Nigeria’s 2023 Presidential Election, Foreign Media and Inaccurate Reporting

We consider it unfair and quite uncharitable to describe the last election as fraudulent, manipulated or flawed.

Contrary to the innuendos and aspersions being cast on the election by organisations such as Financial Times, Economist, New York Times, among others, we make bold to say that the 2023 presidential election is the most credible, most free and most fair national election in Nigeria since 1999.

In weeks and months leading to the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections, there were a rash of pre-election analysis, news reports, special features and even opinion polls from a number of partisan local pollsters and international media that gave victory to the candidate of Labour Party, Mr Peter Obi. Some of the polls were conducted online. Some polls had small samples that were not sufficiently representative of Nigeria’s diverse voting population and did not represent the realities of Nigeria’s political environment and factors that influence electoral behaviour.

But there were some other polls that correctly predicted the outcome, that our candidate was headed for victory. Our internal polls also gave us some measure of confidence. With 21 states under our party’s control, we did not expect a complete change of electoral behaviour, like in the US, where no one expects a blue state to suddenly turn red 100%.

With the eventual outcome of the election at variance with some of the Labour Party sponsored pre-election predictions, many international media organisations who took premature positions on the basis of these flawed polls, found themselves blind-spotted, leading to some of the skewed reports about the election.

We object to the mischaracterisation of the presidential election by a section of the international media.

Contrary to the innuendos and aspersions being cast on the election by organisations such as Financial Times, Economist, New York Times, among others, we make bold to say that the 2023 presidential election is the most credible, most free and most fair national election in Nigeria since 1999.

The elections into the Senate and House of Representatives were held the same day with the presidential election. They produced an outcome that showed our party winning majority seats in both chambers. None of the presidential candidates assailed the integrity of these other elections.

Similarly, the presidential election produced the expected outcome.

Anyone who is honest enough and understands the political landscape of Nigeria and the forces at play in electing a president in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria will know that only Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and APC could have won the election.

It must be stressed that only the APC went into the 2023 election intact. Peoples Democratic Party went into the election fragmented into three parts. Five of its governors under the G5 group worked against their party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku. The Labour Party candidate, who was Atiku’s running mate in 2019, abandoned the party. In the North, Rabiu Kwankwaso, also a member of the PDP, went solo in the NNPP.

These divisions within the main opposition played out in our favour. It was a repeat of 2015, when some PDP states supported the new coalition of parties called APC and gave President Buhari a resounding victory.

The presidential candidate of PDP, at his post-election press conference, admitted that the Labour Party swept away his party’s votes from its traditional strongholds in the South-East and South-South. He is yet to admit the impact of the rebellion of the G5 governors and Kwankwaso in the large voting state of Kano.

For emphasis, it must be stated that no political party or candidate can win a presidential election in Nigeria without strong support from four of the six geopolitical zones in the country. Only the candidate of APC had such support, as shown in the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Mr Obi could not have been elected president by winning in South-South and South-East and the Bible-belt states of Plateau, Southern Kaduna, Taraba and Nasarawa. He needed the core Northern votes from the North-East and North-West. He needed the South-West. Winning Lagos narrowly was not enough to make Mr Obi a president.

These are political realities that have been ignored in post-election reportage by a number of international media.

We consider it unfair and quite uncharitable to describe the last election as fraudulent, manipulated or flawed. All the noise over results not being uploaded on the INEC server was misplaced. The election in Nigeria is done at about 176,000 polling units. There results are announced, signed by party agents and sent to collation centres at ward, council and state levels. Results are tallied at state level and announced. All parties after the state results are announced, already have an idea, whether they won or lost. The collation in Abuja is a mere ceremony to sum up all the results from the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. It was in realisation of this that in 2015, President Jonathan did not wait for the Abuja collation before conceding defeat to President Buhari.

To further support our view on the credibility of the entire electoral process, we recommend three reference materials that can further enrich better understanding of how the election panned out. Number one reference material is a well-articulated Editorial commentary by Premium Times on the just concluded presidential election. Premium Times is an independent and well respected newspaper in Nigeria.

The second material is the well-informed analysis on the electoral outcome by Professor Ebenezer Obadare, a Fellow of Council of Foreign Relations in Washington DC. Professor Obadare’s article was quite illuminating. The third reference material is an opinion piece published in ThisDay newspaper by Mr Mahmud Jega, a respected Nigerian syndicated columnist and also an adviser to the president-elect. His article provided a clear and dispassionate review of the election and why APC/Asiwaju Tinubu prevailed against other contenders.

Gentlemen of the press, we called this parley, primarily, to appeal for a shift and a change of mindset in the way the international media report issues in Nigeria and Africa generally.

You are the ones on ground here, you understand the political environment and the nuances better than your bosses in Paris, London, Johannesburg, New-York, Beijing, Istanbul and Tehran. You are in a much vantage position to educate your bosses on how to exercise better editorial judgement on matters relating to Nigeria.

Our country is the biggest black nation on earth, with a population that is estimated to be over 200 million. Though it is the biggest economy in Africa, it is a poor country with institutions of state that are still growing.

We seek the cooperation of the global media to project our country as the new frontier of economic growth, best destination for foreign investments because of our large market and guaranteed profitability for investors. As a country, we don’t need news reports that stoke political tensions and exacerbate crises that can set off unrest and instability.

We are very mindful of the sophistry of the opposition elements and the Labour Party candidate going on TV and radio stations to cite reports from Bloomberg, Financial Times, Economist, Washington Post, etc. as clear evidence of electoral fraud in Nigeria, as if these reports are the gospel truth, as if those reports were not products of a tunnel vision.

As we move through this transition period to inauguration on 29 May, through the next four years when our party will remain in the saddle of leadership, we want to appeal to you to make your reports more balanced, accurate and factual and also remove the tendency for negative slants in news reporting and analysis.

Dele Alake is special adviser to President-Elect Bola Tinubu.

This is the text of an address at the interactive session with representatives of international media organisations covering Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday, 16 March.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *