By Adaze Okeaya-Inneh
The 2023 Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections took place on March 18, 2023.
There were high expectations because the Presidential election, which took place two weeks ago was marred with irregularities and technical hitches.
For many Nigerians who thought the shortcomings of the Presidential election would be corrected by the electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and security agencies, their hopes were promptly dashed!
Lagos, the commercial capital, was the scene of ethnic rhetoric and voter suppression during this election. A day before the election, a video circulated showing the infamous Musiliu Akinsanya (aka MC Oluomo), a leader of thugs with close ties to APC President-elect, Bola Tinubu, threatening voters not to come out if they do not plan to vote for APC in Lagos. In an interview, the Police Force Spokesperson, Adejobi Olumuyiwa dismissed the statement by MC Oluomo, calling it a joke.
In the early hours of Election Day, mayhem ruled Lagos as political thugs bore canes, guns, and other weapons to threaten people to either vote for the ruling party APC or go home. Many voters fled their polling units. Many who fought back were injured and some lives were lost. It is apparent that the ruling party APC, deployed tribal bigotry, and tactical disenfranchisement, in a bid to hold onto power.
Reports reveal that the impunity with which large-scale malpractice and violence overshadowed this election was unmatched. Ebonyi and Rivers States recorded similar cases of voter suppression.
Once again, the security agencies were complicit and often turned a blind eye when armed political thugs came out to harass and threaten voters. There were widespread suppression of Igbo and “Igbo-looking” voters by these thugs in Lagos state.
In some areas including Victoria Garden City (VGC), INEC officials changed the location of polling units without prior notice to voters. Similar malpractices were carried out during the Presidential election of February 25, once again the IREV portal showed electoral results edited using pen, Tipp-Ex, in favour of the ruling party, APC. Some INEC officials refused to upload at the polling units and insisted the upload would take place at the collation centres, which created room for election manipulation.
A large number of voters did not bother coming out to vote, already discouraged by the violence and widespread rigging of the Presidential elections by the APC, and accused INEC of working in cohorts with APC. Many voters have called the Lagos state election, a carnage and a joke to human rights and the electoral process.
However, there was some significant improvement in other states, with the early arrival of INEC officials and voting materials, and some results were uploaded timely on iREV. Some states recorded peaceful elections, such as Abia state, where Labour Party candidate, Alex Otti won, and Oyo state, which saw the re-election of Governor Seyi Makinde, the People Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate.
International observers including the European Union in Nigeria and the United States have called on Nigerian authorities to bring to justice individuals or groups found guilty of voters’ intimidation and instigating violence and ethnic bigotry.
At present, the Presidential Candidates of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, and the People Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar have filed separate petitions at the election tribunal challenging INEC’s declaration of the All Progressives Congress candidate, Bola Tinubu as the winner of the Presidential election.
At present, Nigeria continues to battle lingering issues of a compromised electoral body and Chairman; including Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari‘s lackadaisical attitude since the elections plus the apparent display of the corrupt practices in his administration which he conveniently turns a blind eye to.
The majority of Nigerians are hopeful for a miracle; that INEC cancel the 2023 elections and call for fresh elections. Others want the stolen mandate of the Labour Party’s Candidate, Pater Obi restored. Some desire the country to move on and are calling for healing. But can true healing take place when the scales of Justice are not only twisted but unequivocally corrupted?