March 19, 2023

Gov’ship, Assembly Polls: Buhari, Jonathan, Atiku, Obi, others divided over conduct

Gov’ship, Assembly Polls: Buhari, Jonathan, Atiku, Obi, others divided over conduct

By Dapo Akinrefon, Henry Umoru, Vincent Ujumadu, Demola Akinyemi, Johnbosco Agbakwuru,

Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Egufe Yafugborhi

EMINENT Nigerians including President Muhammadu Buhari, former President Goodluck Jonathan, presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Labour Party, LP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Mr Peter Obi respectively; President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila; Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and his Lagos State counterpart, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu; former Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki; former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, and former Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday, expressed divergent views over the conduct of the governorship and House of Assembly elections. The elections were held amid a low turnout of voters and violence in parts of the country.

Why Nigerians trust APC —Buhari

Speaking on the conduct of the exercise, Buhari scored the APC high, noting that Nigerians trust his administration because it means what it says and says what it means.

In a chat with newsmen after casting his votes at Ward A, Sarkin Yara Polling Unit, 003 in Daura, Katsina State, the President boasted that the outcome of the elections will favour the APC across the country, adding that Nigerians know the party “means what it says, and says what it means.”

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, the president was quoted as saying, “I am sure we are going to win, again.” He said: “I am aware that the money is not there like before for people to sway voters like they used to do. And if they bring out money now, the people should pocket it, and still vote their conscience.

“Nigerians trust us because we mean what we say and say what we mean. We have maintained that trust. We told Nigerians that we will work for them, and we have done our best in education and health facilities, and Nigerians appreciate our efforts.”

Jonathan condemns electoral violence

Former President Jonathan, who voted in Otuoke, in the Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State, condemned electoral violence that characterised the exercise.

Addressing newsmen, the former President said: “I believe that Nigerians have decided that they must select their leaders. “Any country that the ballot papers cannot select its leaders, that country is doomed.

“So, we must form a system where the ballot papers must decide who leads us, either at the level of the president, governors, and at the level of parliamentarians; not the courts. The ballot papers should select the leaders.

“In terms of the general security of the elections, it is peaceful here but I am disturbed because, within my local government, I learned that the state constituency 2, there were crises and materials have been burnt.

“All those involved in that act must be arrested and prosecuted and we are all watching. If the police fail to do that, we will feel disappointed. Nobody should mess up our electoral system. “The country is moving and some criminals cannot push us backwards. The world is watching Nigeria.”

I have no confidence in INEC — Atiku

But the PDP candidate, Atiku, scared the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, low saying the commission was unlikely to perform better in the governorship and state house of assembly elections than it did on February 25 when it conducted the presidential election.

The former Vice President, who said this after casting his vote at his Ajiya Ward voting unit in Jimeta, Yola, stated that he still had no confidence in INEC.

He said: “I still don’t believe in INEC. I have seen nothing up to now to believe that their performance will be better in how they handle this election than the last one.”

Vote-buying bane of Nigerian electoral process — Peter Obi

On his part, the LP presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, said that one of the greatest impediments to the Nigerian electoral process was vote-buying. Obi spoke at his home town in Agulu in the Anaocha local government area of Anambra State after casting his vote at his Amatutu polling unit.

Lamenting the low turnout of voters in the House of Assembly election in the state, he said that the reasons for the apathy were obvious.

Obi said; “People have felt that their votes did not make any meaning after the previous one they voted for. A situation where there are over 90 million voters but only about 30% come out to vote shows that they believe their votes will not count.

“Vote-buying will not solve the problem of Nigeria. I don’t do transactional politics but because people no longer see money in the banks, they should collect the money corrupt politicians give them and use it to eat.

“We are talking about our country and how to save it because it is already collapsing.

Buhari, NASS deserve credit — Lawan

Also speaking, Lawan, the Senate President, commendedthe conduct of yesterday’s exercise, saying the President and the National Assembly deserved credit.

He, however, said there was room for improvement in subsequent elections.

Lawan spoke with reporters after voting at Katuzu Ward in Bade council area of Yobe State.

He said: “We are in control of the National Assembly. We have won the presidency. We are going to win nothing less than 28 states at the end of this election.

“The APC and the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari deserve credit; that we have allowed the process to be entirely determined by the guidelines and regulations of INEC.

“That we don’t use our incumbency factor to stop other political parties or opposition from winning in areas that are strong APC enclaves.

“The ninth National Assembly also deserves credit for passing a law that has made the process of our elections better.

“I think there is still room for improvement but kudos to the ninth national assembly for producing an electoral act that is giving more roles to technology to decide and influence the outcome of our elections rather than some kind of fraud.”

It’s an improvement on previous polls — Gbajabiamila

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gbajabiamila, concurred with the Senate President, saying the elections were an improvement on the previous pools.

Speaking after casting his vote at Polling Unit 008 at Elizabeth Fowler Primary School, Mercy Eneli Street, Surulere area, he said: “There’s been a lot of improvements in terms of preparedness, materials came early. The staff came early.

“As far as the INEC is concerned, it is been so far so good. I think what happened a couple of weeks ago was a learning process.

“INEC tried to introduce new technology we all applauded. I didn’t know what happened with the technology.

“Like I said it’s a learning process. I think INEC seems to have corrected whatever lapses they were to have much better operations this time around.”

Hold INEC for voter apathy — Saraki

Expressing a different view, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, said INEC should be held responsible for voter apathy in yesterday’s polls.

Addressing newsmen in Ilorin after casting his vote at his Ajikobi Ward Polling Unit 005, he said: “I think people have been disappointed in INEC on the last election. But in this election, it is too early in the day to start concluding.

“The real test comes later in the day when the election is over and the collation is on. We hope that this time around INEC has learnt its lessons from the last exercise and the damage it has done to the image of our country.”

Elections disappointing — Bode George

On his part, a PDP leader, Chief Olabode George, expressed worry over the violence and intimidation of voters that characterised the elections. 

Speaking after casting his vote at PU002 Cameron Road, Eti Osa local government area, Ikoyi, Lagos, George said: “The reports I got have been very depressing. Thugs were just smashing and snatching ballot boxes.

“Where I voted at Cameron was peaceful but the reports I have gotten so far from places like Ikeja, Shomolu, Kosofe and Shomolu were that thugs were scaring people, ballot boxes were snatched.”

Polls better than Feb 25 exercise — Wike

Describing the exercise as an improvement on previous ones, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who voted at his Obio Akpor Ward 9 Unit 7, said: “I can say they (INEC) have done very well unlike what we had on February 25. They have improved more than what we had in February.”

INEC, Police failed Nigerians — Amaechi

Former Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, chided the INEC and Police for performing abysmally.

Amaechi, in a chat with newsmen after voting his Unit 14, Ubima Ward 8, said: “INEC is a complete failure. There are those of us who opposed the reappointment of Yakubu Mahmood. The person who nominated him is from Tinubu’s camp. So what are you expecting?

“Here in Rivers state, Mahmood worked under Wike as Executive Secretary of TETFund, so what you are having in Rivers is that APC and other parties are contesting, not against PDP, but against INEC and Police”

NBA decries voter apathy

The Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, on its part, in its interim statement on the elections, decried the low turnout of voters in most polling units that its 210 election observers visited.

NBA President, Mr Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, who addressed newsmen at the association’s Election Situation Room, in Abuja, said: “What we also observed was low turnout of voters across the federation. From some INEC officials, we spoke to, the general conclusion is that this time around recorded low turnout compared to the previous elections.

“We also observed that there was vote buying. Though the political parties were a bit circumspect, you could see that some of the electorates were expecting that they would be approached to buy their vote.”