INEC’s credibility continues to deteriorate following the controversial November 11 elections in Kogi, Imo.
On November 11, 2023, three states in the federation held off-season governorship elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) promised Nigerians a better, more organized, and transparent election process prior to the polls.
However, the results of the elections on November 11, which were held in the states of Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi, are reminiscent of the disappointing outcome of the presidential election on February 25, when the public’s high expectations for the candidates who flocked to registration centers to obtain their Permanent Voter Cards proved to be a mirage.
2023 has not been a good year for elections in the nation thus far. Nigerians entered the February 25, 2023, presidential and national assembly elections with great expectations and a strong sense of faith in INEC, the electoral body. But the polls were incredibly flawed, with disruptive incidents, impunity, and ugly reports that incited voter resentment and drew criticism from both domestic and foreign observer organizations. Ultimately, the general election of 2023 appeared to be the worst in the nation’s history.
Yet, because Nigerians had high expectations, their resentment of INEC was understandable. With the Electoral Act and other constitutional powers at the electoral body’s disposal, INEC chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu and his subordinates should have fulfilled their pledge to hold a general election that would have, at the very least, given the populace hope.
All efforts were made to ensure a respectable election. INEC issued electoral guidelines requiring the transmission of results from polling places and made sure the Electoral Act Amendment Bill was signed. Additionally, there were repeated instances of the use of technology to stop electoral violence and human-based election rigging, such as ballot box snatching and results falsification at collation centers.
When the Yakubu-led INEC introduced the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and its use was piloted in the Anambra, Ekiti, Osun, and other by-elections, the majority of Nigerians were confident that their votes would count.
Buoyed by hope, the younger generation hurried to obtain Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVC), resulting in the registration of 9,518,188 new voters. The level of optimism was so high that, in the year leading up to the national voter registration, the number in the voter register increased from 84,004,084 to 93,522,272
Unfortunately, the exciting build-up was short-lived because the electoral umpire horribly failed to deliver the election results as promised. As a result, several election-related lawsuits were settled in court.
Following the general elections, INEC pledged to enhance election management as needed. Increased operational transparency was pledged by the commission. It was also expected that INEC would use the off-season election as a chance to repair its reputation.
The electoral body did, in fact, make such promises. For example, Prof. Yakubu had promised that the commission would adhere to the laws for accreditation and results collation during the state’s elections, and he had stated that the results for the governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi would be uploaded on INEC’s Result Viewing Portal.
“We are doing this mock,” he said, “because the method is as provided by law, electronic accreditation, electronic upload of results on the IREV portal.”
Nigerians are astounded by the extent of electoral fraud that occurred during the November 11 polls, as November 11 turned out to be a farce.
Elections included recorded lapses. The information on the IReV was the subject of debates. There were numerous claims of pre-written results. Even worse, INEC upheld the contentious outcomes in spite of purported proof of excessive voting, interference with the voting process, and evident cases of security agencies supporting ballot box snatching.
the incident in which it was claimed that certain INEC officials had been discovered using pre-recorded result sheets.
Concerning the spread of pre-filled result sheets in Polling Unit 020 in Eika/Ohizenyi, Okehi Local Government Area of the state, one of the accredited observers from YIAGA Africa issued a warning.
The Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area’s PU 004 in Eni Ward saw the same development.
Videos purportedly showing security personnel in Imo aiding the ruling government in sabotaging the voting process and stealing election supplies were making the rounds.
At the Umuchoko Umuohiagu Junction Polling Unit in Ward 11 of Ngor Okpala LGA, one such incident occurred where ballot boxes and other election materials were carted away by thugs purporting to be affiliated with the All Progressives Congress (APC).
According to reports, this occurred after the votes were counted, with PDP leading with 65 votes to APC’s 35 and LP’s 17 votes.
Some political parties have since rejected the results, citing blatant manipulation and rigging of the polls.
The chairman of the Action Alliance (AA), Fred Ambo, declared the election to be fraudulent and rejected the results of the Kogi State election.
“We were promised a free and fair election by the INEC, but all we witnessed was a farce.” He expressed dissatisfaction over ballot box snatching and the fact that a certain political party’s outcome had been predetermined before the election even started.
In a similar vein, PDP candidate for governor, Dino Melaye, called for the annulment of the election.
“There was no election; BVAS was not used, accreditation was completed manually, and prepared result sheets were available prior to the election,” he stated.
The election must be canceled by INEC. We can support that with evidence. The INEC has shown egregious incompetence. It is not reliable. It is tainted and biased.
Following suit, Murtala Ajaka, the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) candidate for governor, claimed that INEC had tampered with the results to benefit APC candidate Usman Ododo.
He declared, “INEC officials are the ones who tainted this election.”
The story is also unpalatable in Imo State. The PDP’s candidate for governor, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, had charged the state’s ruling party, the APC, of orchestrating a plot to rig the November 11 election just before polls opened.
He charged that in order to rig the election, Governor Hope Uzodimma brought 4,500 pre-loaded Bimodal Voter Accreditation Systems (BVAS) into Imo State.
Due to alleged widespread vote-buying, ballot box snatching, and other irregularities in some polling places, Anyanwu rejected the election results. In particular, he charged ruling All Progressive Party agents with “coercing voters to vote for the party.”
“I have proof that one of the thugs is a member of the House of Assembly,” the man declared. The lawmaker’s identity card fell off while they were grabbing the ballot boxes, and I have it with me.
“I demand that INEC take into account the evidence at hand and void the election results in the impacted areas.”
Athan Achonu, the candidate for the Labour Party, echoed his accusations, claiming that security personnel were working with the APC to rig the results of the election.
There is a ton of documented evidence, like the story of the police officer who was attacked by voters for trying to steal a ballot box. Yesterday, our democracy was violated by this country’s security agencies. I’m still getting over the major shock this morning.
He expressed regret, saying, “Our democracy was raped by the DSS, police, and military; it was more like a security agency coup; it was not INEC.”
“Let’s save our country and its democracy; let’s save the drift into anarchy. There was no election yesterday, and we call on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to cancel the purported results,” Achonu continued.
Nevertheless, INEC went ahead and declared APC candidate Hope Uzodimma the victor of the Imo State gubernatorial contest. As per INEC’s results, Uzodimma secured 540,308 votes, surpassing the combined scores of his opponents from PDP and LP, who secured 71,503 and 64,081, respectively.
In Kogi, INEC also found nothing objectionable about the way the elections were conducted, so it declared APC candidate Usman Ododo the victor with 446,237 votes, ahead of SDP candidate Muri Ajaka (259,052) and PDP candidate Dino Melaye (46,362 votes).
The court of public opinion has mocked the electoral umpire.
Political analyst Dr. Emeka Nwosu, who served as former Senate President Evans Enwerem’s Special Advisor on Media and Public Affairs, called the November 11 election process embarrassing and unacceptable.
“To put it mildly, Nigerians are becoming less trusting of INEC.” That’s how I see it. Given what happened in the general elections, many believed that INEC would have a chance to improve its standing in these off-circle elections. Additionally, since we’re only talking about three of the 36 states in the federation, INEC should perform better.
Because there were only three states hosting elections, it was simple to overcrowd those areas with security personnel dispatched from the other federation states. No one anticipated any technical difficulties or deliberate disruption of the proceedings, even in the presence of security personnel. The reports we heard—we weren’t there—showed that it was even more chaotic than it had been in the past, despite the security presence.
For example, the reports from Kogi State locations use prefilled result sheets for the first time. This information regarding the sensitive materials that were supposed to be delivered on election day is new to us. How did it end up in the hands of the election managers, who were even youth corpers? Millions of naira were discovered in the possession of a few individuals.
Based on the available data, electronic results transmission is unparalleled. In any event, INEC is empowered to choose the appropriate method based on the Supreme Court’s ruling. They have the unsavory and embarrassing ability to alter their rules in the middle. To be honest, then, what we witnessed was not an election.
He commented, “My reading of the situation is that opposition parties in Imo are very weak,” in reference to the Imo situation, in which Uzodimma won with a landslide victory and cleared the 27 local government areas. They didn’t seem like very strong candidates to me. It was evident that, in the case of the PDP, the notable individuals did not attend their rallies. It seems as though they rejected the candidate. People knew they wouldn’t pose a serious threat to the incumbent, Hope Uzodinma, even before the election.
He went on, “You are aware of the incumbent’s power; he made the most of it. It’s possible that Hope Uzodimma exploited the opposition’s weakness and the incumbent’s ability to allocate resources. You are aware that there is hunger in the country. People appeared to be selling their votes for N2000 and N3000 based on some of the analyses I watched.
He sees a very bad future for elections.
Ultimately, the key takeaway is that there is still much work to be done in order to reform our electoral system. I’m not sure how we’re going to pull this off, as the last time people came out, they believed INEC when they said results would be sent electronically. Many people talked about the BVAS and thought their votes would count, but you saw the outcome.
We’ve returned to the beginning and are now discussing excessive voting. which indicates that no BVAS is being used. Very depressing. I’m not sure how we’re going to do this correctly. Since you won’t obtain any outcomes in court, even if you decide to go there,” he stated.
He says a paradigm change is necessary to move forward.
“The only possible outcome is that we may need to address the winner-take-all phenomenon. We might have to switch to proportional representation, in which the number of seats you win determines how much power you receive. akin to the legislative branch. in order to end the situation where the victor takes all,” he said