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QuickRead: INEC’s shift of guber and state assembly elections. Four other stories we tracked and why they matter



The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week postponed the governorship and state house of Assembly elections by seven days.

This and four other stories we tracked dominated public discourse last week.

1. INEC’s shift of governorship, and assembly elections

On March 8, INEC announced the postponement of the state elections from March 11 to March 18.

The INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, confirmed the postponement of the election in a statement in Abuja.

He said although the appellate court had given the commission the go-ahead to reconfigure its Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, the ruling came too late for the process to be concluded.

The statement read: “Consequently, the commission has taken the difficult but necessary decision to reschedule the Governorship and State Assembly elections which will now take place on Saturday, 18 March 2023.
“By this decision, campaigns will continue until midnight of Thursday, 16 March 2023 i.e. 24 hours before the new date for the election.”

Why it matters

The postponement of the elections provides INEC with a rare opportunity to redeem its badly battered image by conducting polls acceptable to Nigerians.

It gives the commission the privilege to put its house in order and address the issues that undermined the February 25 elections.

This time, Nigerians want the best and would not tolerate any excuses from the commission. Therefore, it will not be out of place to term these polls as a litmus test for INEC and by extension Nigeria’s democracy.

2. Supreme Court sacks Shekarau as Kano senator-elect

The Supreme Court on March 10 sacked the former Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, as Kano central district senator-elect.

The former governor dumped the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in August last year.

A five-member panel of the Supreme Court led by Justice Inyang Okoro, in a unanimous ruling, declared Rufai Hanga, who was nominated by NNPP as Shekarau’s replacement following his defection to PDP, as the senator-elect in the district.

Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the lead judgement, said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) erred by refusing to recognize Rufai Hanga as the NNPP flag bearer in Kano central senatorial district following the defection of the original candidate (Shekarau) to another party.

“The court, therefore, held that the appeal brought by the electoral umpire lacked merit and is accordingly dismissed.”

Why it matters

The Supreme Court with the ruling effectively affirmed the power of political parties in the nomination of candidates for election.

The ruling may have also resolved the vexed issue of who owns the mandates between the candidates and their parties when issues, including cross-carpeting, arise.

3. Governor Wike celebrates Peter Obi

The Rivers State Governor, Nyesome Wike, on March 11 described the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi, as the hero of the country’s presidential election held last month.

Read also:QuickRead: Tinubu’s emergence as president-elect. Four other stories we tracked and why they matter

The former Anambra State governor polled 6,101, 533 votes to finish in third position behind the duo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Wike, who spoke at an interactive session with some trade associations in Port Harcourt, said the North would have retained the power without the LP candidate on the ballot.

He said: “Obi is my hero. If Obi did not contest the election, power would have gone back to the north. The whole of South-South and South-East that PDP lost, if Obi did not contest, PDP would have won.

“The hero in this election is Obi whether you like it or not. I am not here to please you. Obi is the hero. He may not have been pronounced the winner, but no problem, the law will take its course.”

Why it matters

Wike’s remark was a recognition of an outsider’s feat in a country where two establishment parties reign supreme.

Obi’s performance speaks to the desire of Nigerians for a new order that will reset the country on the path of progress after the disappointment and failure of the old guards in the last few decades.

It also sets the tone for future elections in Nigeria where polls have often been marked by fraud allegations and violence.

4. Buhari rules out annulment of presidential election

President Muhammadu Buhari on March 9 ruled out the annulment of the country’s presidential election despite allegations of widespread irregularities by opposition parties.

The duo of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, had rejected the outcome of the election and vowed to challenge it in court.

In a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president described the calls for the annulment of the election as “wishful thinking.”

The statement read: “Bola Tinubu’s election stands. If you are aggrieved, and you have the locus to do so, go to court.
“Those who sought to do this forgot what the President said at the palace of the Gbong-Gwon Jos when he went to the city to inaugurate the Tinubu-Shettima campaign: ‘this election will not be annulled; whoever is the winner will be president.”

Why it matters

The president’s statement may have effectively betrayed his plans and or that of the ruling party to frustrate the judicial process which has been activated to allow aggrieved parties to seek redress in court.

The resentments over the outcome of the election are understandable and point to the need for improvements in the country’s electoral processes.

A brazen breach of the rule of law may snowball into unforetold political crisis.

So, the development of the last few days has again reinforced the call for various institutions in the country, including the court, to provide clarity on the electronic transmission of results and other contentious issues in the process.

5. Ex-Gov Shema’s aide, others’ defection to APC

Seven top members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their supporters joined the All Progressives Congress (APC) on March 7 in Katsina.

The Director-General of the APC Campaign Council in Katsina State, Mr. Ahmed Musa-Dangiwa, told journalists that the defectors include Alhaji Bashir Tanimu-Dutsinma, a personal assistant to the former governor of the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema.

He said: “One of the defectors was Alhaji Bashir Tanimu-Dutsinma, former personal assistant to Shema, former local government chairman, and also a member of the PDP Board of Trustees, North-West zonal caucus.
“Others were prominent political leaders and business moguls in Katsina State. The defection of these individuals was a great sign of success for the APC in the March 11 governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state.”

Why it matters

The defection of the PDP stalwarts to APC has again confirmed politics as an interest-driven game with personal gain constantly influencing the decision of the players in the system.

By Hamed Shobiye

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