Vox pop: Any lessons from the 2023 guber, state assembly elections?

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The 2023 general elections have been held, with upsets caused in different states. Although results of the guber election are yet to be announced in some states, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won in different states. PAUL OKAH speaks with a cross-section of Nigerians on the lessons learnt from the elections.

Electoral violence in Lagos, others

When the Peoples Democratic Party was in power for 16 years, from 1999 to 2015, many Nigerians, especially members of the opposition, complained of the party’s haughtiness, highhandedness and fixation with victory. PDP was accused of seeing election as a “do-or-die affair.” In 2015, following the manner President Goodluck Jonathan approached the elections, continuously stating that his ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian and handing over smoothly to President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, Nigeria was praised as maturing in democracy.

However, whatever happened in the past has been dimmed by what happened at the 2023 elections. In the February 25 presidential election, INEC was accused of breaking its rule to transmit results electronically from all polling units to its server. INEC ended up announcing results from result sheets that were clearly mutilated, despite the complaints of opposition parties, and declared the candidate of the ruling APC the winner. The election was also marred by violence: thugs attacked voters in different places, destroyed votes and chased away voters and electoral officials.

At the governorship election which was on Saturday last week, what happened at the presidential election became a child’s play. Before the election, an unprecedented ethnic campaign held sway, especially in Lagos. Even the spokesman for the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, made a threatening tweet to the effect that a resident of Lagos not to vote for Tinubu or Tinubu’s candidate in Lagos is a crime. It was not surprising that on the governorship Election Day, guns, machetes, bottles and clubs were used on voters.

Thugs screened people and allowed them to vote based on their ethnic group. If there were repeated firm words from the APC leadership against such violence, such violence would not have occurred. This has emboldened more people to say or do whatever they like because they know there is no consequence for that. Violence seems to have been normalised as part of our democracy. Sadly, it is coming from people who were victims of political highhandedness. With the official endorsement given to thuggery, ethnic baiting and suppression of the opposition, Nigeria is going into a dangerous phase of its existence. But there is still enough time to step back from this dangerous path.

…Azuka Onwuka, columnist

INEC as the scapegoat

Violence undermined the improved conduct of the governorship and houses of assembly elections by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The combination of violence, vote-buying, online and offline intimidation of voters, disinformation and decreased citizens’ trust showed clearly in the elections.

CDD’s findings came from the data of its 1,200 observers deployed to keep a close watch on the electoral process. CDD, in the post-election analysis also put the spotlight on the mindboggling violence which affected the elections. As data showed, violence occurred in 10.8 per cent of polling units observed.

It should be pointed out that voter suppression, voter intimidation and the destruction or theft of election materials predominantly by political party agents and politically aligned thugs was recorded across all six geopolitical zones. 10.8 per cent of observed polling units recorded violence and or fighting. This was most pronounced in the northwest (19.9 per cent) and south-south (11.6 per cent) geopolitical zones with Bayelsa and Zamfara the two states with the most incidents recorded by our observers.

…Prof. Adele Jinadu, chair of election analysis centre, Centre for Democracy Development

Rigging in South-east

Worst voter suppression is going on in the Southeast. In Ebonyi, many were killed, wounded and some disenfranchised. These killings were done openly, but nothing happened. The National Assembly election was rigged. Governorship and house of assembly elections were rigged and the APC candidate declared governor. All APC candidates were declared winners in the house of assembly election, except for few seats. This is the same thing that happened in Imo state. All the elections were rigged.

Governor Hope Uzodimma did not even allow opposition candidates to be part of the election if you were not supported by him. The 2023 general elections seem to have been won by only APC. Many were harmed in different South-east states. There was severe suppression of voters and votes. This happened in many of the South-east states. The Labour Party candidate, Oyibo Chukwu, and 8 others were shot dead and burnt, but many people are not talking about it. It is bad enough we are still battling with sit-at-home order and unknown gunmen. Let us put our house in order as we cannot move ahead in our land with tyrants as our leaders.

… Francis Chukwu, civil servant

Nationwide violence

There were threats or actual unleashing of violence, which manifested in the use of online and offline tactics to scare off or drive away voters from the polls. Political actors deployed violence, not only offline, but also online; through the use of identity to drive misinformation and disinformation on social media. These disruptive activities caused a multiplier effect, which further led to the reduction of voters’ appetite to cast their ballots.

Even though some efforts were made, where possible, to hold polls the following day for example, there were also attacks directed at, or threats made toward, ad-hoc INEC staff; with one shot in Cross River and more than 10 kidnapped after voting in Imo state. Journalists reporting on the election in Lagos, Rivers and Ogun, domestic election observers and other party agents were not left out.

The implication of the anomalies witnessed during the polls for Nigeria’s democracy and development is a wave of post-election litigations that would probably come. This has the added effect of seeing courts have a role in determining “elected” officials, further undermining voters’ sense that their vote is valued and has an impact on the outcome of an election process.

There is a need for Nigerians to become more resistant to build accountability in the electoral system. I am concerned over the recurring electoral malpractices in Nigeria’s elections and there is need for deliberate actions to stop them. There were incidences of violence against women at polling units in Lagos, Kano, Bauchi for simply just expressing their choice or simply associating with a candidate. All these factors need to be curbed to make democracy work for all.

…Dr. Joe Abah, political analyst

LP, Obi factors dwindled

All the states won by Peter Obi in the presidential election have now been won by other parties in the governorship election. This is to tell you that Obi was the factor, and not the Labour Party. If Obi had contested as an independent candidate, he would still score those over six million votes. Labour Party has nothing on ground to make you win major elections.

In 2019, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party was unknown and the party couldn’t win one unit in the whole country. So, it’s about Obi and not about Labour Party. I said in January that Labour Party lacks what it takes to win any election. They have no office in many local government areas across the country. Their party officials are nowhere to be found. No money to finance the party, nothing on ground at all. The results of the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections, especially the South-east, have proven that Labour Party is not on ground.

Even in Anambra, APGA took the lead. In Imo and Ebonyi, APC took the lead. In Enugu, PDP took the lead. Abia is 50-50. This is a clear indication that Obi was the reason they all voted for LP in the presidential election and many factors contributed to the surge in Obi’s popularity.

The Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC was a major cause of the surge. The old age of Tinubu and the Fulani oligarchy promoting the candidature of Atiku gave rise to the massive support Obi got in the South and parts of the North-central. If APC had presented the likes of Osinbajo as its candidate, many Christians who voted Obi would have definitely voted for Osinbajo. The story would have been different.

We should do a comparative analysis and make predictions correctly and without emotions or bias. Politics remains local and many factors will always come in to determine who wins. If the governorship elections across the country had been conducted the same day with the presidential, Labour Party would have won in about 10 states. The wave of the presidential election would have made the difference. Those who don’t know about political scenario should learn and stop throwing tantrums on social media.

…Watchman Peters, public affairs commentator

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