Buhari vs Atiku: Ex-US ambassador calls Nigeria’s election bad news for democracy, gives reason


Former United States, U.S, Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has described the February 23, 2019 presidential election in Nigeria as bad news for democracy, but was quick to point out that the Peoples Democratic Party standard bearer in the poll, Atiku Abubakar is unlikely to win in court as “Buhari’s margin of victory – some four million votes – is so large”.

Campbell, in his election post-mortem for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC published yesterday, said the election was marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging, citing the Situation Room’s report on the election.

Contrary to reports by some international bodies that the election was free and fair, the diplomat maintained that the 2019 Nigerian election was a step-back from that of 2015, adding that actions should be taken to identify what had gone wrong and what could be corrected.

The former ambassador alleged that there were evidence that the security agents at some polling units prevented voters from casting the votes, particularly in opposition strongholds, and intimidated the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, ad-hoc staff.

He said: “Buhari and his main challenger, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, both Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group in northern part of the country, are part of the political class that have dominated Nigeria since independence in 1960. Their contest meant there would be no generational leadership change in a country where the average age is 18 and half of registered voters are under 35. Buhari, who spent much of his last term abroad for medical treatment, hardly campaigned at all.

“During their campaigns, the candidates and their parties offered little that was new to address security breakdown caused by Boko Haram in the country’s North-East; conflict over land use, ethnicity and religion in the Middle Belt; and the division of oil revenue in the Delta. Moreover, they were mute on climate change, urbanisation, and a population boom that is expected to push Nigeria past 450 million people by the middle of the century.

“Abubakar says he will contest the election, but Buhari’s margin of victory – some four million votes – is so large that it is unlikely courts will overturn the result. Aside from some small pro-Abubakar demonstrations, Nigerians appear resigned to the outcome.

“The poor quality of this election cycle and the low and declining number of voters do not inspire confidence, and some Nigerians have begun to question whether democracy is right for their country.”

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