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Nigeria Elections - 2011

On 24 March 2009, nineteen Nigerian opposition parties agreed to form what they described as a mega-party to challenge the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 elections. While most were very small, the largest (Buhari) faction of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the leadership of the Action Congress (AC) were represented in the meeting. The opposition parties accused the PDP of running the country into the ground and acting as if Nigeria were a one-party state.

As part of preparation for the Army Remembrance Day celebration on January 15, 2011, the Nigerian Army advised the public not to panic during the movement of military equipment in the Federal Capital Territory like helicopters, armored tanks, and various uniformed armed forces in and around the Eagle Square and Federal Capital Territory areas. Nigeria had entered into the electoral campaign season, with political conventions, rallies, and voter registration, which culminated in the general elections on three successive weekends in April. Throughout the electoral campaign period, political parties and candidates held numerous rallies and other events throughout the country.

In April 2011, the Independent National Electoral Commission organized legislative, gubernatorial, and presidential elections. The elections were scheduled to begin on April 2, but logistical challenges caused the INEC to delay the start until April 9. Thirty-seven parties participated in the legislative elections. The INEC initially estimated a voter turnout as high as 75 percent, although this number in fact varied from 20 to 60 percent, depending on the region. The legislative elections returned only approximately one-third of incumbents in either house, and opposition parties gained many seats. International observers witnessed generally calm and orderly voting at many polling stations. The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria captured additional governorships and National Assembly seats, although the majority of such positions continued to be held by the ruling PDP.

The presidential election was held on April 16, 2011. President Jonathan, who had assumed the presidency in May 2010 following his predecessor’s death, and Vice President Mohammed Namadi Sambo were elected to new four-year terms. Twenty parties were listed on the ballot in the presidential election. The INEC estimated a voter turnout of 35 percent of the approximately 70 million registered voters. According to the INEC, President Jonathan, the PDP candidate, tallied 58.9 percent of the vote, while CPC candidate Muhammadu Buhari obtained 32 percent. Project Swift Count 2011, a group of four domestic civil society organizations, conducted parallel vote tabulations and reported President Jonathan received 58.7 percent of the vote and Muhammadu Buhari received 30.8 percent. Project Swift Count deployed field observers to 1,497 polling units in all 774 local government areas in all 36 states and the FCT. Election observers judged the presidential election to be more organized than the legislative elections and largely free, fair, and transparent. However, observers reported some election precincts experienced fraud and electoral irregularities, including vote rigging and buying, underage voting, ballot stuffing, late openings and overcrowding of polls, insufficient voting materials, and intimidation and political violence.

Political violence occurred at federal, state, and local levels, as well as within political parties. In some cases before and after the election period, violence stemmed from rivalries and competition between political candidates. However, immediately following the April 16 presidential election, supporters of opposition CPC candidate Buhari began protests of President Jonathan’s victory that led to an outbreak of violence in the North and the Middle Belt states. The northern states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara experienced violent riots. Incidents ranged in severity and included mass protests, machete attacks, prison breaks, and the burning of businesses, places of worship, houses, and government offices. Rioters targeted local opponents, political rivals, and innocent bystanders. The violence claimed lives, damaged property, and led to restrictions on movement. HRW stated election-related violence resulted in more than 800 deaths and displaced an estimated 65,000 persons in the 12 northern states. Police put total deaths from the violence at 520.

In October 2011 the government released the report on postelection violence of the Presidential Committee on the 2011 Election Violence and Civil Disturbances. Retired grand qadi Sheikh Ahmed Lemu led a panel that investigated the causes of postelection violence and developed recommendations to prevent such occurrences in the future. The panel found the causes of the violence included widespread public desire for change following failed promises to fix infrastructure, corruption, zoning policies that turned the election into an ethnoreligious contest, rumor mongering and negative campaigning, the failure of the government to enact previous panel recommendations, and the individual actions of some candidates. The report specifically identified CPC candidate Buhari as contributing to the violence. The panel found his comment to supporters to “guard their vote” was “misconstrued by many voters to include recourse to violence which they did.”

During 2011 the courts continued to hear and adjudicate cases related to the April elections. Following the elections the CPC filed a petition challenging President Jonathan’s victory in court. The CPC petitioned to have election results overturned in 20 states. In November 2011 the Presidential Election Tribunal upheld the presidential election results. In April 2011 election rioters in Giade, Bauchi State, killed seven National Youth Service Corps members who manned polls on election duty, a policewoman, and two businessmen. A Bauchi magistrate court presided over the case, which included 20 suspects connected with the killings, as well as 21 others suspected of other postelection murders. The case remained in court at the end of 2012.




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