For safety purposes, the government mandated a curfew on election eve. Local police stood armed at polling places. The
military was on
alert in preparation for any major violent outbreaks while members of
political parties engaged in fiery verbal and physical exchanges
In the days preceding the elections, the manner in which a person
anticipated the coming elections directly correlated with their party
affiliation. Those associated with the People's Democratic Party (PDP),
the party to which the President and most of the key legislators
belong, eagerly anticipated the elections.
They thought that the results of the pending elections would follow the
trend of the April 12th National Assembly elections, with
the PDP maintaining control of the government. The opposition parties
looked to the elections with more trepidation, punctuated by concerns
of voter fraud and other instances of corruption.
Election Day in Cross River State
Dr. Ruth K. Oniang'o, a member of Kenya's Parliament and IRI delegate,
and I observed the elections in Cross River State. Most of the
polling places in Cross River State, like those in most of the country,
were outdoors. The
voting process consisted of the voter placing his/her finger on an
inkpad and making a "print" near the person's name and/or political
party they were supporting.
We saw concerns of fraud and corruption first-hand on election eve when
a local citizen showed us marked ballots and pre-marked election result
forms for the next day's election. There were several other
irregularities. In several instances, the local police "aided"
voters in casting ballots. Many polling locations that were
open for the April 12th elections were not open for the April 19th
elections. Another irregularity affected members of the opposition
parties. Though the Nigerian agency regulating the election
process allowed them to have a representative at the polling places,
local officials did not allow them this right in
An Outlook on the Future of Nigeria's Democracy
While Cross River State is an example of some disheartening
elements of the voting process, other states showed progress. In
states such as Lagos and Bauchi, IRI observers noted that the
government had made slight improvements since the April 12 election on
voter privacy and logistical procedures
at the polling places.
Great problems still exist in the Nigerian voting procedure. As a
country that is a fledgling democracy, we expect such problems. Many
concurred that the lack of a truly independent and objective monitoring
system is the root of the problem.
As many expected, President Obasanjo won reelection
overwhelmingly. His party remained in control of many states. Overall,
I was pleased to have witnessed some of the estimated 60 million voters
who participated in the democratic process.
Editor's Note: Black America's Political Action Committee (BAMPAC) President and CEO Alvin Williams served as an election observer for the April 19, 2003 Nigerian Presidential and Gubernatorial Elections. The International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide, chose the observers.