Toward a Second Independence: Repairing Nigeria's Electoral Commission, 2010-2011


After three flawed national elections, the government of Nigeria faced strong pressure to reform its electoral commission before the 2011 vote. President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Attahiru Jega, a university vice chancellor with a civil society background, to chair the commission and lead reforms. With too little time to overhaul the commission, Jega brought in a small team of trusted advisers and drew upon a support network of civil society groups to extend the commission’s reach. To build credibility, he promoted transparency both within the commission and toward the public, tapped new sources of publicly trusted election workers, created a new voter registry, reformed balloting procedures, and improved cooperation with political parties and government agencies. Despite logistical problems and an outbreak of post-election violence, observers validated the elections as the freest and fairest in Nigerian history.

Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study based on interviews he and Rahmane Idrissa conducted in Abuja, Kaduna, Lagos, and Zaria, Nigeria, in September and October 2011, and on an interview Laura Bacon conducted in Washington in November 2012. Case published December 2012. For a closer look at technical innovations in Nigeria’s 2011 elections, particularly in electronic voter registration and the use of social media, see “Rebooting the System: Technological Reforms in Nigerian Elections, 2010-2011."
Associated Interview(s):  Attahiru Jega
Goodluck Jonathan
Election Violence
2011 Elections
Enough is Enough
Muhammadu Buhari
Congress for Progressive Change
People’s Democratic Party
Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre
Macarthur Foundation
Independent National Election Commission
National Youth Service Corps
Modified Open Ballot System
Civil Society Situation Room
Focus Area(s)
Critical Tasks
Boundary delimitation/districting
Election schedules
Election security
Legal framework
Poll worker management
Vote counting
Core Challenge
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Gabriel Kuris