Utah State University

Violence, Fraud and Inaccuracies Continue to Plague Nigeria’s Elections by Jordan Reid

Since regaining its democracy in 1999, Nigeria has suffered a history of voter fraud and violence in each of its presidential elections. Improving the safety and legitimacy of Nigeria’s elections can go a long way in improving the nation’s democracy as a whole. Undemocratic precedent was set in 1999, as widespread rigging and violence marred the 1999 and 2003 Nigerian presidential elections. Again, evidence of vote rigging and fraud was discovered in the 2007 election. In 2011, post-election violence killed over 800 Nigerians. Further evidence of this trend continued this year as violence, fraud and inaccuracies, again, plagued the Nigerian presidential election.

More than 260 Nigerians were killed in wake of Nigeria’s latest presidential election. The presidential election took place February 23rd, 2019; however, it was delayed a week from its initial date of February 16th due to logistical problems with the transportation of electoral material. The election ended victoriously for incumbent president, Mahammadu Buhari. After election results came in, Buhari’s main competitor, Atiku Abubakar, claimed fraud in the election and rejected the results. These claims led to more violence from supporters from multiple political parties.

It is not likely that there was an accurate count in the 2019 election for several reasons. Postponing the election hours before it was scheduled prevented many people from voting. Many took work off and/ or traveled far to exercise their democratic right on the initial election day, but were met with news of a postponed election only five hours before polling was scheduled to begin. Many of these people could not afford to take work off again a week later. More blatant issues with the results include armed gangs that prevented people from voting, as well as destroying polling stations completely. And although there was reportedly less ballot stuffing in the back rooms by local politicians than usual, there were still allegations of ballot stuffing.

Along with the pre and post-election violence and fraud, Nigeria also continues to have a problem with getting a reliable vote count due to the difficult accessibility of voter identification cards. A voter identification card is required for anyone to vote in Nigeria. The process to get these cards can be extremely exhausting and inefficient. For example, Mary Yusufu (a mother of seven) explained that she had to stand in a line six times to receive a voter card. There are also reports that some people have accumulated multiple voter cards to be able to vote more than once. Some citizens have struggled to get a single voter identification card, while others have accumulated multiple, thus, enabling them to vote multiple times.    

With all of these issues, the exact vote count is definitely disputable, however, Abubakar’s claim that fraud and violence changed the result of the election is likely false. Buhari won by a large margin, gaining about four million more votes than Abubakar. The grievances above also have not been proven to be tied to President Buhari, and even if they could be, they would not be enough to have changed the outcome of the election. The fact that the election has been accepted as legitimate does not excuse the violence, fraud, and inaccuracies that occurred in it.

 Despite the ongoing issues with Nigeria’s electoral process, there is reason to believe that Nigeria’s democracy is trending in the right direction. Nigeria is in its longest (ever) period of civilian rule since gaining independence in 1960. Nigerians can continue to strengthen their democracy if President Buhari, the electoral commission, and the general Nigerian population will work towards eliminating their trend of electoral violence, fraud and inaccuracies.


  1. Kayode Babatunde

    April 28, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    Great Blog! this blog was definitely informative and interesting . This blog definitely covered most of the cunning moves made by the incumbent in order to remain in power. I totally agree with the fraudulent elections that has been going on in Nigeria since the late 1990s . Especially in this recent election, Postponing the election hours before the election in the name of logistical problems was the greatest ploy in this election. Many tribes traveled across Nigeria to go back to their region in order to vote. Thousands of Nigerians who traveled back from other countries to vote just to realize its postponed. There were also multiple reports of hired gangs stealing ballot boxes from polling stations. Though that might not make up for the 4 million margin difference, it was still a significant portion of it. Great post overall, and Nigeria definitely still has a long way to go to in order to be classified as a true democracy.

  2. Ruth Selipsky

    May 7, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    This is an interesting analysis of Nigeria’s election issues. The widespread allegations of various kinds of fraud, from ballot-stuffing and moving the election date to gangs preventing voting through violence, are troubling and indicative of the unsteady and illegitimate state of elections. Such short notice for postponing an election may be indicative of possible anti-democratic intent in the form of preventing those who cannot take time off work or frequently travel long distances to a voting location from voting, as you argued in your post. It could also be a sign of disorganization and weak electoral infrastructure, which also points to an inability to properly allocate resources to the democratic process. This could be further evidence of anti-democratic policies that redirect funds to other sectors of the government, or simply of anti-electoral sentiment. Yet more troubling, the opposition candidate for president claimed that there had been election fraud, unable to accept the results of the election and therefore able to incite protests, violence, and death. A hallmark of stable democracy is peaceful elections, and the acceptance of the results from all candidates. That citizens died as a result of this election is troubling, regardless of whether the opposition candidate claimed fraud for legitimate or purely political reasons. Your final point that Nigeria is currently experiencing its longest period of civilian rule since independence is heartening, but civilian rule does not prevent democratic backsliding or stealth authoritarianism. Only continued monitoring of governmental performance can establish the democratic credentials of Nigeria under these fraudulent and violent conditions.

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