Ahead of Saturday’s governorship elections in Nigeria’s Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) Election Analysis Centre (EAC) has warned of the threats of violence, misinformation and inducements, but said these issues could be addressed if there are sufficient efforts to mitigate them.
In a press statement signed by its Chair, Professor Adele Jinadu, the CDD EAC said it has deployed 150 observers and fact checkers across the three states to monitor the elections. The group said it will provide a preliminary update on the conduct of the elections at the commencement of polls, followed by another press briefing in the afternoon. After the declaration of results of the elections by INEC, the EAC will issue its findings in a Post Election press briefing.
The CDD EAC said the outcomes of the elections will significantly impact the political fortunes of the parties involved and lay the foundation for subsequent off-cycle elections and the next general elections. The group said it is mindful that the fallout from the 2023 general elections remains fresh in the memories of voters and politicians as they engage with the process.
Despite the fact that three different parties won the presidential vote in these states – Labour winning Imo, PDP winning Bayelsa and APC winning Kogi – it is by no means certain that these results will have a strong bearing on the outcome of these governorship polls. Yet, it is also important to note that these parties will be mindful of the impact the gubernatorial elections outcome will have on future plans and ambitions.
Bayelsa and Imo will go to the polls with incumbent governors seeking re-election who initially were not declared winners of the last gubernatorial elections in 2019. Douye Diri of Bayelsa was named as governor-elect on the eve of the inauguration, while Hope Uzodinma assumed the governorship of Imo a year after the elections following separate Supreme court rulings. On the other hand, Yahaya Bello of Kogi whose non-renewable second tenure ends in January 2024 is the only governor amongst the trio who is not on the ballot.
The CDD EAC also highlighted the socio-economic challenges and insecurity across the country, which will play a major role in shaping the electoral process. There have been concerns of abuse of power of incumbency by governors instituting policies to suppress dissent and opposition party voices in their states. This trend is harmful to our democracy and associated spikes in cases of pre-election violence in these states raises concerns for voter turnout in affected areas.
The CDD EAC called on all stakeholders to play their roles in ensuring a peaceful election. The group welcomed the increased synergy between the security agencies and INEC, as evidenced by their presence during the mock accreditation held on 14 October 2023. This should go a long way in ensuring strategic coordination and cohesion in addressing fears of violence and voter suppression in these states. Nevertheless, the group called on the security agencies to be professional and non-partisan in the discharge of their responsibilities.
The CDD EAC also called on political parties, politicians, media houses and citizens to eschew divisive utterances and statements that could undermine the electoral process.