/ 2 March 2023

Tinubu’s win disappoints Nigerian youth

Nigeria Bola Tinubu
Newly elected President Bola Tinubu center left, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's president, center, and Jide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos state, center right, during Tinubu's campaign rally in Lagos, Nigeria, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (Benson Ibeabuchi/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


In the early hours of Wednesday, Nigeria’s ruling party candidate, Bola Tinubu, was declared winner of the presidential election held over the weekend, despite numerous allegations of intimidation, pockets of violence and outright manipulation of results in parts of the country.

Tinubu, the political godfather of Lagos, fulfils the provision of the country’s electoral laws that says a candidate can win by getting more votes than their rivals, provided they get 25% of the vote in at least two-thirds of the 36 states and the federal capital Abuja.

Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), polled 8.79 million votes, ahead of main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 6.98 million voters, and the 6.1 million votes for the Labour Party’s Peter Obi.

Tinubu will take over the leadership of a country plagued by insurgencies in the northeast, killings and kidnappings, a cocktail of tanking economy, inflation, unemployment and perennial corruption. 

“Truth be told, none of them is an angel of change,” says Lawal Jamiu. “But among all the three frontrunners, it’s his own candidacy that looks more promising.”

But the opposition had called for the cancellation of the elections hours before the announcement, vowing to contest the results. They also stated that a new poll should be conducted under a new elections chief.

“The results being declared at the national collation centre have been heavily doctored and manipulated and do not reflect the wishes of Nigerians expressed at the polls,” the parties said in a joint statement.

Tinubu asked Nigerians to elect him based on his track record as Lagos State governor from 1999 to 2007, during which he attempted to modernise the fast growing economy of Lagos. But there are concerns about his health, appearing frail, most times, in public, with slurred speech and giving vague responses to questions.

His contenders, particularly Obi, have enjoyed the support of a significant number of young people who are disappointed with the corrupt political practices of the past, which have been perpetuated by the APC and the PDP, the two major parties that have held power since the end of military rule in 1999. They said he presented a flicker of hope in a country steeped in years of economic and security crises.

Analysts and international observers, including the coalition of civil society in the country, have also said the election fell well short of expectations and was “marred by very poor organisation, severe logistical and operational failures, lack of essential electoral transparency, substantial disruption of voting and several incidents of violence”.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had made a commitment to publish the results of each polling unit on its website, but most of the units were unable to do so immediately as a result of technical glitches.

The results had to be collated manually just as in previous elections, which observer missions also said “undermined citizen confidence at a crucial moment of the process”.

A spokesman for Nigeria’s electoral body, Rotimi Oyekanmi, faulted the call for the resignation of the electoral body’s chairperson. He defended the process as “free, fair and credible”, dismissing calls for a rerun. Oyekanmi said in a statement that any concerns should be addressed in the court.

Leena Hoffmann, an associate fellow at Chatham House, said the failure of the electoral body to digitally transmit results as it promised and its inability to sensitise the public before the elections dent the credibility of the results. 

Many young people are disappointed with the outcome of the election. They say it’s not a reflection of the people’s choice.

(Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“We have never had young people this involved in politics like before. People waited into the night for votes to be counted, after spending the whole day in the queue. Not letting their votes count gives a course to worry about,” says Chijioke Arinze, 28. “It doesn’t feel like there is a winner yet. And that tells you how the people feel about the outcome of the election.”

He fears the outcome would negatively affect the participation of young people in future elections, “Before now, young people had lost hope in the electoral process. But when the Electoral Act was passed, it renewed our hope. And we felt that our votes would begin to count. But with what we have seen, the electoral process cannot be trusted anymore in Nigeria.” 

Arinze is not alone. 

Gbenga Sadik, 26, grew up in a politically conscious family in Lagos, and has always been interested in politics. But he was an outlier among his peers — most were not interested in the political process.

But, he said, in the past two years most of his friends now have a keen interest in politics, largely because they had a candidate they could identify with, and “a lot of trust in the new electoral processes that INEC promised”.

“What happened though, is that the INEC did not keep to its promises and people’s votes did not count,” said Sadik. “My fear is that they have effectively killed the budding political participation among young people, and re-implanted the hopelessness that made generations before us to consistently elect bad leaders.”

Theophilus Alawonde, 22, was filled with hope when the electoral body promised to transmit the election results electronically. It was the beacon every young person who had nursed a big distrust in the electoral process could hold onto. “For the first time, I felt like we’re going to be getting a transparent election when the INEC said it would upload results immediately, and we could go back home and follow the results in real time as they’re being uploaded. All those added to our hope, especially myself, when I went out to vote.”

Alawonde’s expectations, like those of many others, were dashed when results were eventually collated manually. “To see all those promises disappear, it was a big blow. And it would be difficult to convince some of us.” 

Olasupo Abideen, the director of the Brain Builder Youth Development Initiative, said: “If there is anything we take away from this election, it is the fact that young people made their voices heard. There was an increase in the number of young people who did not only vote, but also stayed at their units till midnight to ensure that their votes were counted. It shows a paradigm shift from the past. It’s encouraging. They now know they have the number and can decide and determine the outcome of our elections.”

Hoffmann added: “What this means is that we would have a young population that would be aggressive in studying the political process, the structure and networking necessary to address their grievances.”