INEC, other agencies’ integrity is important to us –Arena
Maria Arena, Chief Observer, European Union Elections Observation Mission
As you know, we have been here for a long time, we have observed the process of elections. We would observe before the elections and during the elections, and after the elections. What we can say is that we have seen some improvements in the process of the elections because we were here for the previous elections in 2015 and so, we can see some improvements in this election process. We are observing how things are implemented during the process because it is really important to see and analyse the situation to the end of the process. What I hope to see in the elections is integrity, this is important to us in the process of the election. Integrity of all the agencies, for example, by the Independent National Electoral Commission and also the security services. So, this is really important; the process has to be transparent for all Nigerians also because this election is for all Nigerian people. There has to be trust in the public organisations conducting the elections, trust is really important for us and also for Nigerians if you want people to accept the result of the elections. So, my expectations include integrity, transparency and trust.
People must go out to vote –Roberts
Hannah Roberts, Deputy Chief Observer, EU Election Observation Mission
We have our observers around the country, so on the Election Day, we expect to have approximately 120 observers, all of them internationals, all of them working in teams of two in every of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. They would be out seeing what is happening on Election Day, we can’t forecast what is going to happen, we only go by what we see ourselves. What we hope to see is an election where people can go out, cast their ballots freely, free from intimidation, free from pressures, without inducement by security services so all voters can get to the poll where they can easily cast their ballots, where people can easily see what’s going on and after the counting of the ballots, what the results are for each polling unit. We don’t go by what we are hearing, we actually go by what we are going to see on that day (today), but we know a lot of efforts have gone into making a good Election Day by INEC and others, but it is what happens on the ground that counts; it is what INEC does and it’s leadership, it is what the political parties do, it is what citizens do and the civil society as well as the media. There are so many different people involved in making an election a good success, we look to all of them to do their part. Our message to the citizens is: This is your day to go and vote, so we encourage everyone to do that freely, making up their own minds about who they want to vote for as their leaders. We want the people to honour the process, to play fairly in the process.
One of the big challenges is vote-buying –Tomaszewski
John Tomaszewski, Africa Regional Director, International Republican Institute, Washington
We are looking at this Election Day from the perspective of the process of the elections which of course is wide ranging. We have been doing this particular mission since June, July last year. Coming into this election, we have already looked very closely at INEC’s preparations, the roles of security forces, issues relating to inclusion of youths, internally displaced persons, women and certainly one of the big challenges we saw is vote-buying. So, we would be looking at those things on Election Day. We would really be watching and seeing how the Nigerian voters (it is really their day) react and participate. We would see how they express themselves at the ballot box, around the polling units and the media engagement, we would be watching from that perspective. No election is perfect, this election would not be perfect; I think INEC has put a lot of efforts into planning and getting ready for this day as election commissions do and they have also worked hard to put everything in place, but Nigeria is a large country. INEC also has a large number of officers at the local level and they have to perform at the same level, so it’s a challenge. And then unanticipated things could happen, whether fire or challenges that you can’t really anticipate. So, it’s how INEC reacts, we know the will is there to do the job, we know they have the resources to do the job, so we wait and see and also not to prejudge what they would do. Going into other issues, the presidential candidates have signed the Peace Accord, it’s an important process for the country and it is encouraging to see that that has happened, but what would be more encouraging is for the candidates and their supporters to abide by the Peace Accord.
Our expectations of Nigeria are high –Fomunyoh
Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa, National Democratic Institute, Washington
We are here as part of the joint National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute delegation. We have got 22 women and 17 men in our delegation. It is very commendable to see Nigerians’ commitment to their democratic process and for us, it is an opportunity to show our solidarity to the people of Nigeria. Our expectations are pretty high; first of all, we know that Nigerians have very high expectations of their own elections and of the conduct of the election management body which is INEC. Our expectations are also high because we know that Nigeria would be deploying tens of thousands of citizen observers who will spread out to all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory and in all the 774 local government areas and cover most of the polling units to observe the elections and make judgment on the conduct. Our expectations are also very huge because Nigeria is an important country, about 200 million inhabitants in a continent that has about 1.25 billion people which means one in every six Africans is a Nigerian. This means if Nigeria does well, it does well for itself and the rest of the African continent and for the world. That explains why we have high expectations and our hope is that building on the elections of 2011, and four years later in 2015, Nigerians would continue to improve their electoral processes and 2019 would make the people proud of the outcome which if properly conducted should be a true reflection of the Nigerian people. With the new INEC chaired by Prof. Yakubu, it has worked very hard to meet and probably surpass the performance of the previous leadership that was chaired by Prof. Jega. INEC used some of the by-elections in some states to test-run some of the processes that have been put in place to enhance citizens’ confidence in the elections. So, we are hoping, going into Saturday, that the polling materials would have been delivered in time across the country; that the polling unit would open on time and that the process of simultaneous accreditation and voting would work to the advantage of voters so they won’t have to spend all day queuing at the site.
Candidates must internalise Peace Accord –Adeyemi
Imam Fuad Adeyemi, Al-habibiyyah Islamic Society
On the Election Day, INEC should be prompt in everything they do because lateness and delay could lead to tension. So we need them to be punctual at the polling unit and to be professional. The electorate should be orderly and let everyone do the right thing at the right time. There should not be a waste of time, and there should be transparency in the conduct of the polls. For the security agencies, all we expect from them is impartiality and when they do their work well, we would appreciate them. The candidates should follow the rules; they have campaigned, they have talked to the electorate, so what we expect of them is to follow the rules and wait for the outcome of the elections. If the people want you, they would vote for you, if they don’t, just accept it. It does not mean if they didn’t want you today, they would not want you tomorrow, it depends on time, but they should be law-abiding. The candidates have signed the Peace Accord, but the most important thing is for them to step it down to their followers to know that there is need for peace during and after the elections. If a candidate signed the Peace Accord and was doing something else secretly to the contrary, it would not take us anywhere. We need to internalise it, let them appreciate that if the poll is peaceful, we would have a new country. But if they signed an accord and yet,inside them, there is no accord, then we can’t get anything. The accord must be internalised.
Nigeria must deliver peaceful, credible election –Alabede
Tajudeen Alabede, National Coordinator of the Network for Democracy and Development and Coordinator, Progressive Solidarity Forum, Lagos State Chapter
The 2019 general elections provide another opportunity for the deepening of democracy and democratic culture in Nigeria. For a nation that has never enjoyed more than few years of uninterrupted civil rule in each of the previous Republics, two decades of interrupted civil rule is a rare feat.
The forthcoming presidential election is the most contested in the Nigerian history. More than 70 presidential candidates on the ballot is without a doubt a crowded field. Indeed, under normal circumstances, this should have presented the Nigerian electorate with a crisis of choice. However, everything points to the fact that the presidential election is largely a two-horse race. Compared to the situation prior to the 2015 general elections, we have witnessed less tension along regional, religious and ethnic lines across the country. Some factors are responsible for this. One, there seems to be a consensus among the mainstream politicians about rotational presidency. As such, the major contenders for the office of President are from the same section of the country. Two, the main contenders are of the same faith. Third, the tempo of inter-religious engagements and dialogue has drastically improved. I can recall that many high-profile inter-faith activities on peaceful and credible elections have been organised in the last few months. Four, money has played lesser role in this year’s elections. I agree with some analysts who have reasoned that this may be the least expensive presidential election in the history of Nigeria. Fifth, the positive, statesmanlike role of the National Peace Committee and other statesmen from both within and outside the country has been a plus for this election cycle.
With fundamental differences in the agenda projected by the main parties and their candidates, this set of elections, especially the presidential election, will fundamentally determine the direction of the nation in the years ahead. We, therefore, have a patriotic duty to ensure that we deliver peaceful and credible elections.