NPR’s Morning Edition Cites Findings of IRI Observers in Nigeria

Nigerian Election Results Hotly Disputed
NPR’s Morning Edition
By Ofeibea Quist-Arcton 

Listen to the audio here.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I’m Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, host: And I’m Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Even as Americans prepare for a presidential election next year, voters in two other nations are deciding their presidencies now. And we’ll go to France, which had a close election – still undecided – in a moment.

MONTAGNE: And Nigeria first. Nigerians are awaiting the results of the disputed presidential election that they held over the weekend. Initial results gave the governing party’s candidate an early lead, but the main opposition contenders and many voters have denounced what they’re calling a flawed vote. They’re demanding a re-run of the vote. Local and international observers have also criticized the election amid reports of violence and some deaths.

NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now from Lagos, Nigeria. Hello.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: Good morning from Nigeria.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea, first the accusations of fraud. What are people saying there?

QUIST-ARCTON: There has been a catalogue of criticism. The former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, who’s one of the leading opposition candidates, said he could not accept the result because it was not a true election. And he has said he’s going to call on parliament to impeach President Olusegun Obasanjo. Another leading opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, the current vice president of Nigeria, has called it the worst election ever in the country, and he said they have no alternative but to cancel the ballot – to scrap it totally.

And then somebody from the government side even, the senate president, Ken Nnamani – he’s the third-most senior government official here – said because of widespread electoral abuses, this would leave a legacy of hatred and a crisis of legitimacy for the winner in Nigeria. So it’s a real problem, and many, many people saying this is a scandalous vote.

MONTAGNE: And international observers more or less agree with that – is that the case?

QUIST-ARCTON: It depends who you speak to. The commonwealth has talked about serious shortcomings, but the U.S.-based International Republican Institute -one of its observers, Pierre-Richard Prosper – said that the standard of this election fell far below acceptable standards. And they’re saying the system failed the Nigerian people. And the largest monitoring group here, the local monitoring group, has said that the election must be scrapped. It’s only the electoral commission who is saying it was a free and fair vote, and that his commission should get straights A’s and Nigerians should pat themselves on the back.

MONTAGNE: Besides questions about fraud, and even the violence, part of the problem was just it wasn’t conducted very well, I gather. The ballots were printed late.

QUIST-ARCTON: For the second weekend running – last weekend it was the state government elections, chaotic, disorganization, ballots arriving late, polling stations – some of them opening only an hour before they were due to close. Although most people are saying yesterday was a little better, there are still reports of ballot stuffing, of ballots arriving at the voting centers already thumb printed, and, of course, ballots not arriving at all. So you have many, many Nigerians all over the country complaining that whatever the results are of these elections, they’re not going to be a true reflection of the vote of the Nigerian people.

MONTAGNE: And Ofeibea, one of the reasons why people should really care about this is that we’re talking about Africa’s most populous nation, and also that continent’s number one producer of oil.

QUIST-ARCTON: Which provides a fifth of U.S. crude oil imports. Nigeria is the giant on this continent, but it’s always been felt that at a continental level, yes, it’s put its weight – it’s pulled its weight. Nigeria sends peacekeepers all over the continent to try to resolve conflicts. But back home, it’s not succeeding. So we’re talking about street angel, home devil – that the critical priorities and issues that Nigerians are concerned about – running water, electricity, security, a functioning country – just don’t happen, but that politicians spend too much time politicking – that they’re too self-serving, and what they need to do is concentrate on the needs of the country, the needs of the people.

MONTAGNE: Ofeibea, thanks very much. NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, speaking to us from Lagos, Nigeria.

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