The Promise and Potential Pitfalls of Nigeria’s 2023 Elections (Online event, 23 February 2023)
The Promise and Potential Pitfalls of Nigeria’s 2023 Elections (Online event, 23 February 2023)
Podcast / Africa 3 minutes

Nigeria: On the right path?

Kunle Amuwo, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Nigeria, talks about the lessons learnt from the country’s last elections, the speculations about renewed separatist tensions and the challenges President Jonathan Goodluck will be facing in the coming months.

In this podcast, Kunle Amuwo talks about the lessons learnt from the country’s last elections and the challenges President Jonathan Goodluck will be facing in the coming months. CRISIS GROUP

You can find below a transcript of this podcast.

Hello and welcome to this podcast from the International Crisis Group. I am Gabriela Keseberg Dávalos, Senior Communications Officer, and with me in the studio today is Kunle Amuwo, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Nigeria. 

Kunle, Nigeria’s last elections have been described by many observers as more transparent than the previous one, but also a lot more violent. They caused more than 800 deaths, and thousands of people were displaced. You are currently working on a new report on these events. What lessons can be learned from the last elections?

The lesson from the election is that human agency is as important as functions. Now what I mean: the appointment of a new independent electoral commission, for instance the chairperson and his team—Atahiru Jega and his team—because they were more selfless than the previous one; who put the interest of the nation first, before their own interest; who are ready to correct their mistakes, to learn as they go along; and who are very, very clear in their minds that they are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past—I think that helped a lot to show the quality and credibility of the elections. That was mercy. 

So would you say Nigeria is on a good path?

Clearly. Of course, there are a lot of challenges. One election will not fix all the challenges, but you need a legitimate government. In the past, we knew that there were several that were very fraught. So now that Jonathan has that kind of mandate, he has that moral authority, that legitimacy to speak, to act, and to do things that some governments in the past would not do because Nigerians did not vote them into power

Now, Kunle, there are voices in the international community that claim that there are separatist tensions in the country. Do you agree with that?

Not quite. If there are, then that claim is exaggerated. If you look even at the Niger Delta region, where there has been this massive anti-state movement for years, it did not just start after 1999. You know, they have always been there. There has never been any claim, never by MEND, the Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta—the most radical, nor the others—that it wants out of the Nigerian Federation. What groups in Nigeria have been saying is that because of poor and bad governors over the years, particularly in the military, that it wanted the Nigerian government to convocate what it called a Sovereign National Conference, so that we sit together at a round table in order to avoid world war. To sit down and discuss new takes about mutual resistance, about how the Federation is going to be run, to structure it, about the revenue allocation, about the status of Nigeria for Nigerians. So that’s what people want. And I think Wole Soyinka—after the post-election violence—he added his voice to that. He has been the forefront. He’s told President Jonathan this is what you have to do. And I just want our president to do that.

Kunle, what are the main challenges that Goodluck Jonathan will be facing?

The main challenge for President Goodluck Jonathan is to merely convocate the Sovereign National Conference. Against the background of what happened in the North, despite the fact that most of the governors supported it, it does seem as if a section of Nigeria takes political power as its birthright. So we have to sit down together and discuss that. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, emphasized that point a few weeks ago and I agree 100 percent with him. Of course there are other issues. We must make the state more efficient, more inclusive, and to be seen to be working for all Nigerians, irrespective of their backgrounds, of their ethnic affiliation or religion, and so on and so forth. We have shown some inclination towards that. And we hope it should just continue. I should not allow a politician to derail me.

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