Udora Orizu highlights the challenges, shocking outcome from the 2023 presidential election, as the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, collates result
In the build up to the 2023 presidential poll, it is believed that the election might be the most consequential in Nigerian history since the return to democracy in 1999. And true to this belief, last weekend the much anticipated presidential election was finally held, bringing with it surprising and challenging outcomes.
Below are takeaway from the just concluded presidential poll
Free and fair election in Nigeria is always known to be a mirage. Every election cycle is violence-driven, prone to manipulation, other electoral malpractices, which often lead to outcomes that do not always reflect the popular will, but are often the imposition which comes from intimidation and rigging.
The nation held its 6th presidential election in the Fourth Republic on 25th February at a time that Nigerians are believed to have gone through long-suffering and pains as a result of the actions and inactions of government.
The pre-election process comprised of violence, killings, denial of use of public facilities to opposition parties, misinformation, hate speeches and disrespect for the letter of the Peace Accord they all signed.
The election witnessed thugs snatching ballot boxes, intimidation and disruption of voting process in some states, particularly in Lagos and Rivers.
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Idowu Owohunwa, had in his reaction said several arrests had been made regarding electoral violence recorded in some parts of the state on Saturday.
With the uneasy, tense atmosphere within which the election in Nigeria held, the poll poses a possibility of post-election violence. While some losers will go to court to challenge the outcome, others and their supporters might decide to go the violent way.
Unlike past elections, which had two major contenders, the 2023 presidential election featured a third force. The battle for who will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari is between Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Obi, a former Governor of Anambra State, who was tagged “social media President”, and a candidate in a political party that has no structure, shocked his opponents and emerged as an unexpectedly powerful force in the race.
For supporters of Obi, known as obi-dients, his background is the starting point for what sets him apart. Known for his frugality and integrity, Obi’s tenure as Anambra state governor is a reference point for his accountability in public service.
His supporters see that as a departure from endemic corruption that has marred the nation’s public life, endearing him to younger Nigerians who represent a large portion of registered voters.
Showing their power, his supporters shocked the ruling All Progressive Congress, when Obi emerged winner of Lagos State in the just concluded election.
He polled in 582,454 votes to defeat Tinubu who’s self proclaimed landlord of Lagos who scored 572,606 votes.
Also in Plateau came another shock, as Obi won the polling unit of Plateau State Governor and Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, Hon Simon Lalong.
There are indications that Labour Party presidential candidate may win the total votes in Plateau. The win will be surprising given APC’s perceived strong hold in the state and the fact that it’s the home state of the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Idris Wase.
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, winning Katsina and Yobe states also came as a surprise. Both states ruled by the APC are the home states of President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan respectively.
The election witnessed the largest electorate in Nigerian history. The elections also include the country’s largest-ever most youthful electorate.
This rise in young voters and turnout could be linked to the fact that many young people got involved in politics in October 2020 when they protested against police brutality. Also with the difficulties currently being faced, gave them a sense of their power to push for a better government.
The use of technology, especially the ‘debut’ of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV), was expected to play a role in providing legitimacy to the outcome of the results.
BVAS combines fingerprint and face biometrics to verify voters’ identities and the electronic transmission of results from polling units directly to the INEC Result Viewing Portal.
However, Nigerians were left disappointed as the BVAS which the electoral body claimed will strengthen the integrity and transparency of the elections, were not operational in so many polling units.
National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, in a statement said the Commission was aware of challenges with the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV).
The commission noted that unlike in the off-season elections, where the portal was used, it has been relatively slow and unsteady, stressing that the Commission regretted the setback, especially, because of the importance of IReV in its results management process.
“The problem is totally due to technical hitches related to scaling up the IReV from a platform for managing off-season, state elections, to one for managing nationwide general election. It is indeed not unusual for glitches to occur and be corrected in such situations.
“Consequently, the Commission wishes to assure Nigerians that the challenges are not due to any intrusion or sabotage of our systems, and that the IReV remains well-secured,” he said.
While further assuring the people that its technical team was working assiduously to solve all the outstanding problems, he added that the users of the IReV would have noticed improvements since Sunday night.
His words: “We also wish to assure Nigerians that results from the Polling Units, copies of which were issued to political parties, are safe on both the BVAS and the IReV portal. These results cannot be tampered with and any discrepancy between them and the physical results used in collation will be thoroughly investigated and remediated, in line with Section 65 of the Electoral Act 2022.”
The commission said while it fully appreciated the concerns of the public on this situation and welcomed various suggestions that it had received from concerned Nigerians, it was important to avoid statements and actions that could heat up the polity at this time or promote disaffection towards the Commission.
The commission, therefore, accepted full responsibility for the problems and regretted the distress they might have caused the candidates, political parties and the electorate.
As results trickle in, and tension palpably high across the country as Nigerians await results of their preferred candidates more than 48 hours after time was called in on the exercise, the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has assured that the process of collation and announcement would be transparent.