FCT, Abuja - In his inaugural speech as the new president of Nigeria at the Eagle Square, Abuja, Bola Tinubu said on Monday, May 29, that "since the advent of the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has not held an election of better quality.”
He stated this while offering comments regarding the 2023 election that brought him into office as the 16th president of Nigeria, repeating his earlier stance that he won the 2023 presidential election "fair and square".
He remarked at the high-profile inauguration ceremony:
“May I offer a few comments regarding the election that brought us to this juncture. It was a hard fought contest. And it was also fairly won.
“Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, Nigeria has not held an election of better quality.”
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It is noteworthy that Nigeria's Fourth Republic took off on May 29, 1999, and the country has witnessed seven presidential elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC): 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2023.
Legit.ng examines President Tinubu's claim in this report.
Background: The 2023 presidential election in Nigeria
Nigeria held the presidential election on Saturday, February 25, 2023, with Tinubu, the ruling party's candidate, the All Progressives Congress (APC), emerging winner. He defeated 17 other candidates.
The two main opposition candidates, who came second and third in the election, Atiku Abubakar (Peoples Democratic Party, PDP) and Peter Obi (Labour Party, LP), are, however, challenging the presidential election results in court. They have argued that there were irregularities, especially in the result collation process.
Tinubu won the majority votes and also scored over 25% votes in 29 states, to meet the constitutional requirement.
Scrutiny of Tinubu's statement
President Tinubu’s claim is being fact-checked because the election process was dogged by controversies.
Several observers, including the European Union (EU), have said the election fell short of expectations and “lacked transparency.” Also, the country’s key opposing political parties, the PDP and LP, have described the results of the 2023 election as “heavily doctored and manipulated”.
It is estimated that about 80, 100, 300, 800, 100, 150, and 137 people respectively were killed during 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2023 general elections, respectively. This means that the 2023 election recorded more killings than the three past elections.
The data is based on statistics from the International Crisis Group (ICG), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Incident Centre for Election Atrocities (ICEA), Africa Watch, and Campaign for Democracy (CD).
Both parties (PDP and LP) and their candidates are presently in court challenging Tinubu's victory – although this is not new in Nigeria.
2023 election produced the most unpopular president since return to democracy
While Tinubu performed better than his opponents in the 2023 election, official data suggest that based on election results, he is the most unpopular president since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.
The election had the lowest recorded turnout of any presidential election in 24 years. Out of the total 93.47 million registered voters, only 24.9 million persons voted in the February presidential election.
Commenting on the development, Carlos Lopes, an honorary professor at the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, described the low participation as “astonishing and problematic.”
‘An ambush’: INEC reacts as Peter Obi tenders 18,000 blurred IReV sheets to challenge Tinubu's victory
He wrote on the popular social networking site, Twitter, on Wednesday, March 1:
“Nigeria has a population of 220 million, based on Worldometer elaboration of the latest United Nations data.
"Bola Tinubu will govern 211.3 people that have not chosen him, including obviously those who did not qualify. Still, Nigeria low turnout is astonishing and problematic."
Electoral integrity of the 2023 Nigerian presidential election
An election's adherence to international standards is the baseline for measuring electoral quality, according to a publication, the International Electoral Standards. Now, the question is, did the 2023 Nigerian election conform with global measures?
The statement by the EU Mission to Nigeria noted that although elections were held on schedule, they lacked transparency, and there were operational failures.
The introduction of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV) for the 2023 elections was perceived as an important step to ensure and uphold the integrity and credibility of elections. It is pertinent to note that these technological innovations were non-existent during the previous elections.
During the early stages of collation in 2023, presidential result forms from polling units were not displayed on the IReV.
On Sunday, February 26, 2023, INEC explained that the delay was due to “technical hitches".
Has there been any election with great quality in Nigeria?
Each Nigerian election with its own flaw(s).
Olu Falae, who contested the 1999 election on the joint platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP), lost to Olusegun Obasanjo, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He would later allege that results were overturned while he was asleep.
In the same vein, a former Senator, Femi Okurounmu, said that Obasanjo was merely “anointed” to become president by some power brokers in the country.
There are also allegations of riggings in the 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019 elections.
Specifically, the 2007 election was described by observers from the EU as "the worst they had ever seen anywhere in the world", with "rampant vote rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation."
Breaking: President Bola Tinubu gives fresh instruction to APC governors over 10th assembly leadership
On those accounts, Nigeria still awaits a presidential election that meets acceptable standards.
Verdict: 2023 elections also has many flaws, just like previous polls
Though the 2023 presidential election witnessed some improvements, such as the introduction of BVAS, INEC's failure to transmit the result live to its iRev portal leaves a major dent on the quality of the poll and a huge question mark on President Tinubu’s claim.
The president's description of the election could have been apt if INEC had implemented all what it promised seven months before the poll.
Tribunal: Atiku’s witness alleges APC, Tinubu agents truncated upload of election results to INEC server
Meanwhile, Legit.ng reported that Abiye Sekibo, a witness of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, alleged that agents of the APC and President Tinubu truncated the uploading of election results to the INEC server in Rivers State.
Seriko told the Presidential Election Petition Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday, June 5, that Tinubu and APC “agents” prevented INEC officials from using the BVAS machines to upload collated results from polling units during the February 25 presidential election in the state.