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Nigeria’s 2023 Election Security Landscape - Drivers, Actors and Emerging Challenges

The year 2023 in Nigeria was marked by a series of elections. In February, there were presidential and legislative elections, followed by gubernatorial contests in March, supplementary contests in April, and three off-cycle governorship elections in November. These electoral events were influenced by various factors, ranging from identity politics to the challenges faced by electoral and security institutions. In the aftermath of the fiercely contested elections, both local and foreign stakeholders remain concerned about the country’s security and political landscape. The challenges anticipated for the new administration are considerable, and this report aims to shed light on the intricate interplay between insecurity and electoral processes, providing insights for stakeholders to navigate the complex issues at hand. Security challenges are pervasive across the entire country. In the North-Central, conflicts between pastoralists and farmers over resources have been prominent. In the South-South zone, persistent oil-related militancy remains a significant concern. Secessionist movements in the South-East continue to cause challenges to the state, while the North-West and North-East have continued to grapple with militant jihadist groups and the proliferation of communal militias and other non-state armed groups. Finally, the South-West has witnessed increased clashes between the regional community militia and other groups, ranging from pastoralists to other security outfits. Despite former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration (2015 – 2023) having been elected largely on the promise of addressing insecurity, these challenges persist under his successor. In ensuring Nigeria’s peace and stability, this report identifies three emerging post-election challenges that underscore the critical need to address the drivers of political violence, indicative of state-society relations and their impact on elections. First, in response to security and legitimacy concerns in the lead-up to and the immediate aftermath of the 2023 elections, the Nigerian government must prioritise addressing concerns related to marginalisation and identity. These concerns have been prominent factors contributing to electoral violence observed in all four elections this year, posing a substantial risk of further unrest. Second, considering the enduring influence and political power wielded by incumbent leaders, it is imperative for the Nigerian government to adopt a comprehensive strategy to address and mitigate the risks associated with the abuse of power manifested in leaders’ involvement in politics. Finally, the government must address citizens’ concerns that politicians exploit judicial actions to secure office through the courts, which has continued to exacerbate conflict, especially in areas where elections are keenly contested.
Afolabi Adekaiyaoja, Dengiyefa Angalapu, Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele

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