Interrogating the Low Turnout, Curiously High Figures

Mahmood Yakubu
Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu

There was a general consensus, even among contending political groups that many Nigerians stayed away from polling centres during the governorship and state house of assembly elections. However, that did not stop the governorship election from posting curiously high vote returns, writes Samuel Ajayi

Penultimate Saturday, Nigerians again went to the polls to elect their governors in 29 states as well as members of the Houses of Assembly in all the 36 states of the federation. States like Ekiti, Osun, Kogi, Bayelsa, Edo, Anambra and Ondo States did not have governorship elections since post-election litigations, after the 2007 elections, had ensured that the election calendars of these states have been permanently altered, at least, as long as this democratic dispensation lasts.

However, beyond the violence that marred the exercise in states like Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and parts of Edo, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States, there were reports of general low turnout on the part of voters. In fact, in many parts of the country, voters simply stayed away from polling stations. Young boys exploited the opportunity of the no-movement order to convert the free roads into make-shift football pitches and ironically, most of these youngsters were of voting ages.

Joyce Ogho, a lawyer and chief operating officer of a security outfit based in Lagos, wrote on her Facebook on the eve of the election that she was not sure if she would be willing to trek another two kilometres to where she registered to vote. According to her, beyond the trekking was the question of safety as the experience of the February 23 presidential and National Assembly election was still fresh in her mind.

“I am not sure if I would be willing to go through that experience again. This is apart from the trekking I had to do before I could go for the last election,” Joyce wrote.
Ndubuisi Oga, another voter, who resides in Lagos, said he was the first person to reach his voting centre and the next person to come after him did not arrive until forty minutes after.

“After the card reader confirmed my PVC and voted, I had to sit and start exchanging banter with the INEC officials and nobody came again until after about forty minutes. The INEC officials were just redundant,” Oga wrote.
Lagos was the most hit by low turnout in the entire South-west region. However, with this low turnout, which was even confirmed by many international media organisations, the kind of figures churned out in the name of results by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) across the states have left many wondering if the credibility of the exercise could be vouched for.

For instance, in the presidential election in Lagos State, President Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) polled 580,825 while Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had 448,015. The total was 1,028,840. In the governorship election, Babajide Sanwoolu of the APC polled 739,445 while Jimi Agbaje of the PDP got 206,141.

The total number of votes polled by the two candidates came to 945,586. The difference in total number of votes cast in the President election for the two leading parties and total votes cast for the two leading governorship candidates came to 83,254.

Yet, turnout in the governorship election was about fifty per cent lower than that of the Presidential election just two weeks before. If the turnout was that different and yet results were almost similar, perhaps, questions need to be asked on how INEC came about the results.

In Kaduna State, Buhari defeated Atiku of PDP by 993,445 votes to 649,612 votes. For the two candidates, the total number of votes combined was 1,643,057 votes. Meanwhile, in the governorship election, which many Kaduna residents confirmed recorded very low voter turnout compared to the president election, the total number of votes cast was surprisingly higher than the presidential election.

Governor Nasir el-Rufai, the incumbent and candidate of the APC, polled a total of 1,045,427 while the candidate of the opposition PDP, Isa Ashiru, got 814,168. Combined, these two leading candidates got a total of 1,859,595. This marked a difference of 216,538 votes higher than total number of votes gotten by Buhari and Atiku in the presidential election, which markedly recorded a higher voter turnout. This is aside reports of over-voting, which refused for the votes to tally against the number of those accredited.

Fadilat Evelyn, a resident of Kaduna, told THISDAY at the weekend that she participated in the two elections and the turnout in the governorship election was much lower than that of the presidential election. She said how the number of votes recorded in the governorship election was greater than that of the presidential election beat her imagination.

“I think Governor el-Rufai is the only one, who can explain how he got these results. I was a living witness to these two elections and I can tell you for free that the turnout during the presidential election was much higher than that of the governorship election. People simply did not come out during the governorship election. How the figures of the governorship election were now higher than those of the presidential election beat my imagination,” she stated.

In Delta State, the presidential election was also a straight two-horse race between Buhari and Atiku. While President Buhari polled 221,292 votes, Atiku got 594, 068. When added together, the two leading candidates garnered 815,360 votes.
However, in the governorship election, the incumbent, Ifeanyi Okowa, of the PDP polled a total of 925,274 votes to defeat Great Ogboru of the APC who scored 215,938 votes. The total votes for the two candidates in the gubernatorial contest came to 1,141,212 votes. In other words, the governorship election results for the two leading candidates had more votes than the two leading presidential candidates by 215,938 votes. Yet, reports from the state showed that there was very low turnout during the governorship election than the presidential election.

In Nasarawa State, the governorship election saw the APC candidate, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, winning the governorship election by polling a total of 327,229 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, David Ombugadu, who polled a total of 184,281 votes. Labaran Maku, former minister and candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, polled a total of 132,784 votes. In total, the three candidates polled a total 684,294,
Meanwhile, in the presidential election two weeks earlier, the candidate of the ruling APC, President Buhari won by 289,903 votes to defeat the candidate of the PDP, Atiku, who polled 283,847. From the figures, the two candidates polled a total of 573,777 votes. This is more than 111,000 votes above what the two leading candidates polled in the presidential election.

Another questionable development from the gubernatorial election was the victory of the ruling APC in Zamfara State. The party was cleared to participate in the election just three days before the polls. Not only did it win the election, the party also cleared all the House of Assembly seats in the state.

A Harvard-trained health development expert and founder of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), one of the newly registered political parties, Dr. Jay Osi-Samuels told THISDAY in Abuja that the discrepancies and differentials between the presidential election and governorship election in the states showed that there were a lot of malpractices by the two leading political parties.

“If you check the results of the presidential elections, which recorded a huge voter turnout and the governorship election which everybody admitted recorded very low voter turnout, you would see that results were higher in governorship elections across the states even with low voter turnout. This shows that something does not just add up. It was obvious that figures were padded for INEC to announce,” Osi-Samuels stated.