A deluge of criticisms and strident calls for cancellation have continued to trail last Saturday’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states. The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday 18th November declared the candidates of the All Progressive Congress, Yahaya Bello in Kogi and David Lyon in Bayelsa as winners of the governorship seats in
A deluge of criticisms and strident calls for cancellation have continued to trail last Saturday’s governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission on Monday 18th November declared the candidates of the All Progressive Congress, Yahaya Bello in Kogi and David Lyon in Bayelsa as winners of the governorship seats in the two states.
But the declarations have been greeted with sharp criticisms from different observer groups and public interest groups who have posited that the election was not free and fair and therefore below the minimum threshold of credible elections. The international community and local observers decried the spate of violence, saying the conduct of the elections fell below acceptable standards.
The elections were generally marred by widespread violence, snatching of ballot boxes, intimidation of voters, gun shots, killings, at least 10 persons were killed, all of which violated the sanctity of a free and fair electoral process.
A coalition of 400 civil rights organizations under the auspices of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room has expressed disappointment over the two elections describing the Kogi state election as a major dent to Nigeria’s democratic process.
Situation Room noted in a statement that the “level of violence perpetrated by the two major political parties seriously undermined the elections, deterred voters and made the exercise a farce” and therefore “called for the cancellation of the entirety of the Kogi state elections”
The Nigerian Bar Association on Sunday had earlier condemned the governorship elections in Kogi State as falling below the minimum standard of a credible election.
In a report of the NBA’s Election Working Group led by its Chairman, Afam Osigwe, it noted that “the credibility of the process was put in issue by the overwhelming incidents of harassment and intimidation of voters and electoral officials, destruction of electoral materials, snatching of ballot boxes and killings of persons”.
On its part YIAGA Africa in its Watch The Vote statement observed “on election day, YIAGA Africa received and confirmed a total of 69 incident reports from its WTV observers. Critical incident reports capture instances that could undermine the integrity of the electoral process. Majority of the incidents observed on election day include snatching or stuffing of ballot boxes, vote-buying/bribery and accreditation of people without using card readers each recorded in over 10 polling units.
“YIAGA AFRICA observed that security officials and election day materials deployed late, resulting in polling units opening late. As at 7:30 am, YIAGA AFRICA WTV observers reported that INEC officials had arrived at 52% of polling units.
“In addition, YIAGA AFRICA condemned the violence and brigandage in some polling units resulting in disruption of voting. YIAGA AFRICA called on INEC to cancel elections in those polling units where there were cases of snatching of ballot papers/boxes, violence, and disruption of the polling
“These elections took place against the backdrop of the 2019 general elections, those elections did not meet the expectations of many Nigerians and were missed opportunity to enhance public confidence in the country’s electoral institutions. Kogi governorship and senatorial elections, as well as the Bayelsa gubernatorial election held on the same day, provided an opportunity of all election stakeholders to change Nigeria’s electoral trajectory.
“Instead, the people of Kogi have not been given the opportunity to fully exercise their right to vote. As a result, the results of these elections, regardless of the outcome cannot be said to reflect the preferences of voters in Kogi. In such a circumstance, YIAGA Africa calls upon INEC to conduct a thorough investigation of the conduct of the Kogi governorship and senatorial elections and to conduct a new election that gives voters a genuine opportunity to exercise their right to vote”. The YIAGA statement was signed by its Chair, Dr. Hussaini Abdu.
The Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD) has listed absence of facility for physically challenged persons; snatching and destruction of ballot boxes; challenges with smart card readers in some polling units; inability of security operatives stationed at the polling units to repel attack by armed gun men and thugs who disrupted the process; and late arrival of INEC personnel and materials in some locations as some of the challenges that plagued the governorship elections.
Meanwhile President Muhammadu has congratulated winners in the election and had received in audience at the Aso Villa, Mr. David Lyon, Bayelsa state governor-elect.
The President’s All Progressives Congress (APC) had always wanted an inroad into the south south and southeast regions of Nigeria, which are the strongholds of the opposition PDP. Several attempts in the past towards have been largely unsuccessful.
David Lyon’s victory in Bayelsa is significant for the APC in so many ways: now the party has a south south state from where it can mount a heist for some more in the region. Bayelsa is also an oil rich state which translates to more money for the APC. It is also possible that Bayelsa’s APC victory could mean that people of the region are beginning to see the APC in a new light not the stereotype northern party.
The PDP on the other hand is still licking its wound from the bruising it got at the polls and has accused the military of providing cover for hoodlums to unleash terror on voters and polling officials. It has vowed to challenge the outcome in every legitimate way by going to the tribunal.