STEPHEN OLUFEMI ONI reports on the just concluded presidential and National Assembly elections in Kwara State and reactions of opposition parties to the results declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as expectations of some residents from the President-Elect and the incoming National Assembly
The just concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections across Nigeria, interestingly characterised by some melodrama and intrigues, had expectedly been different strokes for different folks. Expectedly, while the winning political parties alongside their candidates are savouring their victory at the polls, the losers on the other hand are licking their wounds, and in some cases threatening fire and brimstone while calling for the outright cancellation of the elections across the country by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), alleging malfunctioning of the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), late arrivals of election materials and INEC officials to the polling units as well as INEC’s failure to upload the results of the elections from the various polling units to their website, among other allegations.
The scenario, like in other states of the federation, is the same in Kwara State where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) had a clean sweep in both the Presidential and National Assembly elections, clinging the three senatorial and the six House of Representatives seats, while the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, had a field day in the presidential election.
The elated Kwara State Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, in a show of appreciation to the people of the state for their support and belief in him and his administration which made them vote massively for the APC across board in the February 25 elections, said: “On behalf of our party (APC) and our candidates, I express my profound gratitude to all of you, the good people of Kwara State, for your turnouts, peaceful conduct, and reassuring support for the APC at the presidential and parliamentary elections.
“The outcome of this important election asserts one thing: the people of Kwara are clear about the future we all desire for the state, regardless of the groundless lies of the opposition parties and their leaders. “With all of the Senate and House of Representatives seats in the bag, the results were unambiguous about the fact that our collective victory in 2019 over unproductive god-fatherism, poor governance, and the sense of entitlement was neither an accident of history nor a fluke induced by any propaganda. I thank you indeed. We certainly do not take your overwhelming support for granted.
Just so you know, more than anywhere else in this country, Nigerians are really proud of our determination to finally bury political servitude in Kwara State. “I assure you that our team will do a lot more with the new mandate in our collective drive for a state that works for all. We will continue to prioritise the people in the design and execution of government’s policies and programmes, while working with the present and the incoming federal administration to strengthen access to basic amenities as well as infrastructural and human capital development.
“This is a victory for national unity, as had been preached by the progressive governors and other statesmen across the country. It is a vote of confidence in the capacity of the President-elect to build on the great strides of President Muhammadu Buhari especially in the area of infrastructure, addressing some key national questions in line with global best practices, and build a stronger and more competitive economy.
I have no AbdulRazaqSarakidoubt that Asiwaju, a great team player, will hit the ground running, helped by his experience, rich network, great understanding of all the burning issues and assisted by an array of patriots, including the resourceful Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima, who would prioritise national security and development over every other thing.
“This, indeed, is the time for everyone, irrespective of partisan affiliations, to join hands with the president-elect to build a stronger nation.” However, some candidates of the opposition parties in the state, particularly the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have rejected the results of the elections, alleging observable infractions. Setting the ball rolling, the Kwara Central Senatorial Candidate of the PDP, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, while rejecting the outcome of results of his senatorial district, said preliminary review of the results showed substantial irregularities and manipulations that are inconsistent with the provisions of the electoral law. The former Minister of Youth and Sports, who urged PDP members and supporters in the senatorial district to remain calm, said a team of lawyers are already studying the results with a view to taking appropriate legal steps. He said: “While the party explores the instruments of the law to prosecute its grievances, I appeal for calm across the district and urge our supporters to remain law abiding.
“For his part, the PDP candidate for the Kwara South Senatorial District, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim, while also rejecting his district’s declared results for alleged gross electoral malpractices, vowed to “reclaim my mandate” in Court. In a statement by the Director of Media and Communications of Senator Rafiu Ibrahim’s Campaign Team, Dr. Babatunde Salami, the Senatorial candidate promised to challenge the results in court and ” reclaim the “stolen mandate”. The Peoples Democratic Party candidate for Kwara South, Senator Rafiu Adebayo Ibrahim has rejected the outcome of the National Assembly Elections declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“This is due to several reported cases of gross electoral malpractice and widespread electoral fraud by agents of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and officials of the Electoral Commission as against stipulated guidelines in the electoral act. “These actions violate the fundamental principles guaranteeing free and fair elections according to the electoral act.
The candidate will be seeking redress at the court to reclaim his mandate,” the statement stated. On the other hand, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Tunji Moronfoye, however, admonished members and supporters of the party not to be bogged down or discouraged by the outcome of the presidential and national assembly elections in the state, admitting that the PDP didn’t do well in the elections. His words: “Yes, I know we didn’t do well in the Presidential and National Assembly elections. However, the race is not over. We have two very important elections in front of us. The Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections.
We must not relent in our efforts and we must win the two elections. . “Let us rally for the Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections. I strongly believe that we can still win the gubernatorial elections. All electoral contests are not the same. Sentiments are not the same. Our race is not over; we must continue to fight till the finish line. Fights and competitions are won by people who do not give up. Please do not lose hope; it is not over till it is over.” The Kwara State chapter of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), for its part, said there were some observable flaws in the conduct of the Saturday Presidential and National Assembly elections in Kwara state, particularly the malfunctioning Biometric Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) Addressing journalists at the party’s secretariat in Ilorin, the SDP Chairman, Alhaji AbdulAzeez Afolabi, said: “Reports from some of our polling agents confirmed that in many polling units (PU), many of the electorate was disenfranchised because the BVAS malfunctioned.
“In a particular PU, its function was epileptic by ‘approving’ a few electorate but ‘rejecting’ many. Regrettably, complaints lodged to the INEC officials on duty couldn’t make any difference.” The Chairman also faulted the non-transmission of the results electronically from the polling units into the INEC’s website according to Section 62(2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended), saying the Electoral Act is “unambiguously clear about the ‘Procedure and Collation of Results’, which mandated the INEC to transmit election results electronically from polling units into its website.” He said: “Many of the electorate were also disenfranchised by the problems created by the creation of additional polling units which saw the transfer of many voters from their traditional locations to other places. “Many voters pretended to have been accredited even when the BVAS had not shown the green light as demanded by the electoral law.” Afolabi condemned the late distribution of electoral materials.
In many polling units in the state, election materials were delayed for hours by the INEC before distribution even when BVAS time was running. He said: “We in the SDP shall not relent in our efforts to protect our votes and ensure that our members’ preference counts in determining who governs them in Kwara State. “We appeal to our supporters to remain calm and never allow the present situation to provoke them into violence. The leadership of this Party is on top of the situation and shall not rest on its oars until political justice is achieved, which we are not unaware that it may not be served on the platter of gold.” On whether the Party in the state would challenge the results of the elections in the law court, the Chairman said “it is the leadership of the party that would make a pronouncement on that.”
It must, however, be stated that Kwarans in their numbers hailed the outcome of the elections, optimistic that the feat would be repeated in the March 11 Governorship and House of Assembly elections for the ruling APC in the state, citing the superlative performance and strides of Governor AbdulRazaq’s administration in the last three and a half years. Joyous residents of the State of Harmony, who spoke with our correspondent on the outcome of the elections, while congratulating the President-elect and other candidates on their victory at the polls, were upbeat that Tinubu/Shettima era would truly translate to a renewed hope as espoused by Tinubu, while ushering in good tidings for the people and changing the unpleasant narratives in the country, hinging their optimism on Tinubu’s antecedents and wealth of experience. As a matter of fact, the residents were optimistic that Nigeria would be great in the new dispensation.
An elder statesman, Alhaji Salihu Woru Mohammed, who is the Magaji Nda of Ilorin, urged the President-elect and all the newly elected members of the National Assembly to be magnanimous in victory. He said: “I advise all elected political office holders to carry along everybody devoid of political or religious affiliation. In particular, I urge incoming members of the National Assembly to join hands with the President-elect to move the nation forward. I appeal to party supporters to guide their utterances in the interest of peace, stability and development in the country.” For her part, Hajia Bolanle Aliyu expressed the hope that the President-elect would use his wealth of experience to transform the nation. She said: “We thank God that Asiwaju won the election, and I believe the common man will enjoy the country. We want him to put an end to the issue of banditry and other criminal activities in the country. I also urge the President-elect and the national assembly members to pay special attention to the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.”