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This paper examines the role of foreign election observers in Nigeria’s democratic elections, using the 2015 presidential election as a case study. The 2015 Presidential election in Nigeria yielded varied results.

Although expectations that Election Day would be marred by significant violence were much alleviated, certain instances of technical glitches, vote buying, and other forms of electoral fraud were reported in some areas. However, these electoral setbacks were insufficient to change the election’s projected outcome.

For the first time in Nigerian political history, a sitting president lost power in a national election. Has Nigeria’s democracy cemented satisfactorily? The purpose of this article is to investigate the trajectory of the 2015 presidential election using both qualitative and quantitative research approaches.

The report concludes that considerable work has to be done if Nigeria’s democracy is to meet Huntington’s second turn-over test, which states that if a new democracy survives two turnovers of power, it has successfully cemented itself.

The election was adjudged free and fair by all indices, as validated by international election monitoring teams who monitored the exercise and confirmed that, notwithstanding a few hitches, the exercise adhered to international best practices.

Chapter one


Nigerian politics have been characterised by violence since the 1990s. If a candidate loses an election, he and his party members have historically turned to violence to express their discontent with the outcome.

The past (military) and current regimes have encouraged this needless method of reacting to election results (Babatunde, 2007:54). Elections in Nigeria have historically been marred by irregularities and violence, threatening the country’s economic, social, and political stability.

Elections are an important activity for both developed and developing countries since they provide one of the tools for a country’s long-term growth (Attahiru, 2011:5). It fosters democracy by allowing citizens to engage in their country’s governance.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria will be remembered for the rest of the country’s history. It was an election that left Nigerians fearful of the probable outcomes, as the situation was extremely tense.

The absence of bloodshed following the 2015 general elections was a good omen that Nigeria will remain united indefinitely, as there were numerous suspicions from international observers and even Nigerians that the outcome of the election could lead to war.

These fears were very obvious bearing in mind some reasons: first, there was a strong opposition party that had bounced back stronger to take over from the ruling party, which they succeeded, second, the economy of the country was under serious attack from the Boko Haram insecurity in the northern part of the country, which could discourage voters,

and finally, it was crystal clear that the electoral body (INEC) was really unprepared because there were not Given the foregoing, it was difficult to expect calm elections throughout the country,

which is why international observers expressed concerns about the 2015 election. The 2015 general election saw the opposition party take power from the incumbent president, which had never happened in Nigeria’s history.

International observers have been seeing African elections for decades and reporting back to the world community on how they went (Obi and Abutudu, 1999:22). Almost all African countries have gradually implemented election monitoring to strengthen their democratic processes (Geisla, 1993:56-57).

International observers are often regarded as objective and nonpartisan, which is why their presence is critical in assessing a country’s performance during an election.

International observers are present not only in Africa during elections, but also in other Western countries (Stack, 1993:22-23). International observers include both governmental and non-governmental organisations such as the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations, and others.

International observers have been present at Nigerian elections in the past, and the most recent election, held in 2015, was no exception. According to INEC, 107 election observers have been accredited to monitor the 2015 elections.

Examples of the group include the International Republican Institute (IRI), the European Union Election Observation Mission, and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

The leader of one of the groups, the NDI, noted on how engaged Nigerians were in exercising their rights, directly preserving democratic principles. He mentioned some of the difficulties encountered during the election and urged the appropriate entities charged with resolving such issues to look into them.

One of these issues was related to the card reader system, which could read some people’s cards but not others in most circumstances. This group also noted to INEC’s failure to distribute election materials to polling locations on schedule (Andreassen 1993).

Another assessment from a separate international group observer, the European Union Election Observation Mission, stated that the 2015 elections were peaceful, and security forces did their best to ensure that they were so.

Nigeria, like most post-independence African republics, is suffering from a lack of development. The crisis manifested in economic, social, and political terms.

The nation’s politics have become characterised by a winner-take-all mentality, resulting in bloodshed, corruption, and the entertainment of what is known as antidevelopment politics.

While it is true that the military and succeeding civilian administrations have contributed to this dire situation, Nigerian politicians’ actions leaves much to be desired (Babatunde, 2007:53). Indeed, it can be stated unequivocally that there was no politics of consequence in Nigeria between 1999 and 2015.

That is, politics aimed at national growth and improving the material well-being of the broader population. This resulted in a clarion demand for change rather than continuance of the Peoples’ Democracy Party, which had dominated the country for sixteen years. Change can only be achieved through free and fair elections overseen by local and international observers.

The 2015 presidential election was significant because of the worldwide implications. It is fascinating to note that elections, which are typically scheduled routine occasions in which citizens choose individuals who make choices on their behalf, have become nearly defining events in Nigerian national life.

That is, elections in Nigeria today are defined as “do or die” and “capture” of offices by any means. However, this is not exclusive to Nigeria. Elections have become one of the most conspicuous vocations worldwide (Attahru 2011:4).

International election observers travel the world today, and more intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations are actively involved in election operations.

The importance of studying Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election stems from the country’s position in Africa, as well as the world community’s attention and respect for the state. Also, it is necessary to determine if the independent national electoral commission has improved on the flaws that happened during the previous 2011 general elections.

The 2011 election sparked widespread outrage, censure, and allegations of voter fraud. The study of the 2015 presidential election is critical in the sense that it is necessary to determine whether measures such as card readers machines, permanent voters cards, and an updated computerised voters registered list have reduced the occurrence of electoral fraud in Nigeria.

Also, how far the election was free, fair, and in accordance with international standards, as judged by international observers. Above all, the role, actions, and help provided by international observers contributed to the election’s success or failure.

This is why this study is being conducted to determine the impact of foreign electoral observers on election credibility in Nigeria, with a focus on the recent 2015 elections.

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