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Why Are We Reflecting?

Welcome Remarks at the Reflection Roundtable on One Year after the 2023 General Election, Held in Abuja, on 29th April, 2024. By Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programs, Yiaga Africa.

Protocol.

It has been 1 year, 2 months and 3 days since the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections and Nigerians can finally say that the elections are over with the court decisions and the re-run/bye-elections in February 2024. Like young people would say: we move! But the question is move to what?

Nigeria’s election is probably one of the most discussed and popular elections within the region and with the evolution of social media, the 2023 generation elections became a major trending issue on social media. However, the fact our elections are popular attracting both regional and international attention has not translated to elections meeting the expectations of citizens. What do Nigerians want?

There is the likelihood of limiting the dissatisfaction with the election of a large number of citizens to partisan debates. However, it goes beyond that. The 2023 election was heralded with a lot of excitement, high youth enthusiasm and a major emergence of political surprises. One major excitement was around the new Electoral Act 2022 that enabled the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to deploy its innovations. For the first time, we were to deploy the Bi-modal Voter Identification System (BVAS) and the INECs Results Viewing (IReV) Portal for our general elections. We had new polling units and an expected 93 million voters going to the polls. Like every competition, there are expectations that winners will emerge. The difference is that in Election, the concept of winning means a lot more.  It is a win for the political parties and candidates who secure the most votes. It is a win if the elections are conducted transparently, effectively and with utmost fairness. It is also a win if voters and citizens trust the process and outcome. Lastly, it is a win if the elections guaranteed the rights of all voters to vote and ended without any form of violence.

This is why we need to reflect. Reflection is an important feature in any system. Today, Yiaga Africa invites us all as leaders to reflect on the lessons from the 2023 elections and pathways to build a better system ahead of the 2027 elections. I will pose some questions:

  1. Can we conduct elections where we do not experience the perennial challenges of logistics?
  2. Is it possible to rebuild trust in a judiciary and finally resolve the crisis in electoral adjudication?
  3. Can we build a truly independent INEC where the members/leadership and staff are independent, professional and persons of integrity?
  4. Can we have a new generation of politicians, political leaders and elite who support the democratisation process in Nigeria? Because reforms without a reformed political culture are almost like pouring water in a basket.
  5. How can we finally achieve a 50% voter turnout mark or even more?
  6. Then the big question; how can we build trust in our electoral process and institutions?

The question of trust is central in all of this, because, without trust, all our reforms will not yield the required results.

Welcome again to this reflection roundtable and may our reflections support the process of building a national consensus on achieving credible elections.

God bless Nigeria.

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