Today The Atlantic is publishing an open letter to President Joe Biden from the acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Adichie. In the letter, “Nigeria’s Hollow Democracy,” Adichie confronts the question of why Americans keep congratulating the winner of Nigeria’s disastrous election in February.
Following the passage of the 2022 Electoral Act in Nigeria, which gave legal backing to the vote-counting process, “something remarkable happened on the morning of February 25, the day of the Nigerian presidential election,” Adichie writes. “Many Nigerians went out to vote holding in their hearts a new sense of trust. Cautious trust, but still trust.” What followed was a breach of that trust, when on February 26 social media became flooded with evidence of voting irregularities: “numbers crossed out and rewritten; some originally written in black ink had been rewritten in blue, some blunderingly whited-out with Tipp-Ex. The election had been not only rigged, but done in such a shoddy, shabby manner that it insulted the intelligence of Nigerians.”
The ruling party’s candidate, Bola Tinubu, was eventually announced as the president-elect of Nigeria. “Rage is brewing,” Adichie writes, “especially among young people. The discontent, the despair, the tension in the air have not been this palpable in years.”
Adichie questions the U.S. State Department’s response in congratulating Tinubu and accepting the election results: “American intelligence surely cannot be so inept. A little homework and they would know what is manifestly obvious to me and so many others: The process was imperiled not by technical shortcomings but by deliberate manipulation.” To Biden, Adichie writes: “You have spoken of the importance of a ‘global community for democracy,’ and the need to stand up for ‘justice and the rule of law.’ A global community for democracy cannot thrive in the face of apathy from its most powerful member. Why would the United States, which prioritizes the rule of law, endorse a president-elect who has emerged from an unlawful process?”
Adichie concludes: “Congratulating [the election’s] outcome, President Biden, tarnishes America’s self-proclaimed commitment to democracy. Please do not give the sheen of legitimacy to an illegitimate process. The United States should be what it says it is.”
Chimamanda Adichie’s full letter, “Nigeria’s Hollow Democracy,” is online today at TheAtlantic.com.
Paul Jackson, Senior Director of Communications