By Tunde Babs

The off-cycle elections in three states of the federation were characterized by rigging, vote-buying, kidnapping, and over-voting, among others, showing that transparent and credible elections in Nigeria are a mirage.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was heavily criticized by both local and international observers over the conduct of the 2023 General elections. The same amount of criticism greeted it over the conduct of the off-cycle governorship polls in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi states on 11 November 2023. 

The reports and observations by media, local and international observers, the Civil Society Organizations – Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Yiaga Africa, among others – witnessed a lot of incongruities to warrant the advocacy for INEC to “fully review the elections in Kogi, and Imo states to identify the incidents of malpractices that took place and reflect the genuine votes of the people.” They also pointed out the failure of INEC to address the incidents of over-voting, just as they have strongly demanded an independent audit of election administration in Nigeria. 

More so, the level of insecurity, with over 40,000 police officers in Kogi, 27,000 in Bayelsa and 84 police commissioners/deputies/assistants in Imo, alongside INEC’s pooling of all of its resources in men and material to these states, did not stop killings, kidnapping and rigging, according to Premium Times.

The outcome of the elections wherein Hope Uzodinma and Douye Diri of Imo and Bayelsa states, respectively, were returned for another term, while Usman Ododo was declared winner in Kogi State, shows that the ruling party and People Democratic Party have continued to use the instrument of the state to submerge the interest of the common man in the polity. Aside from this is the issue of corruption and bribery, by politicians to rig their way to power. 

Historically, the phenomenon of off-cycle elections in Nigeria’s polity is a product of INEC’s manipulation of the 2007 general elections, which produced an electoral quagmire in Nigeria, for which seven governorship results were overturned by the Judiciary.

Interestingly, mass participation and popular support, the will and welfare of the people, which ought to be the pillars of a democracy, are completely missing in the practice of civil rule in the country. From Kogi, Imo and Bayelsa states, the ruling elite and the state machinery had their way at the expense of the Nigerian masses.

INEC, political parties, party primaries, electoral acts and processes were characterized by capitalist principles, monetization (dollarization), and legal tussle, as reflected in the just concluded off-cycle elections, which poses the question of an urgent need for a political alternative that will prioritize the interest of the working masses. The lot of the working masses in all of these states and indeed in the whole the country, as indicated by the victory of Tinubu’s APC in the earlier general elections, will plainly be anti-people, hideous and dehumanizing of her citizens for the next four years.

An electoral contest in which the result sheets are filled and votes allocated in favour of a particular candidate before the actual polling commences is a charade. Yet it happened in the Ogori/Magongo Local Government Area of Kogi State. Other areas witnessed spells of irregularities that forced INEC to admit its mistakes. A total of 59 polling units in nine wards were reportedly cancelled and billed for a fresh election on 18 November, according to Premium Times.

The entire electoral act and process was, characterized by snatching of ballot materials, violence, intimidation, killings, falsification/mutilation of results sheets, bypassing of the Bimodal Verification System (BVAS), uploading of results from polling units where no voter turned out, logistical nightmares, delays in the commencement of voting, and voter-apathy, while the mass continues to clamor for a revolutionary change.

Elections in five local government areas- Adavi, Ajaokuta, Ogori/Magongo, Okehi, and Okene- were allegedly compromised, which compelled the electoral body to promise a review. Under the Electoral Act 2022, INEC has seven days to ensure that only valid or lawful votes are ultimately declared. 

The flawed off-cycle elections have generated litigations to the extent that even facts observed before, during, and after the election by the masses and observers were legally analyzed by the court and tribunal as a process that was not flawed, thereby leading to a situation where there is an increase in political apathy.  

Degeneration of Labour Party and Dismal Performance in the Election

The dismal performance of the Labour Party in the elections was based on the failure to organize and build the party in line with its founding manifestoes, programs and policies that will defend and prioritize the interest and welfare of the masses. The continuous attack on the living conditions of Nigerians has made the Labour Party gain sympathy as a political alternative in the last general election, but the endorsement of anti-people policies and programmes by candidates of the Labour Party has made most Nigerians lose hope that it is a genuine change by the party.  

Interestingly, the leadership crises and resignations of some of the party leaders have further clarified their interests and motives. A former spokesperson of the Obi-Datti Campaign, Doyin Okupe, described the Labour party as a “special purpose vehicle” and concluded that he was resigning based on the party’s leftist ideology. He went further to describe himself as a rightist, which shows that most Labour party leaders could not defend the party’s ideology and manifestoes.  

Moreso, Labour Party candidates, as governor, senators, House of Representatives and assembly members have also endorsed anti-people’s policies like subsidy removal, hike in tuition fees, and hike in electricity tariff, which has worsened the living conditions of the Nigerian mass. 

Urgent Need for a Political Alternative

Elections in Nigeria are structured with conditionality and codified in the electoral laws to use the state apparatus, INEC, the Judiciary, and other government institutions to perpetuate the interest of the ruling class in any election.

The major political parties in the election, APC, PDP, and LP, among others, are pro-big business and clearly neoliberal capitalist in their programmes and policies. A revolutionary party is needed to advance the interest of the common man. 

There is an urgent need for mass mobilization and organization by workers, students, and other oppressed strata as a basis for propelling campaigns, political education, and a revolutionary party that can champion the socialist interest of the Nigerian masses.