed are great ideas and cooperation. There might be a cap on how great an idea is or its interval to maturity, but the greater the idea the better the chances for success of the revolution, even with minimal cooperation.


When Seeking Investment, African Entrepreneurs Must Identify the Right Funding Model

By Gorata Ogotseng Ask most entrepreneurs what their biggest challenge is and there’s a good chance they’ll list access to investment and funding among them. That’s particularly true in many of Africa’s biggest entrepreneurial markets too. In a survey released by the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) South Africa earlier this year, for instance, nearly half of South African entrepreneurs said they don’t get enough funding from the public or private sectors. Another survey released by East Africa Com, meanwhile, saw 59% of East African entrepreneurs list a lack of access to investors as a significant business barrier. Similarly, a 2021EFInA report


Why Environmental Injustice Flourishes In Nigeria

By Jerome-Mario Utomi Recently, precisely on Tuesday, November 21, 2023, I participated as a panellist at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands, a panel discussion on The role of multi-stakeholder engagement in achieving environmental justice. The gathering, which was held in Victoria Island, Lagos, formed part of training on Environmental Justice: Reducing Ecological and Social Inequalities through Effective and Participatory Land Governance. Essentially, in my private study/preparation for the programme, the need to domesticate the subject became paramount to me. To achieve this objective; the following questions came flooding; what is environmental justice?


Why NDDC Board Should Sustain the Hopeful Signs

By Jerome-Mario Utomi There exists a time-honoured notion among management experts that for every given task, there is always a strategy to achieve the desired results. In planning, you may have more than one strategy which could be labelled as ‘Plan-A’ and ‘Plan-B’ or even more. Chiedu Ebie, Chairman of the newly constituted Governing Board of the Niger Delta Development Commission, recently demonstrated the understanding that NDDC as an interventionist agency is not left out in clarion formulation of strategies needed for getting hold of stakeholders and converting their support to a springboard for the right vision that will set

More Stories

GSK Consumer Healthcare Business Not Worth Than £50bn—Unilever

By Dipo Olowookere Unilever Plc has said it will not increase its £50 billion bid for the acquisition of GSK Consumer Healthcare business owned by GlaxoSmithKline, which was earlier rejected by the company. In a statement issued last Saturday, GSK confirmed that it “received three unsolicited, conditional and non-binding proposals from Unilever” for the acquisition of its consumer healthcare arm, which is jointly owned by GSK and Pfizer, with GSK holding a majority controlling interest of 68 per cent and Pfizer 32 per cent. According to GSK, the acquisition value of £50 billion comprising £41.7 billion in cash and £8.3


NSE Suspends Trading of Prestige Assurance Shares

By Modupe Gbadeyanka Trading in the shares of Prestige Assurance Plc on the floor of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has been put on hold for now. This is to enable the company’s registrars update the register of shareholders for the planned Share Capital Reconstruction of the firm. The suspension commenced on Friday, March 23, 2018 and will be in effect till Tuesday, March 27, 2018. “Prestige Assurance Plc has been placed on full suspension of its ordinary shares on the floor of the NSE. “Dealing members are hereby notified that the ordinary shares of Prestige Assurance Plc will be


H1’20: GTBank Declares N109.7bn Pre-Tax Profit, 30 Kobo Interim Dividend

By Dipo Olowookere Tier-1 Nigerian lender, Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank) Plc has announced a pre-tax profit of N109.7 billion for the first half of 2020. The company revealed this information in its financial statements for the period ended June 30, 2020, released to the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) on Wednesday. A brief analysis of the results by Business Post showed that the profit before tax in the period under review was, however, lower than what was achieved in the same period of last year, N115.8 billion and this can be attributed to higher operating expenses and lower net fee and


The Future of Russia-Africa Relations

By Joseph Siegle Russia has been aggressively pursuing its strategic objectives in Africa in recent years—securing a foothold in the eastern Mediterranean, gaining naval port access in the Red Sea, expanding natural resource extraction opportunities, displacing Western influence, and promoting alternatives to democracy as a regional norm. Africa, thus, is a “theatre” for Russia’s geostrategic interests rather than a destination itself—a perspective reflected in the means that Russia employs. Unlike most major external partners, Russia is not investing significantly in conventional statecraft in Africa—e.g., economic investment, trade, and security assistance. Rather, Russia relies on a series of asymmetric (and often


Furniture Dealers Laud FG for MSME Scheme

By Adedapo Adesanya The United Furniture Dealers Association of Nigeria has commended the federal government over the inclusion of the members of the association in a scheme tailored for small enterprises. President of the association, Mr Emeka Egwuekwe, has, however, asked that members of his group be included in the Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) N50 billion COVID-19 stimulus package for households and small businesses in the country. Business Post had reported that the federal government recently released the guidelines to access the N75 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Survival Fund and Support Initiatives, which took effect from


NGX Lifts Suspension on Trading in Shares of Coronation Insurance

By Dipo Olowookere The suspension earlier placed on Coronation Insurance Plc, which prevented shareholders of the company to trade their shares, has now been lifted. This removal of the embargo on the trading in shares of Coronation Insurance was announced by the Nigerian Exchange (NGX) Limited in a circular dated Monday, August 1, 2022. This action comes exactly a month after the suspension was announced to the investing public. The insurance company was among the nine publicly-quoted firms suspended by the stock exchange’s management over the failure of their respective board of directors to submit the companies’ financial statements as


Managing Nigeria’s Debt Portfolio

By Otori Emmanuel The fact that Nigeria’s debt profile keeps increasing without any corresponding economic growth is very concerning. In January 2023, President Muhammadu Buhari authorized the appropriation bill, originally proposed to be voted into law for N20.51 trillion, to be increased to N21.83 trillion. The president then announced a planned loan of N1 trillion that will be sourced by Ways and Means, totalling a bill of N23 trillion that will be securitized. According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), the incoming administration is expected to inherit a debt stock of N77 trillion in May or June 2023. The DMO


EU, IFC Launch €25m Fund to Rebuild Ukraine

By Adedapo Adesanya A new agreement between the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Ukraine’s Energy Efficiency Fund will channel up to €25 million in EU funds to help homeowners’ associations restore war-damaged residential buildings, the organisations announced on Monday. The effort will support Ukrainian families amid the ongoing war and boost the resilience of Ukraine’s residential sector. Since February 24, the conflict in Ukraine has substantially damaged or destroyed the homes of 2.4 million Ukrainians, according to the Ministry for Communities and Territories Development of Ukraine. The Kyiv School of Economics estimates that the total number of the affected housing

Recent Stories

WEF Lauds OPay for Revolutionising Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

By Modupe Gbadeyanka One of the leading digital and mobile banking institutions in Nigeria, OPay, has been praised for revolutionising financial inclusion in the country and Africa. This commendation came from the World Economic Forum (WEF), which said OPay’s ascent in the financial inclusion landscape stands as a testament to its unwavering commitment to innovation and customer-centricity. In its recent report titled Here’s Why Africa is the World Leader in Digital and Mobile Banking, OPay was lauded for leveraging cutting-edge technology to democratise access to vital financial services, such as money transfers, bill payments, airtime purchases, and merchant transactions, reaching


Audiomack Picks Aleph as Authorized Sales Partner in Nigeria, Ghana

By Modupe Gbadeyanka A New York-based audio streaming platform, Audiomack, has chosen Aleph as its Authorized Sales Partner in Nigeria and Ghana, underlining Aleph’s commitment to enhancing its presence and strategy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This collaboration will leverage Aleph’s deep expertise in crafting targeted and impactful campaigns and Audiomack’s robust platform teeming with engaged users, creating an unparalleled landscape of opportunity for brands and agencies across the region. Aleph was unveiled on December 5 at a pop-up event dubbed #AudiomackHouseLagos, which brought together key players in the music industry to celebrate the thriving Nigerian and African music scenes. The


How We’ve Managed Anioma Hospital Without Friction for 42 Years—Idiaghe Brothers

By Jerome-Mario Utomi The ancient city of Agbor, Delta State, Nigeria, houses many hospitals. While some are government-owned such as the General Hospital and Primary Healthcare Centers (PHC), others were established and operated by faith-based organizations like churches. The rest, which of course are higher in number, were midwifed by private individuals. Among these privately owned hospitals is Anioma Hospital. The subtle meaning of Anioma in the Igbo language is good land. Aside from the quality of service delivery, which is the hallmark of the hospital in the past 42 years, Anioma Hospital has for other obvious reasons, scored other


Where Faith Meets Rhythm: The Deep Connection Between Africans and Gospel Music

In the vibrant tapestry of African music, gospel holds a special place. Its soulful melodies and uplifting messages resonate deeply with listeners across the continent. American gospel music might have taken the forefront as a preferred source of inspiration for Gospel music lovers but African listeners are increasingly rediscovering and embracing their homegrown gospel sounds. African gospel music is deeply rooted in the cultural overtones and spiritual aspirations that arise from local communities. It incorporates local languages, traditional rhythms, and music styles that create an authentic sound that deeply resonates with African audiences. In recent years, African gospel music has


$11bn Suit: UK Court Orders P&ID to Pay Nigeria £20m Within 28 Days

By Adedapo Adesanya Almost two months after Nigeria’s victory in an $11 billion suit, the Commercial Courts of England in the United Kingdom has ordered Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited to pay £20 million in damages and compensation. The court ordered that the money be given to Nigeria within the next 28 days. The award of £20 million in damages was revealed during a subsequent ruling on the subject in London to determine what happened after the October ruling. The hearing was also held to determine whether P&ID would be granted permission to appeal the decision, however, the court


SERAP Tells NNPC to Disclose Oil Output, Exports, Revenue Since Subsidy Removal

By Adedapo Adesanya The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to disclose Nigeria’s daily oil production and exports as well as the total amounts of revenue generated from oil since the removal of subsidy on petrol in mid-2023. In a letter dated December 9, 2023, the group asked the chief executive of the NNPC, Mr Mele Kyari, “to disclose how much of the revenues generated from oil have been remitted to the public treasury since the removal of subsidy on petrol.” He was also requested “to disclose details of payment of


Again, Nigeria Lifts VAT, Customs Duty on Imported Cooking Gas, Cylinders

By Adedapo Adesanya The federal government has exempted imported Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and its equipment from the payment of customs duty and value-added tax (VAT), a move expected to result in a drop in the cost of cooking gas in the country and bring much-needed succour to Nigerians. This was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Mr Wale Edun, in a letter (dated November 28, 2023) to the Special Adviser to the President on Energy; the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); and the Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS). Recall that in 2019, the federal


Cross River Partners Oando on Wind Power Adoption

 By Adedapo Adesanya The Cross River Government has entered into a partnership with Oando Clean Energy on the provision of wind power in the state. Signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at the ongoing climate conference, known as COP28, in Dubai, Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River State said the collaboration signified the commitment of the state to spearhead the green economy, which he described as a significant milestone in his development objective for the state. Represented by the state Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Mr Oden Ewa, the Governor said the strategic deal with the energy company


Moody’s Upgrades Nigeria’s Outlook to Positive After Economic Reforms

By Aduragbemi Omiyale Moody’s outlook on Nigeria has been upgraded from stable to positive after the federal government implemented a few economic reforms. In a statement on Friday, the rating agency said the decisions to remove the costly petrol subsidies, devaluation of the Naira and the unification of the foreign exchange (FX) market were good for the economy. When Mr Bola Tinubu assumed office in May 2023, he announced an end to the payment of subsidies on premium motor spirit (PMS). A month later, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced the unification of the forex market, while the Naira


Value of Nigeria’s Unlisted Stock Exchange Reaches N1.2trn

By Adedapo Adesanya The NASD Over-the-Counter (OTC) Securities Exchange recorded a 1.6 per cent appreciation on Friday, December 8, as investors gained about N19.12 billion to push the valuation of the unlisted bourse to N1.202 trillion from the N1.182 trillion it closed in the preceding session. This achievement was influenced by the gains recorded by the trio of Aradel Holdings Plc, FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria Plc, and Central Securities Clearing System (CSCS) Plc. Data showed that Aradel Holdings Plc improved its value by N30 to settle at N900.00 per unit compared with the previous day’s N870.00 per unit, FrieslandCampina Wamco Nigeria