A United States(US)-based Non-Governmental Organization(NGO), Naija We Can, has appealed to President Joe Biden and other world leaders to support the current agitation against election malpractice in Nigeria.
“Biden should not embrace any incoming administration, whose rise to power was deeply flawed and fell below expectations of Nigerians.”
“Rather than rushing to congratulate the winner, as they chart a path toward a more democratic, announced by Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission(INEC),” the group advised Biden to support the call for a thorough investigation into widespread allegations of disenfranchisement of voters, violence, delays and failure to use Bimodal Voter Accreditation System(BIVAS), leading to manipulation of results.
The group stated this in a letter, sent exclusively on Monday, by its founder, Mr. Nexus Sea, a litigation and trial partner, at one of US top-most law firms, in New York. It was tagged: “A Beacon Dimmed? Why It’s Time for President Joe Biden to Shine Bright and Stand with the Nigerian People.”
“The non-profit 527 organization was established to promote good governance in Nigeria, including credible elections.”
Biden, it stressed should stand with Nigerian people, many of whom, trooped out to exercise their franchise and constitutional rights, but were, allegedly denied the opportunity to vote.
Furthermore, “President Biden should state strongly that Nigeria, as Africa’s largest democracy, must have elections that meet international standards. Elections are a fundamental part of a functioning democracy, and all Nigerians deserve this chance to choose their future—freely and fairly.”
“On February 25, millions of Nigerians from all walks of life came out to elect a new president. Young first-time voters made up a substantial number of the electorate. Unfortunately, by all accounts, the elections were far from peaceful, far from free and far from fair. Biden should not only demand that INEC thoroughly investigate allegations of wide-spread voter suppression, unchecked political violence, and manipulation of election results, but should also failed to meet Nigerians’ expectations.”
According to them, Biden should lend his voice to the ideals he championed ahead of the election, home and abroad. “We ask that Biden declines to recognize any newly elected Nigerian president, unless the election that brought such candidate to office is free, fair, transparent and credible.”
The group also urged him to “encourage Nigeria’s judiciary to live up to the notion, that it is the last hope of the common man.”
It further stressed that the nation’s judiciary, “should be supported and encouraged to enthrone the rule of law and stand up for free and credible elections. Most of all, we ask that President Biden does what he does best, which is to stand on the side of the people and the rule of law. In this trying time, Nigeria’s judiciary will need all the support it can get.”
Excerpts of the statement are below:
“On February 25, millions of Nigerians from all walks of life came out to elect a new president. Young first-time voters made up a substantial number of the electorate. Unfortunately, by all accounts, the elections were far from peaceful, far from free, and far from fair and we loudly, state the facts as they are. It is clear that the electoral process as a whole was flawed.
“We demand that INEC should thoroughly investigate allegations of widespread voter suppression, unchecked political violence, and manipulation of election results.
Why Nigeria Matters
As Africa’s most populous nation, with the largest democracy and economy, it is in the United States’ strategic interest to ensure that democracy thrives in Nigeria. With the global rise of authoritarian rule, and democratic governments in the decline, Nigeria’s democracy is in essence, ‘too big to fail,’ and the U.S. should do everything it can to ensure it succeeds.
“According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, ‘the number of countries leaning to authoritarianism is three times that of those leaning to democracy,’ and in 2021 almost a third of the global population lived under authoritarian rule.’ Bachelet attributed the decline in democracy enjoyed globally to, among other things , ‘trust in institutions . . . fading, a lack of transparency in public decision making, or accountability of government or public officials,’ and people feeling ‘ignored,’ because ‘democracy’ has not fully delivered its promise.’
“President Biden should not ignore the cries of millions of Nigerians who feel robbed of their democratic right to choose who leads their country—many of whom are now calling for a re-run of the Nigerian presidential elections, or at the very least, a transparent collation of the election results.
A Generation of Hope Dashed by INEC
“With public funding exceeding hundreds of billions of naira, INEC introduced new technology to curb vote rigging and create a seamless and transparent voting process. INEC’s technological advancements gave hope to millions of Nigerians. The Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) is an electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and authenticate users to prove that they qualify to vote at a particular polling unit.
“According to Nigeria’s 2022 Electoral Act, INEC officials were supposed to upload polling unit results in real time to INEC’s Results Viewing Portal (IReV), which is publicly available online. The immediate transmission of voting results was a major step in preventing election malpractice, as it was designed to ensure that all forms of intimidation, violence, or ballot box snatching were eliminated. Manipulation after votes are counted at the polling unit, would be an exercise in futility.
“But INEC, failing to substantially comply with its own election guidelines, failed to immediately upload results as they promised, returning the country to its dark days of electoral violence, ballot box-snatching, burning of ballots, voter intimidation, and manipulation of results.
“A cursory look at INEC’s IReV shows that some of the manipulated results were even posted to INEC’s online portal. In the attached Form EC 8A from Rivers State, see page 5, with Polling Unit Code 032-15-07-079,6 it shows that the Labour Party (LP) initially garnered 37 votes at this polling unit. However, at some point after the votes were counted, the 37 votes received by LP was crossed out in favor of Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). LP’s 37 votes were ultimately allocated to the APC.
“Social media is awash with similar and even more egregious examples of manipulated results. A candidate declared winner under such precarious circumstances should not be celebrated by world leaders, especially the leader of the free world. As President Reagan stated in 1987, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It has to be fought for and defended by each generation.’
How President Biden Can Help
“Unfortunately, hasty congratulatory messages, including from the likes of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and President Emmanuel Macron, have left an entire generation of young Nigerians doubtful that democracy is worth fighting for. For many Nigerians, including those in the diaspora, the loud silence from world leaders on the violence, voter suppression, lack of transparency, and outright rigging of the February 25 elections—a fact now asserted by all parties in the race, including the APC—was incredibly disheartening. Notwithstanding the United States’ position that it “does not support any single candidate or party,” and the need to avoid meddling in the affairs of a foreign sovereign: as the last beacon of hope, the United States has a significant role to play in ensuring that democratic principles are practiced—as they should be—around the world.
“Nigerians have taken solace in statements from the likes of U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, who found that it was ‘clear that the electoral process as a whole on February 25 failed to meet Nigerians’ expectations,’ and U.S. Senator Jim Risch, a ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who found it ‘disappointing to see the administration rush to embrace the result while the full picture of what occurred during this electoral process is yet to be seen. According to Senator Risch, a rush to judgment would only serve to ‘undermine’ the United State’s ‘ability to be an effective partner to all Nigerians, especially given their longstanding desire for democracy.’ We could not agree more.
“The International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), a joint delegation including Stacey Abrams and former Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Dana White, found—albeit preliminary— that the February 25, 2023, Nigerian elections fell far below expected standards. The European Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria reached a similar result. Thus, President Biden, and other world leaders alike, should not rush to embrace an incoming administration whose rise to power was so deeply flawed.
“On March 3, 2023, the Court of Appeal in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, granted the main opposition parties’ request to inspect all electoral materials used by INEC in the conduct of the Nigerian presidential elections, including digital forensic inspection of BVAS machines and scanning of ballot papers used in the elections. The court case is likely to unearth what many Nigerians and international observers already know—that the February 25, 2023 elections were neither free, fair, nor transparent, and was a far cry from the type of elections that INEC promised Nigerians.
“We therefore call on President Biden to state strongly that Nigeria, as Africa’s largest democracy, must have elections that meet international standards. We ask that Biden declines to recognize any newly elected Nigerian president, unless the election that brought such candidate to office is free, fair, transparent, and credible process. We ask that Nigeria’s judiciary be supported and encouraged to enthrone the rule of law and stand up for free and credible elections. And most of all, we ask that President Biden does what he does best—stand on the side of the people and the rule of law.”