By Ade Martins-
Nigerians will on Saturday vote in delayed governorship polls, weeks after a controversial and disputed presidential election.
The gubernatorial race postponed by a week from its previous March 11th date, has been characterised by twists and turns in a number of states with late rulings from the courts, producing late rulings for candidates of some states, leaving them very little time to campaign. The elections will be decided in 28 of Nigeria’s 36 states as the ruling party scrambles to regain lost ground in key states.
Lagos State will be one of the most competitive battle grounds for power as Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour is locked in fierce competition against the incumbent Babajide Sanwo Olu
Several key figures have endorsed Sanwo Olu who is the sitting governor, as the man that should remain the governor for another term, citing high quality governance throughout his tenure.
However, Rhodes Vivour who is of both yoruba and igbo extraction has attracted both a following and controversy by those who feel he represents a good mix of two polarised tribes and can attract voters from both tribes.
His supporters believe he can bridge the gap . His critics say that because his wife and mother are from the igbo extraction, and he represents a subtle take over of the city by the igbos, in the process undermining the predominantly yoruba inhabitants of the city who are the indigenes of the land.
The presidential elections on February 25 were widely criticized for widespread delays, outbreaks of violence and attempts at voter suppression.
Several observers including the European Union also said the election fell short of expectations and “lacked transparency.”
Nigeria’s recent president , Bola Tinubu has traditionally been the godfather and kingmaker of Lagos State governors, selecting governors and their predecessors.
Tinubu’s firm grip on Lagos politics now faces an unprecedented threat in Obi’s third-force Labor Party, after losing on home turf.
In Delta State, eight governors stepped down their ambitions and declared support for the governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Sheriff Oborevwori.
The leadership of the political parties also endorsed Oborevwori.
The candidates led by Prince Henry Eze of Allied Peoples Movement (APM) said in a news conference in Asaba that their decision to jettison their ambitions and endorse Oborevwori for Saturday’s election was in recognition of the achievements of PDP, especially Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration in the state.
The political parties Action Alliance (AA), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), Action Peoples Party (APP), Accord Party
Governorship polls will be held in 28, namely Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, and Zamfara.
Over the next four years, each of the other eight states – Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Osun and Ondo – will vote their governors separately held off-season due to litigations and court judgements.
This year, INEC replaced the Smart Card Readers with a more advanced piece of biometric technology for verifying voters: the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been ordered by an Abuja High Court on Friday to transmit the result of Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly’s election electronically, in line with electoral laws.
The order came from a suit instituted by the Labour Party and its governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom, Uduakobong Udoh, including 13 state’s House of Assembly candidates for the March 18 elections, NAN reports.
The suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/334/2023 was filed on March 15 by Moses Usoh-Abia against INEC on behalf of the LP and its candidates, praying the court to compel the electoral umpire to follow the regulations and guidelines of the 2022 Electoral Act.
Last week, a Federal Government ruled that the INEC must transmit the results of the elections electronically.
In the suit, which contains seven prayers, asked the court for an order of mandamus compelling INEC and all its agents to comply with and enforce the provision of Clause 37 of the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of the Saturday’s governorship and house of assembly elections in Akwa Ibom.
The applicants also petitioned the court to mandate the presiding officers of all polling units to clearly paste the publication of result posters EC460(E) at the polling units after completing the EC8A result sheets.
They sought an order of mandamus compelling the commission to mandate the presiding officers of all polling units in the state to electronically transmit or transfer the result of the polling units, direct to the collation system and use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, to upload a scanned copy of the EC8A to INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) immediately after the completion of all the polling units voting and results procedures.
Today, The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) have approached the Appellate Court to grant leave for them to appeal as interested parties against the judgement of the Federal High Court.
They are seeking a consequential order staying the execution of the judgment of Justice Peter Lifu delivered on March 8, 2023, pending the hearing and determination of the appeal for which the leave is sought.
The judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos was delivered at the instance of the Labour Party, its governorship candidate, and 40 others.
The APC says despite not being joined in the suit, it has deemed it fit to appeal the judgement because it is aggrieved by the decision which it says will affect its interest as a sponsor in the same elections as the SDP.
The APC’s application for leave to appeal the judgment was brought pursuant to Order 4 Rules (1), (4) & (6), Order 6 Rules (1) &(2) of the Court of Appeal Rules, and Rule 6 of the Election Judicial Proceedings Practice Directions 2022 as well as other relevant statutes.
The APC noted that the Labour Party had earlier filed a suit against INEC at the Federal High Court, Abuja where it raised the same issues and sought similar reliefs which it re-litigated and re-sought at the lower court.
The APC also noted that by the judgment of the Abuja court of 23rd January 2023, INEC is at liberty to prescribe the manner in which election results can or ought to be transmitted by virtue of sections 50(2) and 60(5) of the Electoral Act, 2022
The party said the “decision of the Federal High Court Suit No.: FHC/ABJ/CS/1454/2022 between Labour Party v. INEC is valid and subsisting having not been appealed against by any person”.
The APC also noted the decision of Justice Lifu in Lagos to the effect that for the conduct of the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections in Lagos State, INEC officials must electronically transmit or transfer the result of the polling units direct to the collation system’.
Despite the early promise BVAS showed in the 2021-2022 off-cycle governorship elections of Anambra, Ekiti and Osun, criticism trailed the last month’s elections over what INEC described as “technical hitches“.
The runners-up in the presidential election, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP), have since expressed their displeasure with the process, vowing to challenge the process.