The governorship election which took place on March 18 across 28 out of the 36 states in Nigeria was keenly contested by major political parties.
While some governors were able to win their re-election bid or install successors, some others were not lucky as a result of many factors which affected the outcome of the poll.
In Lagos, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election with 762,134 votes to defeat his close rival, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP) who polled 312,329.
The election was characterised by ethnic and tribal war with the ruling party alleging a grand plot by non-indigenes to take over the state, tagging the LP candidate as an Igbo candidate.
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This was after the LP defeated the APC during the presidential election held on February 25.
Shortly after the presidential poll, the ruling party had to restrategise by deploying all its arsenals against the rampaging LP and the ‘Obidient’ movement in a bid to prevent the defeat of Sanwo-Olu, and by extension, the ruling party in the state.
The state also witnessed disenfranchisement as non-indigenes were prevented from voting in some areas. On the eve of the election, some thugs were reported to have moved from street to street in areas dominated by non-indigenes, warning that residents unwilling to vote for the ruling party should stay indoors on the day of the election.
Apart from the ethnic war, Sanwo-Olu was largely considered a better and more experienced candidate, compared to Rhodes-Vivour, who tried to cash in on the ‘Obidient’ movement, displacing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran, who was earlier considered the main challenger.
Speaking with our correspondent, the executive secretary of the Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform (CODER), Dr Wunmi Bewaji, said the governorship election was an entirely different configuration.
He noted that during the presidential election, the ruling party made some mistakes, which it corrected before the governorship election. He also said the LP shot itself in the foot by proclaiming its affinity with the Igbo.
The national secretary of the Nigerian Human Right Community (NIHRCO), Taiwo Adeleye, called for an end to ethnic profiling, saying it disjointed the harmony of residents in Lagos, weeks before the gubernatorial election.
“We are impressed by the statement credited to the Lagos State governor, that he would meet all stakeholders to ensure ethnic and religious harmony, a condition needed for prosperity to reign,” he said.
Harassment, intimidation of voters in Rivers, Ebonyi
Harassment, intimidation of voters and vote buying have been identified as major factors that characterised the governorship election in Rivers State.
The governorship election was marred with violence across the state with intimidation and harassment of voters and opposition party agents.
Cultists were allegedly mobilised to move around various communities and warned that those unwilling to vote for the PDP should not come out on the day of the election.
There were also many reported cases of ballot box snatching during the poll. The agent of the APC in Ahoada, Lenard Chisom, who resisted attempts to manipulate the election result, was kidnapped by gunmen in police uniform and later found dead.
At local government area collation centres across the state, agents of the opposition political parties were not allowed entry.
In Ebonyi, the ordeal the returning officer for Ishielu Local Government Area, Dr Chukwu Joseph, relayed at the headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abakaliki during the collation of the governorship results, revealed pockets of violence and alleged electoral malpractice in some parts of state.
In Ikwo Local Government Area, it was gathered that INEC had to get another returning officer when the one assigned to the area abandoned his duty after he was threatened on phone by a yet-to-be-disclosed source.
Another odd incident was the horrific murder of Nweke Peter, who was the chairman of the PDP in Ezza North Local Government Area. A PDP agent identified as Onyibe, was also brutally killed at one of the polling units in Onicha Local Government Area.
In Akwa Ibom State, the PDP won the governorship election, relying on the power of incumbency. The party has always been the ruling party in the state; hence the maxims that “PDP is a religion in Akwa Ibom,” and “PDP is Akwa Ibom and Akwa Ibom is PDP.”
However, this assertion was seriously challenged when some aggrieved political chieftains and members left the PDP when their ambitions were truncated with the endorsement of Pastor Umo Eno as the governorship candidate of the party by the state governor, Udom Emmanuel.
The likes of Senator Bassey Akpan, representing Akwa Ibom North East in the National Assembly and Akanimo Udofia, left the party to join the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and the APC respectively, where they emerged as governorship candidates.
Akpan pulled his political weight in the state to emerge second with 136,262 votes during the elections, as well as his party clinching two seats (Ibiono Ibom and Ikono) in the State House of Assembly.
The APC governorship candidate, Udofia, who relied on the political weight of Senator Godswill Akpabio to win the election, came a distant third because of the infighting within the party over the governorship ticket, which led to various court cases.
In Delta, the emergence of the ‘Obidient movement’ caused some upsets in the state.
The Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu, was among the major victims of the upset as he lost to the LP candidate, Ngozi Okolie, to represent Aniocha/Oshimili federal constituency.
In the governorship election, the PDP won, relying on the power of incumbency, including the ability to dole out money to the people at the grassroots to retain the state.
While the candidate of the APC and Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege alleged rigging, it was also learnt that some of those who decamped from the PDP and joined the APC days to the election went there as moles, while some legacy members of the APC felt cheated.
How interparty crisis made Makinde in Oyo
The two major parties in the state – PDP and APC – had internal crises. However, while the incumbent governor, Seyi Makinde, was able to mend bridges and get the support of Oyo people through lofty developmental projects executed by his administration, Teslim Folarin of the APC was not as lucky.
Makinde pacified Muslim groups and communities, especially on the Adogba mosque renaming saga, visited and appeased political influencers like Dotun Sanusi and other Oyo Mogajis, as well as used the state media and popular personalities to his advantage, especially during the one week postponement of the election.
The discords within Oyo APC divided the party’s gains and votes between the APC, Accord Party and others during the governorship election.
The APC gubernatorial candidate, Folarin, despite efforts and extensive campaigns, could not pacify all the aggrieved stakeholders who were not pleased with the ‘forceful’ manner in which he allegedly obtained the ticket during the primaries. As a result, Makinde rode on the crisis and was able to win over many who would have normally voted for the APC.
Notwithstanding the allegations and denials, the influence of the president-elect; Bola Tinubu, cannot be overruled. Contrary to Folarin’s campaign slogan, ‘Soro soke,’ Tessy lokan’ (speak louder, it is Tessy’s turn), the president-elect, in a mute mode, raised Folarin’s hand as APC’s flag bearer after his widely publicised romance with Makinde at the Government House, Agodi on February 16. The Tinubu camp also became ‘worriedly silent’ on Teslim’s fate immediately after APC’s success at the presidential poll.
Oyo APC has congratulated Makinde, hailing him for his commitment to the southern presidency agenda.
Makinde, who had lost out at his polling unit and strongholds during the presidential elections, performed well in the same location during the March 18 polls.
Abians revolt against ‘recycling’ politicians
Certain factors worked against Governor Okezie Ikpeazu and the PDP in Abia State.
Aside from the fact that the PDP has been in control of the state since the return of democracy in 1999, the same group of politicians have continued to recycle themselves and their relatives in the various political offices in the state for almost 24 years. Abians yearned for a ‘fresh air’ and revolted against the status quo of incumbent governors anointing a successor.
Related to this is the fact that a few days to the election, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in the state embarked on an indefinite strike to press home their demand for payment of outstanding salaries, among others.
The winner of the election and candidate of the LP, Alex Otti, who vigorously campaigned, is also known for his philanthropic and empowerment programmes in the state.
US, other observers condemn ethnic slur, intimidation, others
The United States (US) Mission in Nigeria condemned the “disturbing” acts of violence, voter intimidation and suppression that marred the governorship election.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the disturbing acts of violence, voter intimidation and suppression that took place during those polls in Lagos, Kano and other states. Members of the US Diplomatic Mission observed the elections in Lagos and elsewhere and witnessed some of these incidents first-hand. The use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning,” noted the US Mission in its assessment of the governorship and state House of Assembly poll.
The European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) said the poll lacked transparency.
The EU-EOM chief observer, Barry Andrews, noted that while voting mostly started on time, there were multiple incidents of thuggery and intimidation of voters, polling officials, observers and journalists, disrupting the process in some parts of the country.
“Throughout the mission we saw that Nigerians have a great appetite for democracy and are keen to engage in various civic activities. However, in many parts of the country, their expectations were not met. Many were disappointed, and we witnessed voter apathy that is in part a clear consequence of failures by political elites, and unfortunately, also the INEC,” he stated.
From Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Iniabasi Umo (Uyo), Meluwa Kelvin (Asaba), Adenike Kaffi (Ibadan), Nabob Ogbonna (Abakiliki)& Linus Effiong (Umuahia)