The 2023 General elections and off-cycle elections in the Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi States seemed like the worst in the history of Nigeria, considering how positive expectations ended in anticlimax.
Nigerians in February churned out for the Presidential, Governorship, and National Assembly elections with high hopes and trust in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), but the polls were flawed and were widely condemned by local and international observers.
To ensure transparency, INEC introduced biometric technology and IReV, a central database for real-time uploading of results.
However, the electoral umpire failed many Nigerians and was accused of compromise when it refused to transmit the election results electronically in real-time as promised, and the election cases ended in court.
Consequently, unsatisfied with the Supreme Court judgment, some Nigerians claimed that the verdict empowered INEC to conclude an election, announce results that caught their fancy, and ask other candidates to go to court.
Aftermath Of February 25, Elections
Amidst the presidential election results controversy, INEC admitted glitches but dismissed claims that the vote was not free and fair, assuring Nigerians that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) will be used in subsequent elections.
Ahead of the November 11 off-season governorship elections in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states, the Commission promised greater transparency in its operations, saying the antidote to fake news is more openness.
While voters appear to be losing faith in the electoral process, political parties continued to cast doubt about the transparency of the process; however, the Commission insisted that it would have a seamless and improved outing in the election.
Outcome of Off-cycles Election In Imo, Kogi, Bayelsa
The Off-season governorship elections were held across three states of the federation on Saturday, November 11, and concluded on Monday, 13, with no surprises as some of the predictions turned out correctly.
The election’s outcome shows that the issue of vote-buying, intimidation, and power of incumbency remains a formidable factor in the country’s politics.
Similarly, the slogan of conducting free, fair, and credible elections may never materialise in the country, considering how INEC suspended the ongoing elections in a few local governments in Kogi State to give themselves some credibility but still declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Usman Ododo as the election winner.
Also, some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kogi State were alleged to have been caught with pre-recorded result sheets during the election.
One of the accredited observers from YIAGA Africa raised the alarm about the proliferation of the pre-filled result sheet in PU 020, Eika/Ohizenyi, Okehi LGA of the State.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Dino Melaye, who came a distant third in the election, also accused INEC of rigging and manipulating the election in favour of APC.
In Imo State, a Policeman was beaten to a pulp for allegedly snatching a ballot box during the massive thumb printing of ballot papers by APC agents at Isu LGA of the state.
Bayelsa State election was also characterised by violence, vote-buying, and other forms of electoral malpractices.
INEC Failed To Rebuild Trust Of Nigerians
The former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun state, Segun Sowunmi, in an interview with Naija News, opined that INEC failed to rebuild the trust of many Nigerians with the off-cycle election but does not amount to the saying that democracy is doomed in Nigeria.
The PDP chieftain noted that the slogan about having a free, fair, and credible election in Nigeria may be problematic because of the issues of crime and ballot box stating, which should be addressed by the government and the electoral umpire.
He also urged the judiciary to review its code of conduct to avoid contradictory judgments in different regions.
He said, “We must not overrun ourselves with a single narrative. It would be ridiculous to say because the election did not go well or fell short of exceptions, then democracy is doomed. I don’t share that view. I feel that the electoral umpire, judiciary, and the government must understand that the people’s expectations are high.
“Nigeria has reached the point that the judiciary must review the code of conduct to avoid contradictory judgments in different regions. If you say, some issues are pre-election issues and are not justifiable, why allow them in other states? Look at the election done in small Liberia; somebody won, and the other candidate has conceded defeat because it was free, fair, and credible.
“We have to start admitting that crime is a crime, if someone is caught with a gun, he should be charged. You cannot have security personnel set to ensure sanity in an election, and they turn to the opposition, it is barbaric. I am charging President Bola Tinubu to look into crime issues and snatching ballot boxes during elections. It is babaric that people who commit crimes are treated with negligence, they need to be charged. The turnout of voters for the off-cycle election was too low, which makes it easy for the manipulation of results.”
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