Nigerians in search of new governors

Barring any last minute hitches, Nigerians will today elect a new set of governors to occupy the covetous seats in different states of the federation.

The governorship and House of Assembly elections will signal the end of the 2015 general election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which kick-started with the presidential and National Assembly election held on March 28.

But unlike the previous election, only 29 of the nation’s 36 states will participate in the election as Ondo, Osun, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Bayelsa and Anambra, will be exempted, as they have at one time in the past, held staggered elections to elect their governors. Out of the 29 states, as many as 23 governors have completed their maximum two terms while 6 governors would be seeking a second term.

They are Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; his Oyo State counterpart, Abiola Ajimobi; Governor Ahmed Abdu- Fatai of Kwara State; Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha; Nasarawa State governor, Al-Makura and his Kaduna State counterpart, Mukhtar Yero.

In the build up to today’s state elections, a major political record was broken on March 28 when the ruling party, for the first time in the annals of the politics of Nigeria, lost to the opposition.

The development was seen by many as a major historical epoch because in the previous four republics, the Nigerian political landscape had always been dominated by an all-powerful ruling party wielding enormous power of coercion that opposition parties have virtually been relegated to the background.

The shocking termination of 16 year Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, monopoly of power at the centre by the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, last month has halted the political calculation even as many PDP stakeholders are yet to come to terms with the unfolding reality.

One of the fall outs of the power shift in the country which may shape the election result in today’s governorship and assembly elections is the likelihood of a band wagon effect arising from the arrested development of March 28. For instance there are media reports indicating a massive defection suffered by the ruling PDP to the APC ahead of today’s crucial poll in Kwara, Edo Niger, Ondo, Ekiti states among others.

This is as a PDP governorship aspirant in the 2013 governorship election in Ondo State, Chief Olusola Oke, defected to APC last Wednesday. In Kwara State former PDP governorship candidate Gbemi Saraki and the state PDP Youth Leader, Chief Segun Olawoyin, on Tuesday, formally defected to the APC. Both leaders addressed their numerous supporters to follow them to their new party.

In Edo State, former Governor of Edo State, Professor Osarhiemen Osunbor, same day, announced his defection to the APC The former governor who announced his defection in his Esan West local government was joined few hours after a former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army Brigadier General, Idada Ikponimwen, defected to the APC in Benin.

Also in Niger State, over 5000 PDP members, including 10 immediate past local government chairmen of PDP defected to the APC. The APC in Plateau State during the week received the governorship candidate of the Labour Party in today’s election, Mr. Bagudu Hirse In Ekiti State, similar scenario is playing out as Senator Ayo Arise joined the APC. Unconfirmed reports say former Minister, Femi Aborisade, is also making moves to quit the PDP.

These are some of the developments that are likely to shape the outcome of today’s election. Another issue of serious concern is the pertinent question of whether the Nigerian electorate would come out in their large numbers to vote just as they did during the presidential and National Assembly elections two weeks ago.

The concern is borne out of the fact that the majority of the voters are believed to be committed to seeing a possible power shift at the centre which was reflected by the outcome of the March 28.

In a related development, the seeming poor performance of state governors across the country may have engendered a form of voters apathy today going by the level of poverty ravaging many states in the past four years.

But some believed that today’s election would make a definite statement that politicians can no longer take Nigerians for granted as the power to fire or hire any political office holder lies in the hands of the electorate as demonstrated during the last exercise.

However a worrisome dimension especially in some flash points is the spate of violence that almost marred the presidential election which appears to have sent a dangerous signal in the minds of people of genuine apprehension of a repeat occurrence which claimed lives in some states such as Bauchi, Benue, Rivers, Edo and Ekiti states.

In Ekiti State where the state governor was locked in a fierce political battle of wits with some members of the state House of Assembly, it is doubtful if the tense atmosphere in the South-West state would be conducive for election to hold today.

Many Nigerians have expressed concern over the fight-to-the finish stand adopted by the two combatants in the dispute.

In Rivers State where scores were reportedly feared dead during the March 28 presidential poll, the governor, Rotimi Amaechi, may have anticipated a possible poll boycott when he recently appealed to the electorate to forget the violence that took place in the state during and after the election and come out to vote on April 11, assuring them of adequate security today.

He said: “On Saturday, I expect everybody to come out and vote. There will be no police molestation again, there will be no army harassment again, there will be no army harassment again.”

Meanwhile the INEC has reiterated its commitment on the use of card readers in today’s elections across the country against a groundswell of opposition of the electronic device in some parts of the country.

In a statement by the commission last Monday signed by the Secretary of INEC, Augusta Ogakwu, the commission said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission wishes to inform all Nigerians that card readers will be used for the April 11, 2015 elections.

“The provision of the guidelines for the conduct of the 2015 general elections which outlined what to be done if the card reader fails and cannot be replaced by the commission within a specified time frame… ”The commission has reviewed the operation of the card reader in the 28th March elections, identified the challenges and has taken adequate measures to address them.”

INEC also hinted that one of the reasons why the card readers failed was because its officials failed to remove the protective film on the lens of machine as some of the devices failed to read the biometric data of voters who turned out to perform their civic duties.

Also, INEC’s resolve to repeat the use of card readers in today’s election has been commended by the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP This is contained in a prèss release issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Osita Okechukwu.

The group hailed INEC for insisting on the “imperative of the use of card reader for the April 11 governorship and House of Assembly elections.”

It said further that “It is our considered view that card reader is an antidote to ballot box stuffing, ballot box snatching and padding of votes, hence ultimate reduction of electoral malpractices and all manners of irregularities.”

CNPP then urged INEC to, as a matter of urgent national importance, rectify and take adequate measures to plug all the identified challenges and malfunctions of the card reader device.

In a related development, Prof Chidi Odinkalu, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, after commending INEC for the successful conduct of March 28 Presidential and National Assembly elections said: “We are not asking for perfection, we are asking for improvement and Prof. Jega has shown that improvement .

INEC should however learn from the mistakes of the presidential and NASS elections and perfect it.” From all indications, it is obvious that nothing short of a near perfect exercise is expected in today’s poll.

Post a Comment