On Our Radar | Nigeria Elections: “A victory for democracy, for the electorate, for the people.”
New in Ceasefire, Radar Reports - Posted on Thursday, April 2, 2015 20:47 - 1 Comment
In recent months, news coverage of Nigeria has been dominated by a narrative of corruption, terrorism and violence. Following a six-week postponement of the election earlier this year, officially declared as an opportunity for a newly-formed multinational force to reclaim areas controlled by the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s North, any forecast of a “peaceful” electoral transition was seen by many as highly improbable, if not impossible. However, General Buhari’s landmark victory, marking the first time in history that Africa’s largest country has elected an opposition party candidate, has, in fact, been achieved with a relatively smooth democratic transition.
As the election unfolded, with a lack of activity from the Boko Haram insurgency in the North, the gaze of the media began to shift to claims of corruption and probable militant upheaval in the PDP-dominated South. However, against expectations, widespread violent agitation simply refused to emerge.
During this period, citizen journalists living in the Niger Delta, trained by London-based communication rights organisation – On Our Radar, have documented first-hand Nigeria’s historic moment, observing a consistent demand for results transparency, peaceful protests and, as the results were formally announced, a widespread acceptance of the successful implementation of the democratic process.
Peaceful protests amid vote rigging claims
On Sunday, as many had predicted, multiple reports emerged in Rivers State, Niger Delta, of potential vote rigging by the People’s Democratic Party, and a situation threatened to develop as Governor Amaechi of the APC boycotted the polls over the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to supply result sheets to many polling units.
Isaac Cotterell, reporting from and voting in Abuja, Rivers, confirmed that the result sheet was not formally displayed, supporting Governor Amaechi’s claim. “A sheet was shown, but it was not displayed on the wall. What they displayed was the sheet that contains the pictures of the candidates.” Denying local residents the opportunity to witness the count, Bokolo Nimiteinbofa reported; “I know that with this pattern, rigging is possible.”
However, at this moment, when the violence marring the 2011 elections may have threatened to resurface, local residents chose to exercise their right to protest peacefully in Port Harcourt. On Our Radar reporter, Glaad Amadi, covered the protest and interviewed local protestors, including Mr Stephens who told him that “INEC never produced the results sheet for us so there is NO election in Rivers State. I am from Okrika, Ward 6, materials arrived and they were moved into the personal resident of the PDP Chairman’s house. So, we have decided to protest that materials are not acceptable.” Thankfully, the protest concluded without incident.
A second protest began on Tuesday in Delta State, a neighbouring area of the Niger Delta, as residents continued to demand electoral transparency and, again, the protest was peacefully organised. On Our Radar reporter, Okonta Emeka, interviewed Ogbueshi Ben Onwuka, a local APC Chairman, on the scene and he insisted that “this is a peaceful demonstration. We don’t want problems.” The protest lasted for two hours, concluding at noon, again without incident.
Dignity in defeat: “Today is a victory for democracy, for the electorate, for the people.”
Roland Digieni, a resident of President Goodluck’s home state, Bayelsa, sought to sum up the mood in his community. “I don’t know a single person who voted APC. But today is a victory for democracy, for the electorate, for the people. This is unprecedented behaviour from the incumbent President. He has set a standard for things to come. He has set the standard for the incoming President.” Another resident, Robert D. Nitabai, agrees, commenting that “Bayelsa State will be calm because a son has lost a great battle. Already people are crying.”
Reports on Wednesday morning, sent via SMS, suggested that there is no change in the atmosphere on the ground in the Niger Delta. Bokolo Nimiteinbofa stated that “the atmosphere in Nembe City, Bayelsa State, has changed to be even more peaceful, as most PDP supporters are more concerned with the legacy President Goodluck has laid before Nigerians than the just collated results. APC supporters are happy assuring others of a better governance. Up until now there are no comments from any militants.”
Awotongha Gbaligha, also reporting from Nembe City, claimed that “Within the state capital things are cool and calm. APC supporters are only happy for their victory.” These sentiments are echoed by Isaac Cotterell, of Rivers State, who further added that “in the community there is quiet and there is peace.”
Cool and calm: “The media misrepresent the Niger Delta struggle”
Throughout this election period, On Our Radar reporters have maintained that “the media misrepresent the Niger Delta struggle” (Glaad Amadi). Though the election has only just been concluded and the dust is yet to fully settle, the peaceful conclusion of this democratic process may well help to weaken the dominant narratives of corruption and violence that persist in local and national media coverage.
Professor Attahiru Muhammadu Jega, the new Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Was praised on Wednesday morning by Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations for his calm oversight of the electoral process. In response to the immense electoral challenge that Nigeria has successfully overcome, On Our Radar reporter Elizabeth Anadaebi concluded, “this is the dawn of a new era, what’s next is to move on.”
Radar Reports is a an exclsuive feature series written by Radar reporters. Radar is an organisation that trains and mentors citizen journalists from some of the most marginalised communities around the world.
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