11 May 2023: State Election Tribunals To Watch Out For
Elections in Nigeria are never devoid of theatrics, controversies, allegations and counter-allegations. We are in an election season again and the post-election ritual of challenging the winners at tribunals has begun. The recently concluded general elections, like previous elections, were characterized by irregularities, violence, manipulations, and loss of lives. Orodata had reported that five petitions were submitted against the victory of the President-elect, Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Election Tribunal. Elections in governorship and legislative positions across the country are also being contested.
The allegations are similar across various states. They include alleged rigging, intimidation, and conspiracy with electoral officers. Meanwhile, the elections in some states had predictable outcomes; and some had a semblance of fairness. However, the tribunal hearings in some states promise to be more intense and dramatic due to how governorship elections played out in these states.
Lagos was no doubt the centre of attraction in the last general election. Firstly, because it is the home state of one of the leading presidential candidates who eventually emerged as the winner, Bola Tinubu, and secondly because it is Lagos, Nigeria’s economic capital and the most heterogeneous state in the country.
Both presidential and governorship elections in the state were characterised by violence, intimidation, and voter suppression; shreds of evidence of these irregularities litter social media.
The governorship election tribunal in the state is one to watch out for. The reelection of Governor Babajide Sanwolu is being challenged majorly by the candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Abdul-Azeez Adediran, who came second and third respectively. Sanwo-Olu polled 762,134 votes to defeat Rhodes-Vivour, his closest rival who scored 312,329 votes in the election. Adediran garnered 62,449 votes to come third in the poll.
In total, four petitions have been filed against the victory of Gov. SanwoOlu and his deputy, Obafemi Hamzat. Other petitioners apart from LP and PDP are the Allied People’s Movement (APM) and the Action People’s Party (APP).
Both Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran in their separate petitions are claiming that Sanwolu was not qualified to contest the elections on the grounds of alleged corruption and alleged violation of the 2023 electoral act.
Adediran also wants the governorship candidate of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour who came second election, to be qualified and his votes declared wasted by the tribunal.
In the gateway state, two petitions were received from the governorship candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ladi Adebutu, and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Olufemi Oguntoyinbo. They are challenging the reelection of Governor Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It should be noted that the governorship election in Ogun was also controversial as the media reported on March 18, cases of ballot box snatching and cancellation of voting in some polling units. Many political analysts also challenged the declaration of Abiodun as the winner by the State Collation Officer, Professor Kayode Adebowale, on the premise that elections did not hold in a number of polling units and that the election ought to have been declared inconclusive.
PDP and NNPP have separately sued the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), APC and Mr Abiodun in their separate petitions.
The PDP candidate, in his petition, is seeking to be declared the winner of the election or that INEC be ordered to conduct fresh elections in 99 polling units in 41 wards across 16 local government areas of the state.
He alleged that elections were either not held in the polling units or were cancelled due to disruption and over-voting.
On its part, the NNPP said its name was omitted on the ballot paper for the governorship election.
Before the PDP governorship candidate in Enugu State, Peter Mbah was declared the winner by the electoral umpire, controversies had arisen over the collation of results. Collation of results from two council areas – Nkanu East and Nsukka – were suspended by INEC after the LP party agent, Eugene Edeoga, alleged, in a petition to the commission, that the Bimodal Voter Registration System (BVAS) machine was not used during the election in the Nkanu East Council Area and that there was a case of over-voting. His PDP counterpart, Festus Uzo, made a similar allegation against results from Nsukka Council Area. These allegations were not fully addressed before INEC declared Mbah winner with just about a 3,000 margin.
Mr Mbah polled 160,895 votes to defeat his closest challenger, the LP candidate, Chijioke Edeoga, who scored 157,552 votes.
There are currently eight petitions challenging the election at the tribunal. The petitioners are Christopher Edoga of the Labour Party (LP), Nnamdi Omeje of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), and Christopher Agu of the People Redemption Party (PRP).
Others include Frank Nweke of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Cosmas Okey of the Action Alliance (AA), Uche Nnaji of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Action People Party (APP) and Action Alliance (AA).
Another gubernatorial tribunal to watch out for is that of Kaduna State, where INEC had declared Uba Sani of the APC winner with 730,002 against PDP’s Isa Ashiru with 719,196 votes at the March 18 Kaduna gubernatorial election.
Ashiru had made allegations of irregularities in the election even before the winner was announced. He alleged that INEC connived with Sani to rig the election.
Sani won with a margin of 10,000 votes.
Elections in Rivers since 1999 have been nothing short of dramatic; in most cases like in the last one, they are bloody. The tribunal for the last governorship election had to relocate to Abuja due to the heightened tension in the state.
There are allegations of massive rigging in both the presidential and governorship elections in Governor Nyesom Wike’s state. Rivers is definitely another state Nigerians are monitoring whether or not the governorship election in the state will survive a credibility test at the tribunal