RESIDENTS of Kogi, Bayelsa, and Imo States will choose their new governors on November 11, 2023 respectively, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) holds the off-cycle governorship elections in the states.
It will be recalled that new governors were elected in majority of the Nigerian states during the 2023 general election held between February and March this year, however not all of them took part. This is because some states had off-cycle elections as a result of problems that surfaced during the election process previously.
In this report, we provide key information on the forthcoming November 11 off-cycle elections in Nigeria.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had said it would deploy 46,084 staff for the Nov.11 off-cycle governorship election in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states. The commission also reaffirmed that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the elections are in safe hands and cannot be vandalised in any form before, during or after the election.
In October 2023, the chief press secretary of the commission revealed that non-sensitive materials have been delivered to these states and a mock accreditation exercise involving actual voters in designated polling units have been conducted.
He said the agency has accredited 126 national and international organisations collectively deploying 11,000 observers for the election. He also said 80 media organisations seeking to deploy 1,203 personnel made up of journalists and technical/support staff to report on the elections have submitted applications. Also, 137,934 agents made up of 130,093 polling and 7,841 collation agents will be deployed for the conduct of the elections.
According data released by INEC, 5.2 million (5,169,692) people have been registered to vote in the three states.
The distribution for the three states revealed that in Bayelsa State, out of the 1,056,862 registered voters, 1,017,613 have obtained their PVCs, with 39,249 PVCs remaining uncollected. In Imo State, among the 2,419,922 registered voters, 2,318,919 have acquired their PVCs, and 101,003 are yet to be collected. Similarly, in Kogi State, out of the 1,932,654 registered voters, 1,833,160 have collected their PVCs, leaving 99,494 uncollected.
Who are the Top contenders?
There are sixteen political parties running for governor in Bayelsa, which means there will be sixteen candidates over all — two women and fourteen men. Among the candidates are Diri Duoye (PDP); Eradiri Udengmobofa (LP); Timipre Sylva (APC); and Ogege Mercy (APP), a female.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Douye Diri, who has been Bayelsa State’s governor since 2020, is the current governor. In the 9th National Assembly, he served as the Senator for the Bayelsa Central Senatorial District from 2019 to 2020. He is up for re-election in the upcoming election for a second term.
In contrast, Kogi state has eighteen candidates—seventeen men and one woman. Leke Abejide (ADC), Dino Melaye (PDP), Malam Ahmed Ododo (APC), Idoko Ilona (APGA), and Suleiman Fatima (ZLP) are among the contenders.
The state’s current governor, Yahaya Adoza Bello, has held office since 2016. Bello, a representative of the All Progressive Congress, has held the position of Nigeria’s youngest governor for the entirety of his tenure.
There are 17 political parties and 17 candidates running for governorship in Imo state. Odunzeh Ben (NNPP), Achonu Nneji (LP) (PWD), Anyanwu Samuel (PDP), and Hope Uzodimmma (APC) are among the contenders.
The state’s current governor is Hope Uzodimma, a former Senator from Orlu (Imo West) and a member of the All Progressive Congress. Since 2020, he has held the position. Following the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s nullification of the election of the then-incumbent governor, Emeka Ihedioha, he was proclaimed the winner of the 2019 governorship contest. In the upcoming election, he is running for a second term. The full list can be read here.
Are there any security concern?
Nigerian elections have been plagued by various sorts of violence and irregularities ever since the country attained independence. The 2023 general elections that held in February and March 2023, respectively, were marked by a number of criminal actions, including shooting, thuggery, kidnapping, hate speech-induced crises, assassinations, ballot-box snatching, violent disruption, and arson etc.
In October, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) expressed concern over the spate of insecurity and violence, including clashes among supporters of political parties and candidates ahead of the elections.
Despite expressing confidence in the ability of its commission to conduct credible elections, Yakubu is concerned about the wave of insecurity and election-related violence in the three states.
In the same vein, a study by Kimpact Development Initiative (KDI) has shown that the elections in the states are likely to witness violence. The pre-election environment risk assessment conducted by the organisation shows that the states saw violence in previous governorship polls, as the factors that triggered such crises remained.
In Bayelsa, historically, electoral violence orchestrated by armed thugs has been a recurring issue, particularly in areas like Nembe, Brass, Ekeremor, and Southern Ijaw. The presence of militants in the South-South region poses a significant security threat, particularly in swampy hot-spots. During previous general elections, violence led to the postponement of voting in 141 polling units, with National Youth Service Corps members expressing fear. The Bayelsa Traditional Rulers Council has reported intelligence on planned politically-motivated violence, expressing concern about law enforcement’s role in preventing such acts.
In Imo, the activities of armed bandits linked to the proscribed group IPOB create insecurity, potentially disrupting the upcoming governorship election. Residents highlight IPOB’s deadly nature, especially in Orlu, a known base for the group. The INEC said it is committed to conducting election across all the Polling Units in the state despite insecurity.
Kogi, identified as a potential hot-spot for electoral violence, faced incidents after the general elections, such as the abduction of 100 INEC staff and an ad hoc official. The governorship candidate of the SDP, Muritala Ajaka, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt, and his campaign office was attacked.
Concern over election-related disinformation
There have been concerns over the potential impact of information disorder on the election with the commission’s chief stating that fake news was capable of having a negative impact on the management of elections in the country if not nipped in the bud.
The alarming prevalence of election-related misinformation, ‘fake news’, hate speech, and the weaponization of disinformation has become very worrisome to the Commission.
The National Commissioner and member of the Information and Voter Education Committee of the Commission, Kunle Ajayi was quoted as saying: “Disinformation is used to provoke religious, political, and tribal sentiments in an already polarized society such as ours, especially, during election season, which is often the leading cause of electoral violence and uprisings.
“Election-related disinformation has become a major strategy used by nefarious individuals and groups in the political space to manipulate the general public to their advantage, regardless of the consequential effect such propaganda may have on the peace and stability of the electoral process and the country at large.”
What do you need to vote?
In order to vote, an electorate needs a valid Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), which essentially shows that you are registered to vote and proves your identity.
The PVC contains biometrical data of the voter, used for further verification on election day. This data is stored in the card.
How will voting be done?
Accreditation and voting is expected to start at 8:30am and end at 2:30pm.
Voters on the queue before 2:30pm will be accredited and allowed to vote. Even at 2pm, all those who are already on the queue will have the opportunity to vote.
The voting process at a polling unit involves several steps. First, you join the queue, where an INEC official checks if you’re at the correct Polling Unit and confirms the authenticity of your PVC. If you’re in the right place and have a valid PVC, you’re allowed to proceed. If not, you’re advised to find your correct Polling Unit.
Next, an INEC official verifies your PVC’s genuineness using Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and your identity through fingerprint verification. They also check if you’re listed in the Voter’s Register. If your name is in the register, your eligibility to vote is confirmed by marking your name and inking your finger.
The presiding officer then stamps, signs, and endorses your ballot paper, emphasizing the importance of doing this correctly to avoid making the ballot invalid. You receive the ballot paper rolled with the printed side inwards and proceed to a voting cubicle.
In the cubicle, you thumbprint, mark the box for your preferred candidate’s party on the ballot paper, roll it as instructed, and flatten it. Afterward, you exit the cubicle and drop the ballot paper into the ballot box, visible to others at the polling unit.
When will the results be announced?
The result of each Polling Unit shall be announced, uploaded and pasted at the unit for everyone to see. The overall results of the elections are usually announced within two to five days after the elections provided that there’s no glitches.