Observers say cases of irregularities seen in Saturday’s off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi States cast doubts on the credibility of the polls.
They said reports of violence, Pre filled results sheet, vote-buying and other fraud incidents reported in the three states confirmed voters fear if their votes would counts leading up to the polls.
After several months of anxiety and waiting, the off-cycle gubernatorial election was held across the three states.
Tension has been high in the three states in recent days leading up to the polls due to fear of violence.
Eligible voters in the three states elected new governors, just as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had promised that the people’s votes would count this time.
A total of 5,169,692 registered voters shaped the destiny of their respective states in the governorship elections in the three states.
In Bayelsa State, 1,017,613 permanent voter cards were collected, Imo State voters collected 2,318,919 PVCs, while in Kogi State, the figure is 1,833,160.
Meanwhile, there are different reports about how the election was conducted in the three states, and turnout was low in some places and high in others.
Although some reports say that the elections were relatively peaceful in several parts of the three states.
However, there are also reports of violence, voter intimidation and vote-buying in some parts of Imo and Kogi.
In Kogi State, the gubernatorial election recorded mass turnout of voters in most polling units in Lokoja, the state Capital.
Several polling units started accreditation of voters at 8:30 am in most parts of the state capital; most voters where already in the queue before accreditation time.
However, there were reports of violence and voter intimidation in parts of Okene and Ogori/Magongo local government areas.
Dino Melaye, Kogi State People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, raised the alarm that all polling units in Ogori/Magongo local government areas of the state had their result sheets tampered with or prefilled in the early hours when the election commenced.
Melaye added that there are widespread demonstrations in the units because voters refuse to be recognised and demand that the area’s voters be given access to the plain result sheets.
In a brief video the former senator made public on social media Saturday morning, he called on the populace to oppose any wrongdoing undermining their aspirations as Kogi people.
“The result sheets have been filled and tampered with already, and people have refused to accredit, people have refused to vote, and they are insisting that the plain result sheets must be returned to agents following the electoral law,” Melaye said.
There were several other cases of voter intimidation and vote-buying in some parts of Kogi State by the PDP and Social Democratic Party (SDP)officials.
In Imo State, there were gun shots to scare voters away around 11 am during voting in the Ikeduru local government area, the home town of the PDP’s candidate, Sam Anyanwu.
There are also reports of vote-buying in several polling units in Orji, in Owerri West and other parts of the state capital.
In Bayelsa, it was alleged that the Brass Local Government Area PDP Chairman, identified as Bara Daniel was injured in the head by supporters of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by the former council chairman, Victor Isaiah.
The disagreement started during the sharing of election materials.
Several other people were reportedly seriously injured in the election during confrontations among party members in Yenagoa.
Reports indicate that in Brass, residents run away from their houses after gunmen take over election materials and scare away voters.
Nigeria have a history of violence during elections, which was also noticed in the 2023 polls, despite promises by the electoral commission that the process would be different from previous elections.
In fact, some described the 2023 general election as the worst in the country’s electoral process history.
Experts say the situation has been fueled by impunity and a lack of desire by the government and INEC to punish election offenders.
They said if the trend is not checked, the Nigerian dream of good governance and accountability may just be a mirage.
Many Nigerians have called for concerted efforts among stakeholders to check the trend.
“INEC and security agencies do not punish electoral offenders, no one is held accountable for disrupting elections or causing problems which often encouraged them to do more.
“It is sad that relevant agencies are not doing enough. Look at what we witnessed in the last general election”, Ubong Eno, a political analyst, said.
Eno added that the government should set up special courts to prosecute election offenders, noting that the regular courts are congested with regular cases.
“If we are serious, we know what to do, but will we do it? We need special court to prosecute the election offenders; the ones we have are preoccupied with other cases,” he added.
Kunle Okunade, a political analyst, said nothing new would occur during and after the three states’ elections because the electoral body and the political elite have not learnt anything from past elections.
He said, “Today’s elections reinforced the kleptomania nature of the Nigerian political elite. The electoral process is highly monetized and commercialized, which is reflected in today’s elections.
“Desperation to capture state power by the political actors for primitive wealth accumulation would continue to make violence a strategy in electoral victory.
“The electoral institution cum security agencies would need to brace up and be ready to ensure sanctity in our electoral process and system.
“Political violence is still and would still be a great challenge to the smooth conduct of elections in Nigeria because the elite are yet to have consensus to make the country great”.
Many stakeholders have called for a holistic overhaul of the electoral process to deliver free and fair elections.
He called for the reform of INEC and the removal of the power to appoint INEC chairman and national commissioners from the President.
“These guys are working for politicians, and the politicians are in power and would do whatever they can to frustrate the touts’ prosecution.”
“They know what to do but can’t because the system benefits them. We must remove the power to appoint INEC chairman and national commissioners from the President. The commission needs serious reform to deliver free and fair poll,” he said.