After months of arduous campaigning, the Nigerian 2019 general elections which were meant to be held yesterday, will now take place a week later, on 23 February.
What We Know So Far...
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the postponement on Saturday at 2:30 am local time, the day of the scheduled election. The late announcement, only hours before the polls were meant to open, has left many Nigerians in sticky situations.
What types of situations?
Those living abroad who travelled back to Nigeria in time to vote yesterday.
Those who travelled long distances to their home states to vote.
Those who had events, i.e. weddings, funerals, etc., planned for 23 February and most likely put down non-refundable deposits.
Ok so the elections are now on 23 February, what else do I need to know?
The two major contenders: President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) aka the incumbent, and Atiku Abubakar aka the former Vice President. These two are Nigeria’s foremost options, and contrary to popular opinion, the two are quite different.
Yes, there are other candidates. More than 70, actually. But, realistically speaking, none of these candidates have voter bases strong enough to challenge the two main parties, APC and PDP.
You wish. Next up, regional votes. In the 2015 elections, PMB had two things on his side: the hope of the Nigerian people and a massive turn out in the North West with almost five million votes from Kano state. The North West has the highest number of registered voters, and because Nigerians tend to vote along ethnic lines, this played in Buhari’s favour. Notwithstanding, Atiku, a Fulani-Muslim just like Buhari, could mean a challenge to PMB’s northern domination.
It is. But there's also voter apathy. With an economic recession and unfulfilled campaign promises, the last four years have left the average Nigerian jaded. Sola Omotola, a professor of Political Science at the Federal University of Oye-Ekiti believes that Nigerian voters are getting more sophisticated and the impact of Nigeria's recent economic downturn could tip the scale in the opposition's favour.
However, according to INEC, less than a week before the collection deadline (February 08), there were still large numbers of uncollected voters' cards. At the same time, those who actually bothered to pick up their voters’ cards before the deadline, met tedious roadblocks, which left many of them frustrated and willing to forgo voting all together. Kamsi, a 22-year-old in Lagos who would have been voting for the first time, told us that, after waiting for more than three hours to pick up her voters' card, the administrators simply told her it ‘wasn’t there.’
So, what's at stake in the 2019 elections?
The economy: Nigeria’s stock market has performed the worst globally in the last four years, and investors are concerned about what implications the election outcomes will have on Nigeria's potential for recovery.
Democracy: For many Nigerians, there is a legitimate fear that PMB’s government may not step down especially following his suspension of Nigeria's former Chief Justice (read this). Is the General back?
Poverty: Last year, the World Poverty Clock estimated that over eighty million people in Nigeria were living in extreme poverty. The livelihoods of these people are at stake.
Security: There are legitimate security fears since there have already been a few clashes in the run up to the elections, especially because of Nigeria's history with electoral violence.
Let’s Talk about Security
The threat presented by Boko Haram and ISWAP are immense leading up to the elections. On one hand, millions of Nigerians have been displaced, which many argue will limit their ability to vote. On the other hand, many doubt the security forces ability to ensure safety for those in troubled parts of the country.
'Hello from Porto Novo! Take me to motherland and you will see me shining like gold' tweeted a social media influencer, Scheena Donia, on 5 February. It is unclear if she failed to notice the shady looks that numerous people in the background of her photos were serving. The tweet, which now has 4,306 retweets and 20,053 likes, sparked a wave of replies from people who were not very impressed at her using the locals 'as poverty aesthetics.'
As it turns out, the headlines about the sighting of a rare African black leopard for the first time in more than 100 years are FAKE news. Kenyans online are more than perplexed since the black leopards are often seen by villagers and in fact, have been photographed by two Kenyan photographers in the past. This Twitter user explains it best: 'This is how white people shape narrative. If a white person has not seen something then it doesn't exist.'
The ongoing outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was declared six months ago, has reached a death toll of 500, claiming the lives of nearly 100 children. The spread of the virus has been difficult to contain because of an ongoing conflict in the country's east region, poor infrastructure and socio-economic constraints. This is not good news for neighbouring countries. The use of an experimental vaccine has made some health workers cautiously optimistic about treating the outbreak. However, the rollout of the vaccine has been marred by reports of women in Congo being forced to pay for the Ebola vaccine with sex.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Egyptian police and security forces have executed 'systematic and widespread torture' under President Abedelfattah Elsisi's watch. The government's response: deny, deny, deny. Denial is a method that Egypt is accustomed to but this case has prompted HRW to request that a UN inquiry take place. The inquiry would involve a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on torture to the country's detention sites.
To make matters worse, after requesting a UN inquiry, HRW was forced to shut down their offices in the country and a few other MENA locations. In this video, HRW's MENA division director, Sarah Leah Witson, explains threats and pressures HRW has faced from the Egyptian government. With the Arab Spring just passing its eight year anniversary, the events in Egypt highlight the importance of holding leading accountable for their actions and why it's crucial that the world keep watching.
The jury is out, and El Chapo—the Mexican drug-lord, famous for smuggling drugs via tunnel from Mexico to the USA is guilty. But, what is important is whether or not his indictment will have any real repercussions on international drug trafficking.
Want to know how drug trafficking is affecting Africa? Read this.
This week's Newswatch Roundup also features a special section dedicated to election news and voting.
On Tuesday evening, insurgents attacked the convoy of Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima. So far the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), a group with Boko Haram ties has claimed responsibility for attack on the convoy. The terror group also claimed that 42 people died in the assault. However, on Thursday, the Borno government refuted the claims as a 'propaganda strategy' and confirmed that only three people were killed in the attack.
According to Nigerian health officials, on Wednesday, 15 people were killed and 12 injured in a stampede at an election campaign rally by President Muhammadu Buhari in Rivers State. Local media reports that the stampede happened when panic broke out at the end of a rally, as crowds tried to force their way through a locked exit.
Such incidents have become frequent at election rallies. Just last Thursday, two people were reported to have died during a crush at a Buhari rally in the north-eastern state of Taraba. And on January 21, several people were injured in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri when a platform collapsed during a visit by Buhari.
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