Why Nigeria experienced a low voter turn out

Nigeria’s electoral commission has declared President Muhammadu Buhari winner of the country’s elections, saying he polled 56 percent of the votes.

Buhari, who first came to power in 2015 after defeating then-incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, defeated his main challenger Atiku Abubakar by a margin of nearly four million votes in results announced by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed 15,191,847 (56%) while Abubakar received 11,262,978 (41%) of votes in the weekend election, according to the commission, which finished counting state-by-state results on Tuesday.

“The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption,” Buhari said after his victory was officially announced.

Abubakar, of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) rejected the election results calling the electoral process “militarized” and a “disservice” to Nigeria’s democracy.

“If I had lost in a free and fair election, I would have called the victor within seconds of my being aware of his victory to offer not just my congratulations, but my services to help unite Nigeria by being a bridge between the North and the South,” Abubakar said.

He added: “I hereby reject the result of the February 23, 2019 sham election and will be challenging it in court.”

Abubakar, who was Vice President from 1999 to 2007, has run for President four times. His candidacy was dogged by allegations of corruption stemming from his time in office, allegations he has consistently denied.Buhari won in 19 of the 36 states with Atiku gaining the upper hand in 17 states and in the capital, Abuja.

Delivering Africa’s largest democracy was never going to be an easy task, but Nigeria’s elections were marred by poor logistics arrangements, which led to the electoral commission moving the presidential election date by one week just hours before the polls opened.

On the day itself, there were reports of voter intimidation, ballot boxes snatched at polling stations and voting papers burned in at least one place. Nigerians were left waiting for several hours at polling units across the country for voting materials to turn up.

Consequently, there was widespread voting apathy, leading to Nigeria’s lowest voter turnout in 20 years, with INEC reporting that just 27 million votes were cast out of 84 million people who registered to vote.

In Lagos, the sprawling megacity of nearly 20 million inhabitants, only 1.1 million people voted, according to INEC figures.The election turnout was 35.6 percent, the electoral commission said, which compared with 44 percent in the 2015 elections.

At least 39 people were killed in election-related violence, according to the Situation Room, a coalition of more than 70 civic organizations that monitored the elections. One of those who died was Ibisaki Amachree, a mother of two, an election volunteer caught in the crossfire between the Nigerian army and armed militia in Rivers State.

The Situation Room, citing data from analysis firm SBM Intelligence, said most of the deaths occurred in the southern oil-rich state.But despite the violence, US observers from the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (IRI/NDI) said that although the deaths were tragic, they should be placed in the broader context.

“We don’t want to overemphasize the deaths,” the IRI’s John Tomaszewski told CNN Monday.”We understand the contextual relationship. Violence happens every day here. It’s not just on Election Day.”

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