The Role of the European Union observers on Nigeria Election

YOUTHS DIGEST – The 2015 general elections in Nigeria was a great step for Nigerians and it’s democratic process, it was special for Nigerians and its citizenry because for the first time in its political history there was a peaceful transition from an incumbent ruling party to an opposition party, for the first time a sitting President was defeated and accepted defeat in good faith, it was adjudged by international and domestic observers as the best elections ever held in Nigeria.

At the advent of the 4th republic and democratic rule in 1999 many political analysts had a negative view towards Nigerian political and military leaders accepting democracy as a way of government due to the long rule of the military. But like the general saying Nigerians always surprise the world and Democratic governance has come to stay in Nigeria, it’s been 20 years of uninterrupted democratic governance.

I will give an in-depth analysis of the role played by the EU observers before, during and after the 2015 elections.

The European Union has always been supportive in enhancing and promoting democratic practices in Nigeria. It has supported the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) either by grants, donations, human capital training and technological transfer towards ensuring a transparent, free and fair electoral process in Nigeria. The 2015 elections in Nigeria was keenly contested by the then incumbent President Dr Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party and the current Nigerian President General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.

The high level of success of Nigeria’s 2015 general elections was unexpected, considering the difficult political and security environment in which the elections were conducted. The major obstacles to the smooth conduct of the elections include the grave security threat posed by the Boko Haram insurgency, the competing claims to the Presidency by northern and southern politicians, a keenly contested campaign smeared by inflammatory messages, and serious gaps in electoral preparations.

Despite widely held concerns about the likelihood of a destabilising out- come, Nigeria successfully conducted its general elections on 28 March and 11 April 2015. Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the newly emerged national opposition party known as the All Progressives Congress (APC), defeated the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the presidential election.

At the invitation of the Independent National Electoral Election Commission (INEC) to observe the 2015 Presidential, National Assembly, Governor and State

House of Assembly elections of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the European Union deployed an Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) led by Chief Observer Santiago Fisas Ayxela (MEP).

On 6 January 2015, nine Core Team analysts arrived in Abuja. The mission assessed all aspects of the elections including the legal provisions, the election administration, political freedoms and dynamics, and the performance of the media.

A group of 30 long-term observers later arrived in Nigeria on 12 January.

A six week postponement of the elections extended the pre-election observation period for the EU EOM. The EU EOM was the only international observation mission to stay throughout the postponement.

Shortly before the polls a delegation of seven Members of the European Parliament joined the mission. About 50 EU diplomats also joined the mission to observe the two election days. In total the EU EOM was comprised of observers from 26 EU Member States as well as Norway and Switzerland and up to 90 observers.

The EU Played the following roles in the 2015 elections which helped in the smooth transfer of power from an incumbent sitting president to an opposition candidate. They include;

  1. To contribute and strengthen democratic institutions.
  2. To build public confidence in electoral processes, helping to deter fraud, intimidation and violence.
  3. They also reinforces other key EU foreign policy objectives, in particular peace-building.

In conclusion, The EU observers played a key role in strengthening democracy in Nigeria which gave the citizens confidence in the process and the outcome was widely accepted by the entire nation as well as the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan conceding defeat before the official result was announced. This was seen to be an uncommon gesture especially in Africa and Nigeria where her democracy is try to develop.

*OLAYINKA SARAH CHINDA, A NIGERIAN MASTERS DEGREE STUDENT AT THE DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT THE ISTANBUL AYDIN UNIVERSITY.