The Independent National Election Commission (INEC), Monday, announced the winners in the Saturday, Nov. 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. In the former, INEC declared David Lyon, candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), the winner, while in Kogi, sitting governor Yahya Bello, also of APC, was returned to power in a vote marred by ballot snatching and violence.
INEC’s returning officer for the Bayelsa vote, Prof. Faraday Orunmuwese, announced Lyon as the victor. He defeated his closest rival, the candidate of the governing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Duoye Diri by a large margin. The poll was called to elect a successor to outgoing governor Seriake Dickson. His anointed choice was Diri, a former senator, who went on to lose to the opposition.
The collation of results of the election across the eight local government areas of the state began on Sunday afternoon and lasted until the early hours of Monday. In the first six LGAs, Lyon was clearly in the lead by over 80,000 votes and extended the lead by additional 100,000 votes after the results of the remaining two local governments came in. Announcing the APC candidate as the winner, Prof. Orunmuwese explained that a total of 922,562 voters registered for the election but 517,883 voters were accredited.
In Kogi state, incumbent governor Bello was returned to power with “the highest number of votes”. The returning officer for the election, Prof. Ibrahim Umar, said Monday in Lokoja that the APC candidate received 406,222 votes to beat his closest rival, Mr. Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 189,704 votes. After several hours of collating the results from 19 LGAs, Professor Umar had announced on Sunday night that the exercise would continue the next day. On resumption, results from the remaining two local governments – Ibaji and Lokoja – were collated, paving the way for the declaration of the winner of the election. The returning officer noted that a total of 1,646,350 people registered for the election while 636,202 were accredited to vote.
The two elections came 9 clear months after general elections in February which returned President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC to power. If the conduct of that election was arguably controversial, the polls in Bayelsa and Kogi cast more doubt on the integrity of the electoral system. In the two states, voting was marred by widespread violence, ballot box snatching and kidnapping of election officials. In Kogi, a women leader of the main opposition party was burned to death in her own house. There were also allegations of vote buying and collusion by security officials. In the same Kogi, few days to the election, Bello received N9 billion from the federal government as compensation for carrying out repairs on federal roads. The opposition believed the money was used to buy votes. His main rival, Wada, has said he would contest the result of the poll in court. The loser in Bayelsa, Mr. Diri, also has rejected the outcome of the poll there. Their allegation that the elections were not credible was repeated by election observers who have called for a fresh vote in both Bayelsa and Kogi.
It is a big shame that elections in Nigeria have been turned into a matter of life and death, not a platform to offer oneself for service to the fatherland. What has just happened in Bayelsa and Kogi casts a pall of doubt over the general elections scheduled for 2023. Clearly INEC has been given too big or heavy a load of responsibility. It is to register political parties, approve candidates for elective positions, conduct elections, arrest and punish election offenders. It has to shed most of those responsibilities to pay more attention to organizing elections. This is why the electoral legislation, as it is, must be amended to sanitize the electoral system.
Moreover, the allegation that the police aided in the lawlessness and manipulation of results in the Kogi governorship and senatorial elections must be reviewed by the tribunals and relevant authorities. All perpetrators of violence and electoral fraud must be brought to justice to restore confidence in the outfome of the polls.