Nigeria Decides: Anxiety as states elect governors, lawmakers
• Expect Better Security, IGP Re-assures Nigerians
• Hot Contests In Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Rivers, Enugu, Others
• No Supplementary NASS Elections Today, Says INEC
• HURIWA, Others Condemn Violence Threats In Lagos
As 837 governorship candidates across 28 states and 10,240 flag bearers for the 993 State Assembly seats seek the votes of the electorate in today’s governorship and State Assembly elections, there are fears in many states over threats of violence.
However, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has re-assured the electorate that there would be a better and improved security arrangement for the elections.
This was as concerns over the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the results of the exercise reflect the will of the electorate heightened yesterday.
Meanwhile, INEC, yesterday, clarified that it would not conduct supplementary National Assembly elections alongside the governorship and state Houses of Assembly elections today. The commission said it has not scheduled the conduct of supplementary elections arising from the Presidential and National Assembly elections.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, INEC, Festus Okoye, in a statement, said a date would be fixed for the supplementary elections.
Okoye, however, clarified that two National Assembly elections in Enugu and Edo earlier suspended by the Commission and rescheduled would hold along with the governorship and State Assembly elections.
He stated: “The attention of the Independent National Electoral Commission has been drawn to a news report that conveyed the impression that the Commission intends to conduct supplementary elections arising from the Presidential and National Assembly elections together with the Governorship and State Assembly elections that will take place on Saturday, March 18, 2023. This is not correct.
“The Commission has not scheduled the conduct of supplementary elections arising from the Presidential and National Assembly elections. For clarity, the supplementary elections will take place on a date to be announced by the Commission immediately after the Governorship and State Assembly elections.
“However, this should not be confused with the two National Assembly elections earlier suspended by the Commission and rescheduled to hold along with the Governorship and State Assembly elections. First is the Enugu East Senatorial District election, which was countermanded to allow the Labour Party conduct a fresh primary election to replace its deceased candidate in line with the provision of Section 34(1) of the Electoral Act 2022.
“The second is the Esan Central/Esan West/Igueben Federal Constituency of Edo State following issues with the ballot paper for the election. These are not supplementary but main elections that could not be held earlier.
“The public is advised to disregard any report alluding to the conduct of supplementary elections alongside the Governorship and State Assembly elections tomorrow Saturday 18th March 2023,” he said.
Amid fears that violence could mar the polls in many states, IGP Alkali Baba, has reiterated that the police has put in place a better and improved security arrangement for the conduct of the elections.
He disclosed that Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIGs) have been deployed to the six geo-political zones to oversee the election security management.
He said the DIGs, who represent each of the country’s geo-political zones at the Force Management level, have been deployed to superintend over the security emplacements in their respective zones so as to ensure that security is watertight and electorates enjoy an atmosphere devoid of harassment, intimidation and threats.
According to police spokesman, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, they include “DIG Moses Jitoboh, (South-South 08064950806); DIG John Amadi, (South-East 07038342417); DIG Ali Janga, (North-East 08030747724); DIG Hafiz Inuwa, (North-West 08181255950); and DIG Adeleke Adeyinka, (North Central 08033440189/08032875937) who doubles as the DIG Operations supervising the elections from the Force Headquarters.”
He added: “The IGP has charged the DIGs, who are being assisted by Assistant Inspectors-General of Police (AIGs) and Commissioners of Police (CPs) at the States and Senatorial Districts and other Senior Officers at Local Council Areas, to adopt both kinetic and non-kinetic approaches towards delivering a more secured and credible electoral process in their respective zones.
“Additionally, the Inspector-General of Police urges all citizens to exercise their right to vote without resorting to violence or intimidation while obeying the law and respecting the rights of others. The IGP also calls on political parties to ensure that their activities are conducted in a peaceful and respectful manner.”
ALSO, towards ensuring a peaceful atmosphere in the voting process, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has asked the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) to arrest Musilu Akinsanya also known as M.C. Oluomo for reportedly threatening voters who may not want to vote for candidates of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC),
HURIWA has also asked Lagos residents to arm themselves with legitimate weapons so as to protect their inalienable right to life, alleging that the security forces in Lagos were apparently compromised and working with the reactionary forces bent on causing violence.
In a statement yesterday, HURIWA’s founder, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, said: “Chairman of Lagos State Park and Garage Management Committee Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, had threatened the electorate in Lagos to stay at home on March 18 if they will not vote for the APC.
“MC Oluomo said this in a viral video shared on social media on Thursday appearing to be talking to the Igbo ethnic group, many of whom reside in Lagos.
“He said in Pidgin English, ‘We have begged them; it is not a fight if they did not vote for us. Iya Chukwudi, if you no wan vote for us, please sit down at home oo. We don’t want your vote.’
“This followed anxiety that there might be a repeat of the Labour Party’s victory over the APC in the February 25 presidential election in which Peter Obi scored more votes compared to Bola Tinubu, a strongman in Lagos politics.
“As of press time, Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had not reacted to MC Oluomo’s threat.
“HURIWA is hereby asking the IGP, Usman Alkali Baba, or the Director General of the Department of State Services (DSS), Alhaji Yusuf Magaji Bichi, to order the immediate arrest of MC Oluomo and his prosecution for incitement to violence.”
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, has also warned political leaders across the country, especially in Lagos State, to desist from actions that promote election violence that could compromise peace and unity and democracy in the country.
Atiku, in a statement released by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, yesterday, specifically frowned at how “lackeys of political leaders in Lagos State continue to make ethnic slurs aimed at intimidating voters in the state.”
He said: “I have watched with profound disdain a certain video in circulation where some persons known to be associates of the leaders of the ruling party in Lagos State are issuing threats against other ethnic groups in the build up to the Governorship and State House of Assembly election in the state tomorrow.
“I condemn this uncivilised behaviour and also condemn the criminal silence of the security agencies and the political leadership in Lagos State and Abuja on this development.”
MEANWHILE, key political observers have identified three major factors that may enhance or undermine the credibility of the elections.
First is the security of the entire process, especially in some seemingly volatile states like Oyo, Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Rivers and others where there have been threats of violence since the results of the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections were announced.
Nigerians have also raised concerns on the integrity of the process, as they have continued to question the credibility and integrity of the INEC following its failure to electronically transmit the results of the February 25 elections as it had promised.
Many electorates, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, warned that failure to transmit the results of the governorship and State Assembly elections electronically to underscore the credibility of the process could have dire consequences for the nation, “because this election is closer to the people than the presidential poll.”
The desperation already displayed by some governors, especially incumbents who are seeking re-election and outgoing governors who are bent on rigging the process to ensure that their anointed successors win “at all cost” is also a major concern to observers. The development has already polarised the electorate along ethnic and religious lines even as tension keeps building up in the affected states.
IN Lagos State, for instance, there are fears that unless security personnel live up to expectations, there could be a breakdown of law and order as a particular ethnic group in the state is said to be mobilisng support for the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and all candidates of the party, a development that appears to have enraged supporters of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who is seeking re-election.
In Oyo State, loyalists of Governor Seyi Makinde of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who is seeking a second term and that of his major rival, Senator Teslim Folarin of the APC, have been fighting dirty to ensure that there candidates emerge victorious at the polls.
In fact, the Oyo State Police Command, yesterday confirmed that a clash between supporters of the two parties last Thursday claimed the lives of three people while 13 others sustained injuries. An unspecified number of motorcycles and vehicles were also reportedly damaged. The clash took place at the Ile-tuntun area in the Ibadan South-East local council.
Findings by The Guardian revealed that members of the APC were holding a meeting at their party office at Iyana Court, Ile-tuntun in Ibadan, when vehicles of the PDP members passing by provoked APC loyalists and started throwing objects at them, hence the fracas.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Adewale Osifeso, who called in on a programme on Fresh FM, Ibadan, said the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department had been mandated to lead an investigating team to the scene of the incident.
Osifeso said: “Yes, the unfortunate incident did occur yesterday (Thursday), and as we speak investigation has commenced into unraveling the root cause of the incident. Oyo State is the cradle of sophistication and the world depends on Oyo for a lot of things. We should not continue in the trajectory known for hooliganism. Elections will come and go but people will be there.”
The police spokesman urged leaders, parents and guardians to prevail on their wards against being used to scuttle the electoral process. Similar incidents are also playing out in some of the states surveyed by The Guardian as the following reports show:
Delta: PDP, APC, LP On Edge
THE victory of the LP in the February 25 election in Delta State has thrown today’s governorship and House of Assembly race open for grab by the LP, APC and the ruling PDP.
Before February 25, the contest was considered a two-horse race between the ruling PDP and resurging opposition APC, and rightly so, based on antecedents. But not anymore, as the outcome of the last election threw the door open for the now three major parties in the state, as LP polled 341,866 votes while PDP trailed with 161,600 votes and APC 90,183 votes across the 25 local government areas.
With those figures, and if the turnout of voters, particularly youths, continue today, perhaps LP would be the party to beat. Certainly, the last election has brightened the chances of both the LP and APC, just as it appeared to have dimmed that of the PDP. More so, the one-week shift of the election date afforded all the parties the opportunity to campaign more vigorously.
Given the performance of the three parties on February 25, the old order has changed, and could change further into an upset if the trend continues today. With LP shaking the table and pulling a huge surprise, some observers predict that it’s game over for PDP in the state, as its dominance has been decimated, particularly with its fractured umbrella arising from its choice of candidates.
Today’s governorship race is between LP’s Kennedy Pela, who is relying heavily on his party’s rising profile, especially among the youth; current Speaker of the House of Assembly in the last eight years, Sheriff Oborevwori of the PDP, who the structure favours; and APC’s Ovie Omo-Agege, the current Deputy Senate President.
Since the announcement of the results for the presidential election, most youths in the state and other LP supporters have become despondent and unless the plea of party chieftains to troop out to vote today sinks in, there might be voter apathy. Feeling that their votes were stolen or did not count in the last election, despite standing in the sun and rain to cast their votes, based on the hope of a better future, many of them vowed not to waste their time again by coming out to vote.
This is a major factor that could hinder LP and Pela from winning the election. But if the momentum is sustained, Delta is in for a big upset. On this note, the party and its candidates have been going round mobilising supporters, insisting a new Nigeria is still possible.
Omo-Agege, buoyed by APC’s strong showing in the last election, to the surprise of many critics and discomfort of the ruling PDP, made a last push effort in the last one week of campaigns. The rumoured support from a former governor of the state, Chief James Ibori, is giving him more impetus.
Omo-Agege was an executive assistant to Ibori in 2003, Commissioner for Special Duties in 2005 and Secretary to the State Government (SSG) in 2007. But only a low turnout of LP supporters can give him victory.
As for the PDP, it was almost a done deal until the February 25 poll outcome sent it back to the drawing board. All has not been well under the umbrella since in governorship primary election, as the number of members feeling alienated rose with the emergence of Oborevwori as the flag bearer.
Apart from the court case instituted by the first runner-up, David Edevbie, who was Ibori’s preferred candidate, some other members left or remain aloof in its affairs. Even Ibori himself has not fully identified with the party since then, though his daughter won election into the House of Representatives. Some political analysts said Governor Ifeanyi Okowa might be losing grip of the state’s politics if LP repeats its last feat.
Realising this, PDP, immediately after the poll, embarked on more aggressive campaigns, trying to regain lost grounds, with the state government meeting with various groups, including civil servants, who were paid N10,000 each to enable them go to their polling units to vote, while political appointees were given a marching order to deliver their units/wards.
As things stand, the governorship race is open for PDP, APC and LP to win, depending on the extraneous factors.
Hot Race To Kano Government House
THE race to Kano State Government House cannot only be seen as a rough journey for the three major political parties in the state, but also for the electorate who entertain fears of violence, given the recent exchange of verbal venom between the competing parties.
Undoubtedly, the struggle for power is between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which has Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who is Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje’s anointed successor as its candidate, and his major challenger, Abba Kabir Yusuf of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP). The NNPP candidate, who has the backing of former governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, had lost to Ganduje in 2019.
The state chapter of People’s Democratic party (PDP) under the leadership of former governor Ibrahim Shekarau has been decimated in strength and size by protracted litigation over the authentic governorship candidate of the party in state. Although, the Supreme Court has ruled in favour of Sadiq Aminu Wali, the son of one the founding members of the party, Ambassador Aminu Wali, against Mohammed Abacha, the son of late military Head of State Sani Abacha, the party doesn’t seem to stand on a good stead for today’s elections.
Looking at the outcome of the three major political parties in the state during the last presidential/National Assembly elections, the NNPP swept 18 out of 24 seats at the House of Representatives so far declared, while the ruling APC won six seats with Tudun Wada/Doguwa and Fagge Federal Constituencies in contention. The NNPP also won two seats in the Senate, while Barau Jubril of the APC retained Kano North Senatorial seat.
However, the battle for the governorship seat has taken a new turn as the two strong political parties in the state, the NNPP and APC, have been throwing jabs at each other.
As a result, some political parties raised the alarm over alleged attempts to disrupt polls by bandits suspected to have been brought in from Niger and Chad Republics into the state. The political parties and their governorship candidates lamented how thugs were used to unleash terror in some local councils during the last polls.
This was as the police also disclosed that some elements were plotting mayhem by bringing thugs into the state with the sole aim of disrupting the elections.
However, the Commissioner of Police, through a statement signed by the police spokesman in the state, DSP Abdullahi Kiyawa, warned all thugs, mischief makers and miscreants to stay clear of the state, adding that the Command would not relent in its efforts at dealing decisively with troublemakers.
“The Command will, in liaison with other security agencies in the state, ensure the arrest and diligent prosecution of all suspects. The thugs will also be charged to court alongside their sponsors in the same vein,” he warned.
Some residents interviewed by The Guardian, urged the political actors to let the electoral process to take its course by allowing the process to be violence free.
No Rancour In Plateau As Residents Vote
AS the campaigns leading to the governorship and state House of Assembly elections ended last Thursday night, many contending issues had unsettled the Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
For instance, the LP’s National Working Committee, in a statement signed by its National Chairman, Julius Abure, directed the state chapter party to collapse its structures and join the PDP as approved by the National Executive Council of LP.
According to the statement, LP is believed to have a better working relationship with PDP, adding that the decision was taken with a view to joining forces to defeat the ruling APC in the state in today’s election.
But in a swift reaction, however, the state leadership of the party described its purported endorsement of the gubernatorial candidate of PDP, Caleb Mutfwang, in the state as fake news.
Meanwhile, the stage is set for today’s election as all the major political parties in the state – the LP, APC and PDP – rounded off their campaign activities with all sense of optimism that they would win the election.
The Guardian observed that some residents of Jos, the state capital, have travelled to their villages where they registered to enable them exercise their franchise.
Meanwhile, the political atmosphere in Jos is devoid of bitterness, as the contestants seem to have come to terms with the fact that whoever wins the race would lead the entire state.
Kaduna Remains Calm Despite Provocations
THE situation in Kaduna State is also calm, as the people go into the governorship and State Assembly elections today despite provocations and attempts to instigate violence.
There were series of attacks and killings in parts of Southern Kaduna and Kaduna metropolis, carried out by terrorists and other armed men, just few days to the polls, but the residents applied wisdom and decided against embarking on reprisal measures that would have endangered the elections.
It would be recalled that a fortnight ago, the presidential and National Assembly elections were held in an atmosphere of serenity, and the outcome of the polls gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) an overwhelming victory.
However, today’s election would be a hot contest between the APC candidate, Uba Sani, Isah Ashiru of the PDP and Jonathan Asake of the Labour Party (LP).
Abia: 18 Parties In Hot Contest For Governorship Seat
IN Abia State, there are fears of the election being a “do or die” exercise, as 18 political parties presented candidates. One clear indication of this was that a state government official had, while addressing an open political rally, threatened death for any voter that would not or did not vote for his party.
His reported subsequent arrest by the DSS has been commended widely in the state.
But the state PDP spokesman, Elder Abraham Amah, had in a statement dissociated his party from the arrested government official, saying he was on his own.
However, the election would be conducted in the state without the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Prof. Ike Uzochukwu, overseeing it. The electoral umpire had directed Uzochukwu to step aside after the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections while the Administrative Secretary took charge.
While 305 candidates comprising 283 males and 22 females are vying for the 24 state House of Assembly seats, 18 candidates comprising 30 males and six females are vying for the governorship position.
In the national elections, the Labour Party came out tops winning one Senate seat and six of the eight House of Representatives seats. The All Progressives Congress (APC) won one senate and one House of Representatives; All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won one Senate seat while the state ruling PDP won only one House of Representatives seat.
The LP victory was attributed largely to the influence of the Peter Obi movement. Though still palpable, the other political parties have been desperately dousing it, urging the electorate to vote for the governorship candidates of their choice since Obi is not a contestant. While the ruling PDP has vowed not to lose the governorship election and thus vigorously canvassing for votes, the LP is hoping to latch on its February 25 victory to ascend to Abia State Government House. Other political parties like APGA, APC, Young Progressives Party (YPP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), are also optimistic of winning. So far, there has not been any re-alignment of forces by any of the contesting parties.
The state government and security agencies have stressed the need for a peaceful election. The political parties under the auspices of Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) had also signed a peace accord orchestrated by the state Police Command.
The state government has also directed residents to comply with the directive of the Inspector General of Police on restriction movement from 12 midnight yesterday to 6pm today.
Speaking with The Guardian, the state IPAC Chairman, Chief Ceekay Igara, commended the arrangements on ground but emphasised timely delivery of election materials and early arrival of officials.
A registered voter, Mr. Gab Ike, also stated that if the lapses observed in the February 25 had been addressed, a better poll was expected.
Enugu: PDP, LP, APGA, APC In Fierce Battle For Lion Building
ENUGU became one of the flash points in the 2023 elections, following the defeat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had dominated the politics of the state during the presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25.
This paved the way for what is being currently described as epic battle for the soul of the state among four leading political parties.
On February 25, the newly formed and lowly rated Labour Party (LP) had snatched seven of the eight House of Representatives seats and one of the two senatorial seats contested so far from the PDP. With the development, it dawned on the PDP that it must do all in its ability to recover the state and continue to control power through today’s elections.
To do this, however, the party must battle with the LP, which has become the new sing song for the people of the state; and also the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and All Progressives Congress (APC)
While the PDP has Dr. Peter Mbah, an entrepreneur as its candidate; LP has Chijioke Edeoga, a lawyer and former lawmaker; APGA has Frank Nweke, a former minister while APC has Uche Nnaji, a businessman.
All the contestants hail from Enugu East Senatorial zone in line with the rotation mantra in the state initiated by the PDP in 1999. This is what would make today’s governorship and State House of Assembly elections interesting and tough in the state.
While the PDP would aim at total victory, the LP would strive to ensure that its earlier victory was not a fluke. APGA and APC on the other hand would want to make their first electoral impressions in the state.
On the flip side, the contest is eliciting reactions as it has enthroned concerns over security of lives and property as each party aims to gain something from the elections.
Speaking on the desperation that has attended the exercise in the state, a civil rights lawyer, Jonas Ezeoma, told The Guardian that it was “expected, especially with the upset in the last elections” warning however that, it should not give room for “ loss of lives and property.”