By Rafiq Raji
Turnout was abysmally low in the March 9 governorship elections. The militarisation of the process and voter disillusionment on the back of the February 23 presidential election have been blamed for this. That is apart from the typical disinterest associated with state elections, owing to the overbearing influence of so-called political godfathers on the process.
It is somewhat bizarre how the states in which governorship elections were declared inconclusive, namely Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, and Plateau, either had the main opposition Peoples Democractic Party (PDP) candidate in the lead, or the PDP candidate had a fighting chance at winning, or the states were strongholds of the PDP.
And almost consistently, the gubernatorial candidates who expressed satisfaction with now upcoming re-runs, were mostly from the All Progressives Congress (APC), while those who were displeased were mostly from the PDP.
In Adamawa, the PDP’s Ahmadu Fintiri got 367,471 votes, while the APC’s Jibrila Bindow, the incumbent, got 334,995 votes. As the margin of 32,476 votes was less than the cancelled votes of 40,988, the Adamawa election was declared inconclusive.
In Bauchi, the APC’s Mohammed Abubakar, the incumbent, garnered 465,453 votes, while the PDP’s Bala Mohammed received 469,512 votes. The poll was also declared inconclusive, as the 4,059 votes margin is lower than the number of cancelled votes.
In Sokoto, the PDP’s Aminu Tambuwal, the incumbent, got 489,558 votes, while the APC’s Ahmed Aliyu garnered 486,145 votes. With the margin of 3,413 votes between the pair, less than the cancelled votes of 75,403 votes, the Sokoto poll was also declared inconclusive.
In Benue, incumbent Samuel Ortom of the PDP secured 410,576 votes, while the APC’s Emmanuel Jime got 329,022 votes. Similarly, as the margin of 81,554 votes between the pair was lower than the 121,019 cancelled votes, the poll was declared inconclusive.
In Plateau, incumbent Simon Lalong of the APC received 583,255 votes against 538,326 votes for the PDP’s Jeremiah Useni. With cancelled votes of 49,377 more than the margin between the two of 44,929 votes, the poll was equally declared inconclusive.
While the final collation at the state headquarters of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in each of the states followed the Commission’s guidelines in ruling as such, it is also noteworthy that the key variable in coming to these decisions is the number of cancelled votes; which is rules-based but discretionary, and typically done at the respective collation centres. And since the basis for cancellations is well-known, political actors could quite easily engineer events to make them happen.
Of course, a rebuttal by those who favour the ‘inconclusive’ decisions is that if the aggrieved parties were really that popular, they would have had unassailable leads that voided votes would hardly be able to change. As re-runs tend to favour incumbents, however, those who argue that some state interference was involved can hardly be blamed as well.
So while the opposition PDP has made a determination to protest the bizarre trend, it might be more important for it to put in greater resources and efforts towards winning the soon-to-be scheduled re-runs, which must take place within the statutory 21 days from March 9. In any case, if it has evidence of wrongdoing, the courts are also at the disposal of its candidates.
What is abundantly clear is that the quality of the 2019 elections would have been greatly enhanced had the amended electoral law been assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari. Now that he has won re-election, Mr. Buhari should do the great service of, first, signing the amended electoral bill that was forwarded to him ahead of the 2019 polls, before the end of the current legislative term.
Second, the insights garnered from the likely numerous election petition tribunals across the country should be incorporated into a second amendment to the signed amended electoral law, which should be assented to by the president during the upcoming legislative term but before the end of 2019.
In other words, political stakeholders should not now wait again until the 2023 elections are about, before making amendments to what is clearly a flawed electoral process.
The service required of the PDP is to go to the tribunal for all the elections it considers to be below par, with the primary intent of ensuring that the process becomes fairer; and thus only seeing potential wins of mandates for its aggrieved candidates as additional gains.
Jagaban Redeems Himself In Lagos
In Lagos, the ruling APC pulled its weight this second time around, with its gubernatorial candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu getting 739,445 votes, and beating the main opposition PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, who garnered 206,141 votes.
In the presidential election, the APC secured 580,825 votes in Lagos, while the PDP received 448,015 votes. Clearly, the APC upped its game in the second vote. More importantly, Mr. Agbaje was quick to congratulate Mr. Sanwo-Olu on his victory; a good end to a good fight.
Also note how the sum of votes for the APC and PDP in Lagos for the two elections was virtually the same. In the presidential election, both parties’ sum of votes was 1,028,840, while in the governorship, it was 945,586; about 1 million in each case.
So clearly, some of the votes that went to the PDP in the presidential election moved to the APC in the governorship poll.
APC’s poor showing in the presidential poll in Lagos was clearly a wake-up call for the leaders of the party, who were perhaps getting a little complacent. A video recording of one of the post-mortem meetings of the party after the poll which I watched, showed party leader, Bola Tinubu (‘Jagaban’) calling out the leaders of each of the key sections of the state, publicly applauding those who came through for the party in their areas of responsibility and deriding those who did not.
Thus, you did not have to be clairvoyant to know it was almost a do-or-die affair for the laggards in the Lagos APC to prove their worth. Thankfully, they did so in a non-violent manner. Because unlike the many reports of wanton violence across the country, there was relatively no violence in Lagos.
And the spirit of sportsmanship was clearly displayed by the main opposition PDP candidate, Jimi Agbaje, who called the victor, as soon as it became clear he had lost; that is, even before the official results were announced.
Quietude Wins In Ogun
Ogun went to APC in the end. And quite easily too. Proof that turnount at rallies is not a reliable indicator of popularity. The APC candidate, Dapo Abiodun received 241,670 votes, while Adekunle Akinlade of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) got 222,153 votes.
The outgoing governor, Ibikunle Amosun of the APC, who is now a senator-elect, backed the APM candidate. Of course, the APC would be wise to keep Mr. Amosun within the fold. Because since the APM has already announced it would be going to the tribunal to contest the results, the APC could ask Mr. Amosun to stop the court challenge in exchange for the APC lifting his suspension from the party.
Demystification of Okorocha In Imo
The main opposition PDP candidate, former deputy speaker of the federal House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, won the day in Imo State, garnering 273,404 votes.
From the look of things, Mr. Okorocha’s popularity was probably a little exaggerated. The candidate he backed, his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) got 190,364 votes. Hope Uzodinma, the candidate of the ruling APC, which is officially Mr. Okorocha’s political party, got 96,458 votes.
But for the divisions in the APC in Imo State, all 286,822 votes, the sum of the votes garnered by Nwosu and Uzodinma, would have given the ruling APC party a clear win in the state.
And not only did hoodlums burn an INEC office in Imo State, it is alleged that Mr. Okorocha forced an INEC returning officer to declare him