SOME influential Nigerian politicians shared false information in the build-up, amid and after the just concluded off-cycle elections in Bayelsa, Imo, Kogi states held on November 11, 2023.
In Imo state, the incumbent governor, Hope Uzodinma emerged as the winner of the gubernatorial election with 540,308 votes to defeat its major opponents – Samuel Anyanwu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 71,503 votes, and Anthony Nnaji of the Labour Party (LP), who scored 64,081.
In Kogi state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Usman Ododo emerged the winner having polled 446,237 votes to defeat the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dino Melaye, and his Social Democratic Party (SDP) counterpart, Murtala Ajaka, by a wide margin.
Douye Diri emerged winner in Bayelsa state where he polled 175,196 votes to defeat his closest opponent and candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Timipre Sylva.
The spread of misinformation was a major turn-off that characterized the poll. There were also credibility concerns due to reported cases of vote-buying, pre-filled election results and cases of violence.
Nevertheless, observations by The FactCheckHub show that spin doctors and fake news purveyors took advantage of the poll to share false information to undermine the poll. Among them are notable political figures with strong influence.
In this analysis, we take a look at some of the key politicians who were caught sharing false information during the election.
1. Dino Melaye
The gubernatorial candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Kogi state, Dino Melaye was one of the major persons whose ox were gored. In the build-up to the Kogi state gubernatorial election, Melaye tweeted a press statement that the Labour Party and People’s Democratic Party have formed an alliance in Kogi and have resolved to adopt him as the candidate for both parties.
“Today, I announce to you an alliance between the People Democratic Party (PDP) and the Dominant Group of Labour Party (LP) in Kogi State for the betterment of our state. After a wide consultation and in the interest of our dear State, the Labour Party on this day has resolved to adopt the PDP Gubernatorial Candidate, Senator Dino Melaye as its candidate for the November 11th Kogi State Governorship Election,” he wrote.
However, when contacted, the spokesperson of the Labour Party, Yinusa Tanko debunked the claim. He said he’s unaware of such an alliance and there’s also no such press release on the LP’s website or social media pages.
Dino also shared another claim again in the heat of the election which was found to be TRUE, according to election observers. Dino claimed in a video uploaded on his X (formerly Twitter) handle that INEC officials have filled result sheets ahead of voting, resulting in people’s refusal to vote in the Ogori-Magongo local govt area of Kogi state.
YIAGA Africa, a civil society organization committed to promoting democratic governance in Africa, raised alarm over pre-recorded election sheet in the governorship poll. The Election Observer group had raised alarm over pre-recorded election sheets in PU 004, Eni ward of Ogori/Magongo and PU 020, Eika/Ohizenyi of Okehi LGA of Kogi state, Kogi state before the commencement of voting in the areas.
Reacting to the alarm, the commission said it viewed the situation very seriously and would investigate the matter. No update was given by the agency till the results were announced.
2. Yahaya Bello
The outgoing governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello was among the political figures fact-checked by the Nigerian Fact-checkers’ Coalition (NFC). Speaking with journalists after casting his ballot, Bello claimed that the reports of electoral violence under his leadership are untrue.
“You will discover that the regime of Governor Yahaya Bello’s conduct of elections has been the most free, fair, credible, and violence-free elections. So the issue of violence in our election in Kogi State is a media creation,” Bello stated.
Findings show that several cases of electoral violence were recorded under Bello’s leadership. The Centre for Democracy and Development, in its 2019 post-election document after an off-cycle poll conducted in Kogi, reported ten deaths and 79 cases of violence and election malpractices across the 21 LGAs in the state.
Similarly, Nextier Violent Conflict Database in its report titled “Nigeria’s 2023 State Elections: Mirroring Hotspot States“, listed Kogi as one of the states with a propensity for electoral violence based on historical evidence and the existing security situation.
After the general elections in March 2023, 100 INEC staff and an ad hoc official were abducted on March 19, 2023 on their way to the Constituency Collation Centre in Lokoja from Kupa North area of Kogi state.
On June 3, 2023, the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Kogi State, Muritala Ajaka, escaped assassination by the whiskers after his convoy was attacked by gunmen. In July 2023, the same candidate’s campaign office was attacked twice, destroying billboards showing the picture of President Bola Tinubu alongside the governorship candidate.
3. Goodluck Jonathan
Former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, also shared misleading claim during the election. After casting his vote in Bayelsa state, Jonathan claimed that seven Nigerian states hold off-cycle elections.
Off-cycle elections are elections conducted outside the general election cycle (marked by a quadrennial presidential election). Since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, general elections have been every four years since then. But, for differing reasons, courts have overturned or changed some election results, which has affected the elected official’s specified tenure.
In Nigeria at the moment, all off-cycle elections are gubernatorial elections, particularly when connected to contests overseen by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). According to Section 180 (2) of the Nigerian Constitution, a governor must leave office four years after taking the oath of office for the first time.
Since the governor would have been sworn in on the previously scheduled date, the term usually continues, especially in situations when the governor is already in office and wins in a tribunal or court.
This, however, alters if the court’s ruling results in the election of a new governor, particularly if the new governor is a member of a different political party than the ousted governor. As a result, this leads to a new swearing-in date to ensure that the term does not exceed or fall short of the four-year term specified in the constitution.
Contrary to Jonathan’s claim, there are currently eight off-cycle governorship elections in Nigeria. The trend started when Peter Obi, of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) then, was inaugurated as governor of Anambra state in 2006. Before that, Obi had challenged the results of the 2003 general elections, which had supported Chris Ngige, then of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Since then, the state has held elections every other year, with the next one scheduled for 2026.
The 2007 election outcomes caused the most disruption to the off-cycle governorship elections, as multiple outcomes were reversed by the courts. In Bayelsa and Kogi, the governors were temporarily replaced by the speakers of the house, before returning in elections held later in the year. Also following the 2007 elections in Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, where the winning candidates were from different parties and started their terms after the relevant ruling.
The Supreme Court’s declaration of a different candidate as the winner of the 2019 Imo governorship election following months after the election caused the most recent disruption to this cycle.
4. Hope Uzodinma
The Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma of Imo State said when he came to office in 2020, Imo state had an internally generated revenue profile of less than N500 million. He stated this during a special interview held with TVC News on November 9, 2023.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Imo state’s internally generated revenue in 2019 was N16.095 billion, an average of N1.34 billion monthly. Between October and December 2019, the state generated N2.99 billion, an average of N996.67 million. It generated N3.08 billion from January to March 2020, an average of N1.03 billion monthly. These are less than the amounts quoted by Uzodinma during the interview with the Television channel.
* This analysis was based on the fact-checks published by the Nigerian Fact-checkers’ Coalition (NFC) during the off-cycle governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo and Kogi states held on November 11, 2023. The full list of fact-checks can be read here, here and here.