The 2023 governorship and State Houses of Assembly Elections may have ended and winners declared in most of the States of the federation. However, many questions have remained unanswered.
Prominent among the questions is the capability of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct free, fair and credible elections Nigerians can be proud of.
Most Nigerians, international communities, non-governmental organisations, international and local observers of the 2023 general elections have expressed huge disappointment in the process that birthed new leaders to drive the country for the next four years.
For instance, no fewer than 20 persons were feared killed during the governorship and houses of assembly elections across the country as violence, suppression of voters and apathy marred the process.
These persons fell to various acts of electoral violence that happened in Delta, Lagos, Rivers, Cross River, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Osun, Ebonyi and Benue states and other areas where politicians deployed every means possible either to retain power to themselves or install their stooges.
It was a do or die affair in most states such as Rivers, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Abia, Enugu, Delta, Adamawa, among others, where the incumbent fought their last battles to remain relevant to ensure they keep control of their states either as governors or ex-governors.
In Lagos, the ruling party was said to have planted thugs at every nook and cranny of the state who easily overran the security architecture comprising the State Police Command and other sister agencies supposedly put in place to safeguard the exercise.
The sponsored thugs unleashed violence on voters and officials of the INEC across the state. The thugs, who were backed by local militia and motor park touts were never arrested or questioned by the security agencies as they moved unhindered brutalising and maiming voters, especially those who were not out to vote for the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Speaking ahead of the March 18, 2023 election, a chieftain of the APC in Lagos State, Biodun Ajiboye had admitted that the Labour Party and the Obidient Movement took his party architecture unaware and shook their political foundation in the presidential election, vowing that they will never allow a repeat in the governorship and state assembly elections. And the proposed way to stop a second defeat turned out to be through brutalising hundreds of voters, including celebrities, destroying properties belonging to them and preventing them from carrying out their civic responsibilities of voting.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared the APC candidate Babajide Sanwo-Olu as the winner of the election.
According to the electoral umpire, Sanwo-Olu polled a total of 762,134 to defeat the first runner-up, Labour Party’s Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, who scored 312,329 votes, while Abdulazeez Adeniran of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, polled 62,449 votes.
The situation was similar in Rivers State where the candidate of the PDP, Similanayi Fubara, who was anointed by the incumbent Governor Nyesom Wike, was declared winner of the governorship election despite allegations of intimidations and voter suppression.
In Ikwerre Local Government Area, electoral matters were allegedly transferred to the homes of top politicians with no fewer than 22 Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines missing in the State.
However, INEC announced in Port Harcourt on Monday night that Fubara secured 302,614 votes to beat his closest rival Pastor Tonye Cole, who came second with 95,274 votes.
In Benue State, suspected ballot box snatchers were gunned down at a polling unit in Gboko Local Government Area of the state, while another sustained gunshot injury when they tried to snatch a ballot box at a polling unit in Gboko South. However, a candidate of the main opposition party in the state, the APC, went on to defeat the incumbent PDP with a suspended Roman Catholic priest, Rev Fr Hyacinth Alia being declared winner of the election.
INEC Returning Officer in the state, Prof Faruq Kuta announced that Alia polled 473, 933 to defeat the PDP candidate, Titus Uba who scored 223,913 votes in the keenly contested election.
Governor Samuel Ortom is one of the biggest losers in the 2023 general election after the member of the G-5 Governors lost his senatorial bid during the presidential and National Assembly elections; he was unable to install his preferred candidate in the state’s number one seat.
In Kaduna State, Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s anointed candidate of the APC, Uba Sani was declared winner of the governorship election in the state amidst controversies and allegations of intimidation and vote buying.
Governor El-Rufai himself lamented the low turnout of voters and cases of intimidation of voters in the southern parts of the state. But the election is said to have been massively rigged in favour of the APC candidate. There is a strong opinion in the State that Isa Ashiru of the PDP won the election but was rigged out by the government of the day.
The Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, in its report on the conduct of the governorship election said vote buying was more in the South-East than in any other geopolitical zone, while violence marred polls in the North-West region during March 18th elections.
According to CDD, voters were more focused on what they would get than the ideology of the candidates, adding that the vote-trading was made possible due to the prevailing economic hardship amid the current cash crunch.
“In total, 25.3 percent of observers noted vote buying at their polling units across the country, with the highest figures reported in the northwest (35.4 percent) and southeast (41.4 percent),” it said.
The United States also lamented voter intimidation and increased violence that marred the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections.
In a statement on Tuesday, the US condemned the increased violence and intimidation that marred the elections held in 28 states and 36 states when compared with the Presidential and National Assembly polls held on February 25.
On the increased violence and intimidation during the election. Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, the founder of the African Renaissance Party, ARP, and Director, Institute for African Renaissance Studies and realisation, said that Nigerians are just fooling themselves.
According to him, “The election was rubbish in my opinion. We’re just fooling ourselves.” He noted that all the people who contested for Lagos governorship election for instance, want the best for the state. Ndu wondered why Nigerians at this stage should be fighting and killing themselves over elections.”
“We’re allowing ourselves to be used by the West,” he added.
Meanwhile, the INEC only declared the winner of the Abia and Enugu States governorship election on Wednesday, five days after the polls.
Alex Otti of the LP, was declared winner of the Abia state governorship election, defeating his closest rival, Okey Ahiwe of the PDP.
After his declaration, the people of Enugu State had to wait for several hours before Peter Mbah of the PDP was declared winner of the polls.
Controversy had earlier marred the collation of results from Nkanu East and Nsukka LGAs over alleged over-voting.
After a review, that of Nsukka was upheld, while some of the results from Nkanu East were cancelled. However, Mbah still came up tops and was declared winner.
With 26 States declared, all eyes now shift to Adamawa and Kebbi States where the elections are inconclusive.