Home > Business > Agribusiness > 2023: A VOTER’S OBSERVATION By ‘Gbade Ojo


Like every other registered voter, I waited with great anxiety for the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections. For INEC to have created additional polling units to arrive at a total of 176,606 and transferred many potential voters away from the polling units where they voted in 2019, the first hurdle was how to locate my new unit. With the aid of my phone, I was directed to where I was moved to and the distance from my home which was well over one hour trekking. I decided to take the pain to vote for two important reasons: first, as a Political Scientist, I needed to be a participant observer and two, I thought it imperative to discharge my civic obligations to the state. Each election at four years interval has been throwing up new challenges and learning experiences. This particular election was, however, crucial more so, being another civilian/civilian transition in a poll like no other, in view of the events in the political milieu that lingered till the day of election, that is, cash crunch and fuel scarcity.

More than one and a half hours after my arrival at the new polling unit, INEC officials were not available, not until around 10 in the morning when voting proper commenced. Not many could cast their votes because they could not go the whole hug to locate the new units where they were expected to cast their vote. Besides, not many hold the kind of phone that could assist them, while only a few have the skill to manipulate their phone to get the required information. Unfortunately, INEC did not advertise the information.  Sad enough, it was after voters had arrived before officials of the electoral body started pasting voters’ register for potential voters to know whether they were to vote where they had queued for hours or not. Many left disappointed and frustrated when they discovered that their names were not where they were after having waited for so long.

Not only that, since 1960 when Nigeria got its flag independence, our successive electoral bodies had failed to come up with innovative temporary polling units. Many of the units were not different from market places, with lots of people crowded together under the inclement scourging sun.  It was so bad that the electoral body could not even provide big umbrellas that would have provided the necessary shades. However, Nigerians endured till the end, having been voting since 1999 that democracy its return to Nigeria’s body polity. It is imperative to note that the aged and people with disabilities were not given special preferences at polling units to facilitate their movements and performance of their civic obligations with minimum stress.

In terms of security, it was far from being adequate. Reason: the number of polling units across the country perhaps outnumbered the number of policemen and Civil Defence Corps operatives combined! This scared many potential voters, most especially the elites, most of whom were afraid of the possibility of violence in the process of casting their votes. It is still a sad commentary that in the South- West zone, the issues of vote buying and electoral violence have not been completely eliminated in our electoral processes. There were places where names and account numbers were collected for bank transfers after the exercise.

The introduction of technology that could aid voting processes became a liability as the BVAS machines either malfunctioned in many units or were out rightly discarded in very others. Where they were used at all, they were not used to transmit results to the INEC server as envisaged. This has raised multiple questions such as: why the humungous financial commitment for the procurement of the machines when they could be dispensed with as a result of possibility of hackers. The manual result computation and transmission are not without its attendant hiccups. INEC chairman will find it not funny that the raging controversy may not fizzle out easily for putting into abeyance the BVAS machines.

In many areas, it was reported that the malfunctioning of the machines were pure sabotage, as the likes of Chief Segun Osoba, former Governor of Ogun State, could not vote despite repeated efforts before he retired home. Electronic transmission of results could have saved INEC from this embarrassment now despite its imperfections; agreed that there is no perfect election anywhere in the world. One cannot easily forget the mannerism of Donald Trump former American President when he lost his second term bid with the allegation of Russia’s poke nosing in American election to aid Trump by tampering with technology.

Furthermore, one major observable phenomenon that should interest any keen watcher of this election is the factors influencing voting decisions at polling units. Ab initio, the security and economic pains, occasioned by cash crunch and fuel scarcity were expected to determine voting decisions, but alas, they were far from affecting the voting patterns and voters’ decisions. By implication, Nigerians are resilient and have become catalysts for democratic sustenance.

The shocking revelations from the results so far include: (i) Mallam Nasir El-Rufai could not deliver Kaduna State (ii) Governor Abdullahi Ganduje failed to deliver Kano State (iii) Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the flag bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), could neither deliver Lagos nor Osun State where he hails from. (iv) Muhammadu Buhari, as sitting president and leader of the ruling party, also failed to deliver his home state, Katsina and (v) Governor Simon Lalong, who is the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, could not deliver his Plateau State too. Some of the factors responsible for these are ethnicity, religion and youth’s restlessness. In Plateau State, which is a predominantly Christian state, they opted for Peter Obi as a Christian and some other places too where he got a lot of votes.

For ethnicity, the South-West voted for their own – Bola Tinubu – not just for his sterling qualities but for the fact that he is a Yoruba man with the reasoning that a Fulani man, Buhari has almost served out his term, why another Fulani, Atiku Abubakar? This made Tinubu a blessing to several other candidates for Senate and House of Representatives, as many voters were thumb printing APC all through in many areas. The role of G-5 governors was infinitesimal in the game in South-West region of the country. But why did Tinubu suddenly become unpopular in his Lagos base? This was incredible and never envisaged.

The simple reason is that youths opted not to vote for him for some reasons. First, the hangover of the #EndSARS protests of which both his personality and business interests were attacked in Lagos. Till date, the assumption, whether right or wrong, that Tinubu played ignoble roles with the suppression of the unrest remains an issue till date. Not only that, universities were locked for close to eight months, students, who are predominantly youths, were at home along with their unpaid teachers. Thus, not many among students and teachers would go out to vote for APC. Obi or the Igbos generally should not claim popularity for Tinubu’s poor electoral performance in Lagos but the restless youths who are yet to be placated.

If you look out for election results on campuses of tertiary institutions like the University of Ibadan, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, University of Lagos and Lagos State University, amongst others, APC fell flat. This couldn’t have been the handiwork of the Igbos. New government, when inaugurated, should take time out to formulate policies that will placate the teeming youth of this country who perceived that their future has been compromised by the ruling elites who are not only  seen to be super-corrupt but  also grossly inefficient. Without that, a new government may be their government rather than ours. Should there be a rerun of the electoral contest, a greater damage may be done by the youth who are not ready to compromise their stand. If Peter Obi did not contest, they could have opted for Omoyele Sowore, so they claimed. In essence, the election was about issue and not personality. Vote buying could not change the perception and electoral decision of the youths.

From the above, perhaps the most reasonable calculation is that governorship elections will differ tremendously, with the exception of Lagos, possibly. Youths don’t have any grouse with the governors most of whom were imposed by their respective godfathers but the almighty Mr. President in a convoluting and over-centralized federal arrangement. Governorship election is perhaps local, based on the dynamics of the politics of each state. For instance, the result of the election in Osun State could not have gone otherwise. They voted for Ade ‘Dancer’. Should the recently conducted presidential election result turn out to be something else, one may be tempted to conclude that Ade was rigged in. The electorate in the state maintained their voting patterns, perhaps to demonstrate loyalty to their governor.

The lesson therein is that Nigerians are getting better with electoral choices. The earlier our politicians realize this fact, the better; that election is not only to recruit public office holders, but that it could be used to either reward or sanction politicians, based on their antecedents. In Africa, aside from religion and ethnicity, there is a thin line between politics and morality. A performing government, particularly in term of provision of infrastructure, may not be rewarded if it cannot balance it with humane policies. The just-concluded 2023 presidential and national assembly elections came with many surprises and shocks. While Tinubu, despite the shenanigans of all his haters, appeared to be strategic, his close challenger Atiku demonstrated lack of seriousness for toying with the agitations of the G-5 governors who were hell-bent on applying the federal character principle. He sure paid dearly for this apparent error of judgment.

Conclusively, INEC, as an election management body, politicians and the electorate in general must have learnt one lesson or the other in this controversial election.

God bless Nigeria.

  • Professor ‘Gbade Ojo teaches Political Science at University of Ilorin. He was also the Chief of Staff to the late former Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi.

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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