Prior to 2015, Nigeria had a troubled history with democracy. The 2011 elections sparked widespread violence in the north of the country in which 800 people died, while the contest four years earlier was judged dismally by international observers and also led to violence. Prior to this, the military had run the country for much of its post-colonial history.1 The prospects of a peaceful election were reduced even further by ongoing political violence in Biafra and the Niger Delta, the fight against Boko Haram in the north of the country, concerns about the politicisation of the security services, and the extremely confrontational rhetoric and confessional divide between the two main Nigerian political parties.2 Together, these factors served to create a perfect storm which observers predicted could push Africa’s most populous state into a devastating civil war during the 2015 elections.
Recognising the potential for calamity, personnel of the Office of the Presidency began hosting a series of consultations in June 2014 aimed at making the political parties aware of the danger that their rhetoric was placing Nigeria in.3 These efforts culminated in January 2015 with the National Sensitization Workshop on Non-Violence in the 2015 Elections, in which all presidential candidates and political parties contesting the election signed a peace agreement, known as the Abuja Accord, in the presence of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former Commonwealth Secretary-General Emeka Anyaoku, who chaired the event.4 The Accord recommended establishing a National Peace Committee to monitor adherence to its principles. The Committee was established in weeks and was tasked with advising the government and electoral commission on the resolution of disputes and making itself available for national mediation and conciliation in the case of electoral violence or armed conflict.5 The efforts of the Committee were abetted by logistical and financial support from the UN Development Programme and the Centre of Humanitarian Dialogue, as well as the parallel efforts of the United Nations Office for West Africa to prevent conflict.6 Upon election day, the defeated candidate conceded and called for his followers to accept the outcome, marking the conclusion of Nigeria’s first fair and peaceful elections.7