After three failed attempts, Nigerians have elected General Muhammadu Buhari to shepherd the affairs of the country for the next four years thereby ending President Goodluck Jonathan’s ambition for a second term
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 6, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
GENERAL Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, is Nigeria’s president-elect. After three failed attempts, Buhari emerged as the winner of the presidential election held on Saturday, March 28. He defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the contest with other 12 candidates. According to Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, who announced the result of the election, Buhari got 15,424,921 of the votes cast, President Jonathan polled 12,853,162 of the votes cast.
Ahead of the final election report from Borno State, a Channels television report announced that President Jonathan called on Buhari to congratulate him on his election victory.
Be that as it may, the conduct of the election itself will be a talking point for a long time as so many irregularities were reported in so many areas, which are likely to bring about challenges in law courts. Prominent among irregularities recorded were on the issue of failed card readers; late arrival of electoral officers, snatching of a ballot box, lack of voting materials, among others. Some these led to elections going late into about 9:00 pm in some places, while there was suspension of entire process in some wards.
For instance, Realnews learnt that there were reports that election did not hold until Sunday, March 29, in at least five local government areas in Lagos State and seven local government areas in Sokoto State.
The situation in Rivers State was worse. Although elections were said to have held but disputes over non-production of the INEC result sheet prompted Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State, to refuse to participate in the election process. Amaechi has thus, written to the INEC demanding for the cancellation of the elections in Port Harcourt where he was billed to vote. Supporters of the governor inadvertently went on a protesting match in Port Harcourt, capital city, and it took the intervention of combined security forces to restore sanity into the city, but not until some persons had been reported injured in the crisis.
In any case, Amaechi’s petition on the matter was acknowledged by Jega, who promised that investigation would be conducted on the matter. The question being asked by many observers was whether it was right for the governor to ask to see the original result sheet before casting his vote in the election. Onyekachi Ubani, lawyer and former chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Lagos, said it was within his right to do so because the result sheets could be used to rig election. Besides, he said, being a stakeholder in the election he was only trying to be careful so that his party was not short-changed. But another school of thought said that he should have allowed the party agent to do his work.
Notwithstanding, the systemic failures at the elections did not escape Realnews reporters who monitored the conduct of the elections. The elections themselves started on good note of enthusiasm among voters who trouped out in some voting centres in Ogun and Lagos states which were covered by Realnews magazine. As early as 8:00am voters and security officials were already at the centres but officials of the INEC arrived very late in most places. At Arepo and the Magboro Primary School, INEC officials arrived late and it took quite some time to organise the rowdy scene with accreditation.
Prior to the start of the accreditation, Jesu Joba, presiding officer at the Magboro Primary School, which had six polling units announced that they did not have enough materials like ink and biro, generator and electric cable and requested members of the community to assist. The materials were provided before the commencement of accreditation of voters. Joba told Realnews that they came late because they were trying to sort out issues at the INEC office in Owode/Mowe, Ogun State.
Olu Akinjisola, member of Magboro Development Association, who was disappointed at the INEC preparations, said that the community had provided the ink for the officials to start work while another person volunteered to provide the generator.
However, some voters were appalled at the ill-preparation of the INEC with one of them saying that “what is happening is going to cause problem here. The INEC should have provided the materials.”
Party agents also had altercation with the INEC officials at Magboro when they were told that only one party agent should represent each party at all the polling units. But the officials rescinded the stance after a heated argument with the party agents, who insisted that one party agents should be allowed to observed at all the polling units.
Adeleke Lasisi, civil engineer with Arup Nigeria, who spoke to Realnews at Magboro Akeran Polling Booth expressed disappointed that at the logistics problems, saying that Attahiru Jega, chairman of the INEC chairman, would not come from Abuja to implement the electoral rules, adding that what they did would force people into desperation. He also said that the Magboro Development Association had to provide the canopies and chairs for people, particularly the elderly who trooped out to vote to seat down waiting for the arrival of the INEC officials
There were also logistic problems in some parts of Lagos, which was characterised the late arrival of officials and shortage of electoral material. Voters at Ogudu, Shomolu and other areas also complained that the INEC officials arrived late but that every other thing went well after that.
At Ajuwon area of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area of the state, accreditation of voters did not start until about 10:30am. Akin Orebiyi, a Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, when Realnews complained about the late arrival of election material, he said that the officials were delayed as a result of logistics challenges in distribution of election materials.
At Ward 06, Ifako Ijaiye, accreditation started by 11:15am and the card readers were a challenge to the INEC officials and voting started by 4:30pm in the area. At Yakoyo-Ogudu Berger, Ward 09, the voters were waiting for the arrival of the INEC officials as of 12:38pm when Realnews visited the polling unit. Sanni Mufutau, a PDP agent, said that they had been waiting for the officials since 8:00am and all the efforts to reach them on phone failed. “We have been here since morning and the INEC officials are yet to arrive our area. People are tired of waiting for them and INEC should not even think of disenfranchising us because we want to cast our votes,” Mufutau said.
The PDP agent later called Realnews around 3:40pm to report the arrival of INEC officials at the polling unit. But at the polling unit 009, Ward 09, Ikeja, accreditation started at 8:00am and was smooth and orderly. Abdul-Majid Bako, one of the voters, expressed satisfaction with the process and commended the INEC for a job well done. “I came here around 8.30am, and shortly after that I did my accreditation. The card reader successfully read my card and I did not hear any complaints from any of the other people who have come for accreditation. The way I am seeing things, it is obvious that the process is better than the 2011 exercise. There has been a lot of improvement as everything INEC told us is what is happening. I hope the situation is like that in other polling units across the country and I hope we have a successful election,” he said.
At the Adeniyi Jones area of Ikeja, the INEC officials and voters were seen in ward 004 at the Adeniyi Jones Primary School, while at a polling unit located at Ramat Crescent, Ogudu GRA, voters were seen standing in groups discussing while waiting for the arrival of the election materials and officials. Also, as at 9.13 am, the polling unit located at Kolawole Street, Ogudu, was empty as there were no electoral officials on ground. At another polling unit located at Alhaja Street, Ogudu, electoral officials arrived at 8.46 am.
At polling unit 8, ward 7, Ifako Ijaiye, two out of the three card reader machines are not working as INEC’s ad-hoc staff complained that they had been calling their leaders to come around to rectify the situation to no avail.
To douse the tempo of the high tension, the INEC said in some places where there challenges, especially with the use of the card readers, it mandated that the accreditation should be done manually. Some people who would have been disenfranchised including President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife, Patience, were spared by the INEC’s order for the verification to be done manually. This is contrary to the 2015 general elections guidelines which provided that where card readers fail to work and cannot be replaced, elections in such polling units will be postponed to the following day. “The scale of the challenge we have observed today has necessitated a reconsideration of this provision of the guidelines. The Commission has, therefore, decided as part of the guidelines for the conduct of the 2015 general elections that in polling units where card readers have so failed to work, the presiding officer shall manually accredit voters by marking the register of voters, upon being satisfied that the person presenting a Permanent Voter’s Card, PVC, is the legitimate holder of the card,” Chris O. Iyimoga, chairman, information, voter education and publicity committee, said in a statement.
Iyimoga assured the voting public that where irregularities were reported thorough investigations would be conducted to ascertain what happened, while the commission said it “remains committed to the delivery of free, fair and credible elections in spite of the challenges.”
Despite all the shortcomings, the African Union Election Observation Mission, AUEOM, on Monday, March 30, praised the conduct of the general election, saying its preliminary findings showed that the vote was “conducted in a peaceful atmosphere within the framework that satisfactorily meets the continental and regional principles of democratic elections.”
The AU said the election was “generally peaceful during the accreditation as well as voting and counting processes” but urged the parties in the elections not to challenge any of the results by fighting on the streets but to use courts. “The AUEOM encourages all parties to resort to legally established channels, should there be a dispute on the outcome of the process,” it said in a statement, adding that: “The AU long-term observers will continue to observe the post-electoral process.”
In the same vein, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room commended the dedication and orderliness of Nigerians during the presidential and National Assembly elections. It also acknowledged the diligence and sacrifice of Nigerians during the elections as a reflection and testimony of their deep commitment to democratic governance. Nevertheless, the organisation noted main challenges faced by the election umpire as late commencement of elections; challenges with accreditation process; performance of the security agencies and use of social media.
The Situation Room said it was particularly concerned about the reports of interference in the electoral process in some states, especially Rivers and Imo states. According to the organisation said: “Reports of failure by security agencies to prevent havoc by non-state groups in some polling units were received. These developments raise concern that the collation of results may be compromised if appropriate actions are not taken to safeguard the credibility of the exercise. We appeal to political parties and politicians to exercise restraint and desist from the use of violence in the electoral process. We urge the security agencies and officials to conduct themselves according to established standards of professional conduct.” Similarly, the Situation Room called on the public to remain patient and maintain a high level of commitment to ensure the success of the process. “We urge all Nigerians to remain orderly and law abiding and to refrain from any actions that may further challenge the electoral process. We urge the public to cooperate with the relevant authorities and to report any action capable of undermining the electoral process to the appropriate authorities and civic organisations,” it said.