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Offline Isaac Adeniran

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Reasons for Poor turnout in the governorship and House of Assembly elections


by Eze Onyekpere
[email protected]; 08127235995

The governorship and state Houses of Assembly polls held on Saturday, March 9 across the federation. Preliminary reports coming from election observers indicate that Nigerians, to a great extent, kept away from the elections. Indeed, reports indicate that less than 50% of the numbers that took part in the presidential poll voted on Saturday. What are the implications of this development for Nigeria’s democracy and what could have led to this sorry state of affairs? This discourse seeks to dissect the issues surrounding this development.

In analysing what could have informed the poor voter turnout, some posers are raised. Did we play the final (presidential election) before the semi and quarter-finals (governorship and state legislative election) and still expected a large turnout of football fans for the subsequent matches? Or did we ask the main act in a music concert to perform first and thereafter ask the support acts to perform after them? But we still expected a full house of fans after the main act had left the stage. Alternatively, did the management or mismanagement of the presidential polls tell many voters that their votes would not count? Therefore, they voted by staying in their homes.

It is imperative to recall that when the Independent National Electoral Commission fixed the order of elections with the presidential election coming first, some discerning minds called for a change and the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act to have a bottom up approach to the elections. But the mob descended on the lawmakers and the executive weighed in to defeat the idea. A plethora of arguments was raised that the order of elections should just be left for INEC to decide. The normal process is that elections should start from the least elective positions and progress to the highest position in the land. Mistakes made at the councillorship and state legislative levels will be corrected in subsequent elections. And the euphoria of expecting the winner of the highest elective position in the land keeps the interest and turnout massive until the last day. A trophy in a football contest is won by the overall winner in a final match. It is usually the last match and third place matches are played before the final as the final match is the last match of the tournament. Again, support acts prepare the way for the main act to perform in every concert. Once the main act performs, the concert is as good as ended and fans can begin to leave.  In our case, we turned it upside down, we fixed the third-place match after the finals and still expected spectators.




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Offline Isaac Adeniran

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For those who wanted the presidency first, they perceived an advantage in terms of the bandwagon effect if their candidate won at the centre. With the power of incumbency, they believed their party would win and get an undue advantage in other elections. Thus, voters in other elections would be more persuaded to vote for the party at the centre considering that being in opposition is not a particularly sweet experience in Nigeria. The argument in favour of starting from the lower elections was about a level playing ground for all, a democracy where the winner at the centre is not unduly favoured to win at other tiers. The argument that this has always been the practice holds no water because correcting mistakes is the expected lesson from a dispassionate evaluation of previous actions and omissions.

The second issue is that a careful observation of Nigerians after the declaration of results of the presidential poll shows that a pale of gloom descended in so many quarters and this was not helped by the President’s statement that Nigerians should prepare for tougher times. After the presidential election, so many Nigerians, rightly or wrongly, did not believe that the announced results flowed from the votes cast. So many were downcast that their votes did not count and as such, there was this impression that subsequent votes would not change anything if the results were already predetermined. So, last Saturday was an opportunity to rest, watch television or simply sleep since the efforts made by the voters will add no value as it will not count.

Again, there were no strong words of reassurance from INEC and security agencies that the mistakes and misdeeds arising from the presidential poll will be fixed during the governorship and state legislative polls. In fact, there was every reason to believe that some stakeholders and partisans were going to dig in further, considering that no one cautioned them after they tested the waters in the presidential election. For instance, in Imo State, Governor Rochas Okorocha was reported to have held him under duress until he announced him the senator-elect. He was just testing the waters for the governorship election held on Saturday where he had been desperate to impose his son in-law on the state. What did INEC and the security agencies do after it came to the open? The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, was reported to have done a similar thing in Rivers State. After the victim had announced on broad daylight television. What did INEC and the security agencies do? In the two instances, absolutely nothing was done. Some persons lost their lives in the conduct of the presidential poll. Many of the killers have been left to walk away while families are in mourning and counting their losses.So, the impression was created that anyone can commit any crime and get away with it.







NaijaSky


Offline Isaac Adeniran

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In Lagos State, no strong action has been taken against persons who hired thugs to disrupt the presidential poll in the strongholds of the opposition. It is not just enough to arrestsome thugs and urchins; who sent them or who paid them to commit the crime? The police should get to the bottom of the matter so that the sponsors of the violence do not go scot free. Again, when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was questioned by the media about the bullion vans loaded with money in his residence, he admitted having them on his premises and thereafter, the police and anti-money laundering agencies went to sleep. He was neither invited for questioning nor reprimanded.

The President thereafter, in violation of an extant judgement of the Court of Appeal deployed soldiers to many states for the governorship election, mainly in the opposition strongholds, where either there were disturbances or disturbances were anticipated. The President had earlier given a controversial and illegal “deal ruthlessly” order to security personnel against suspected ballot box snatchers. So how did we expect reasonable men and women who placed a premium on their lives and their time, to come and take undue risks to their lives and limbs and or validate electoral mischief and illegality? A lot of people kept off to maintain their sanity and preserve their lives.

In the circumstances, all persons who have violated our penal laws – thugs, vote-buyers, killers, etc. should be brought to justice. At the earliest opportunity, amending our laws to reflect a bottom-up voting should be a priority for the executive and legislature. In the event, we are not voting for all tiers of elections on the same day, the presidential election should come last.

NaijaSky



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