2019 elections in Nigeria will be crucial

As Nigeria looks ahead to its 2019 elections, officials from the U.S. Department of State say good governance — the kind that responds to citizens’ needs and roots out corruption — can unlock the country’s full potential.

There’s plenty to consider.

Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa, represents sub-Saharan Africa’s largest economy.

And, thanks to its burgeoning youth population, Nigeria is on track to become the world’s third most populous country by 2050, said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, who calls all of Africa a “place of trusted friends and partners.”

Woman in colorful robe taking selfie with five men around her (© AP Images)
Nigeria’s population is expected to climb to more than 300 million by 2050, up from its current 180 million, due in large part to an increase in the number of young people. (© AP Images)

“Nigeria’s peaceful, transparent elections in March 2015 showed the rest of Africa and the world that a complex, diverse society could conduct peaceful, democratic transitions of leadership,” Shannon said September 28. “As the country heads into state elections and the 2019 national elections, the United States is ready and willing to offer our technical assistance, as we have in the past.”

Shannon and two other State Department officials made their comments in Washington at a conference organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace, a nonpartisan institute that promotes peace in conflict areas. The conference was called “Nigeria: Challenges and Prospects for Advancing Durable Peace.”

A turning point

The U.S. relationship with Nigeria saw a turnaround after the country’s historic free and fair elections in 2015. They marked the first time an opposition candidate won a presidential election.

Person placing finger on handheld machine (© Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images)
Nigeria used a biometric system that relied on voters’ fingerprints during the 2015 elections. (© Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images)

“Elections that are free, fair and peaceful will ensure that democratic gains continue to be consolidated,” said Thomas Hushek, acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations within the State Department.

It is important that Nigeria build on the momentum from the 2015 elections in advance of the state and general elections, said Sandra Clark, the State Department’s director of the Office of West African Affairs. The U.S. is supporting efforts to build more effective, accountable institutions that are responsive to Nigerian citizens, she said. That includes building the capacity of Nigerian civil society organizations that audit government expenditures and demand accountability.

Clark sees good governance as the catalyst to a sustained resolution of conflicts throughout the country and to its continuing success as a democracy and economic powerhouse.

“Good governance is not only essential to Nigeria’s future stability but also to its economic growth — the two are interconnected,” Clark said. “Throughout my career, which has been primarily as an economic officer, I’ve seen how important governance is to businesses and investors. Good governance means predictable economic policies and transparent and well-functioning judicial systems.”

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.