Southsouth… Where art the huge votes?

March 6, 2019
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In 2015, the Southsouth was dominated by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose presidential candidate, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, is an indigene of Otuoke in Ogbia Local Government Area of Bayelsa State. He had huge votes from the region. But in the February 23 presidential election, the Southsouth could not return huge figues for PDP candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. In this piece, BISI OLANIYI, OKUNGBOWA AIWERIE, NICHOLAS KALU, OSAGIE OTABOR, BASSEY ANTHONY, and MIKE ODIEGWU x-ray why the huge votes suddenly disappeared.

Rivers:

Rivers State politics was dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), until November 27, 2013, when the then incumbent governor, Rotimi Amaechi, now Transportation Minister, defected to help midwife the All Progressives Congress (APC). The aim was to defeat Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, of the PDP, who was president.

The 2015 polls witnessed so much violence. Many APC members were either  killed or  injured before, during and after the elections, with the state becoming “Rivers of Blood” and many voters were disenfranchised through massive rigging, thuggery and violence.

During the 2015 presidential election in Rivers, the total votes cast was 1,584,768, with APC getting 69,238, while PDP got 1,487,075. In 2019 in the state, the total votes cast was 666,585, with APC getting 150,710, even after 72,000 votes in Emohua LGA was unconstitutionally removed, and PDP getting 473,971.

The Coordinator of APC’s Presidential Campaign Council in Rivers, Pastor Tonye Cole, declared that the era of bogus electoral figures was gone in Rivers state.

Cole said: “Gone are the days when political thugs would hijack electoral materials and allocate hundreds of thousands of imaginary votes to their party. The results from the various units, wards and LGAs (in Rivers State) confirm these and further highlight the depth of rigging and manipulation of the 2015 elections that APC as a party had complained about.”

Wike, through Rivers Commissioner for Information and Communications, Emma Okah, who doubles as the Director of Information and Communications of Rivers PDP Campaign Council, however, claimed that Rivers people massively voted for PDP candidates in 2015, but security agents prevented them from repeating the feat during the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.

Delta:

The results of the presidential poll in Delta show that the PDP garnered  594,068 of the valid votes in the election, while the APC had 221,292 votes.

Although Delta has 2,719,313 registered voters for the elections, only 891,647 persons were accredited to vote. The figure represents 50.61 per cent of the registered voters in the state.

The overall election results showed that the APC had an impressive showing, scoring 221,292 compared with its performance of 48,910 during the 2015 presidential election. The APC’s showing during the 2019 presidential and National Assembly polls represented a 63.79 percentage increase.

On the contrary, the results announced by INEC last week showed that the PDP in Delta  state performed poorly, judging by its performance in 2015, when it secured 1,211,405 votes at the presidential election. The PDP regressed with a 34.19 percentage decrease after it polled 594,068 in the 2019 presidential polls.

The APC’s impressive showing in last weekend’s election in Delta has been attributed partly to the  unity driven campaign launched by the party’s 2015 governorship candidate, Olorogun O’tega Emerhor, as well as the political clout of the incumbent, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege in Delta Central Senatorial District.

The performance of the APC, in spite of the factional crisis in the party makes the increase more remarkable.

The presence in the APC of former two-time PDP governor, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was the Delta South senatorial candidate of the party in the election, might have contributed to the increased number of votes scored by the party.

Unlike in 2015, when the PDP won all the federal constituency seats in Delta state, in 2019, the party won nine seats, with the APC’s Francis Waive securing the Ughelli/Udu federal constituency seat.

Also in 2015, of the three senatorial seats, the ruling PDP won two seats: Delta South and Delta North, while Senator Omo-Agege of the Labour Party (LP) won Delta Central seat, before he defected to the APC.

Senator Omo-Agege repeated the feat in 2019 by clinching the seat for a second time, defeating his closest rival, Ms. Evelyn Oboroh, PDP, in a keenly-contested race. The PDP won two senate seats: Delta North and Delta South.

In 2015, the contest was a three-horse race, involving Great Ogboru (LP), Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP) and Olorogun O’tega Emerhor (APC), but in 2019, the race has been between the APC and PDP.

A chieftain of the PDP, Mr. Frank Igwebeze, attributed the poor showing of the PDP in 2019 to the order by Buhari for ballot box snatchers to be dealt with ruthlessly, saying the common man in the rural communities in Delta state feared the worst and decided to stay away.

Cross River:

There was a time in the present democratic dispensation, when the ruling PDP in Cross River State always thrashed any opposition at the polls. The PDP always scored figures ridiculously higher than any closest rival in any electoral contest in the state. This was a scenario that even played out even in the elections in 2015.

A look at the result of the presidential election in 2015, and looking at the situation as it is today, shows a lot of factors have played out. The results in 2019 showed a marked difference from how election results used to be in the state and this has raised questions: Were the results bogus in the past? Are we getting more realistic results today? Does this mean votes are actually counting today more than they used to be in the past?

In 2015 in Cross River state, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP scored 414,868 votes, while Muhammadu Buhari of the APC got a paltry 28,368 votes. The APC had, however, gone ahead to be winners in the presidential elections in the country. In 2019, Atiku Abubakar of the PDP got  295,737 votes to beat Buhari, who came second with 117,302 votes. This is despite the fact that elections did not hold in some wards in areas like Bakassi and Boki. Also, the elections for the entire Etung was also cancelled.

At this point, it would be pertinent to point out that a major factor to this development could be the political configuration in the state today, as against how it was in the last four years. Largely responsible for this was that there was no strong opposition in the state at any point before 2015.

All political heavyweights in Cross River then were members of the PDP, who had political structures across the state.  So, it was always a smooth ride for the PDP in any election. In fact, then, politicians only fought to secure the tickets of the PDP.

In the buildup to the 2015 elections, and even in the aftermath, so many spats arose within the PDP that led to the eventual exodus of political heavyweights across the 18 LGAs of the state. A good number of these heavyweights are in the APC. Some of such top politicians are: Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba, Senator John Owan-Enoh, Prince Bassey Otu and Dr. Alex Egbona, among others.

So, when the elections came around again in 2019, it was a different ball game. This time round, it was not exactly an underdog situation for the opposition APC in the state, as the contest was more like a clash of titans. So, results from the polls, especially in areas where the APC leaders came from, showed a marked difference. In fact, many of the APC stalwarts won elections in their areas. At best, there were hardly cases of landslide winnings by the PDP, as it was in the past.

For APC politicians who had mobilised their people to come out and vote, the presidential candidate of the party (President Buhari) benefited from the goodwill they enjoyed with their people. For example, in the February 23 elections, a lot of voters went for the politicians they know and in the same vein voted for every candidate of their party on the ballot. This turned out kindly for the presidential figures. People who went out to vote their National Assembly members of the APC, who campaigned vigorously, ensured they voted for the APC on all the ballots to avoid mistakes. This scenario, it was observed, played out more in rural areas than urban centres. This could account for the sharp increase for the numbers of the main opposition, APC, in the last elections.

In contrast to this is also the sharp drop of the figure for the PDP. From over 400,000 votes in 2015 to less than 300,000 votes in 2019 seems a long way. This has made people believe that given that the PDP was in charge of everything in the state at the time and given that rigging was more a menace then than it is now, that figures for the ruling party were always inflated beyond proportion. Now, this may prove a bit difficult as the opposition in the state has also developed muscles and can match the PDP squarely in pretty every department, as far as elections are concerned.

The better fortune of the APC in Cross River state created more committed members and this has led to improved vigilance of the party’s agents and members on election day in the state. This is because irrespective of the fact that the party polled 117, 000 votes, it could still have been possible for the PDP to inflate their own figures and still leave a wide gap between the two figures, but the opposition’s vigilance from the polling units to the various collation points by agents of the party for the presidential election, it was difficult to try to inflate the figures.

Also, it was realised that some of the developmental projects of the Federal Government might have boosted the APC’s chances in the last elections. For instance, the rehabilitation of the Calabar-Ikom-Ogoja federal highway, which is the main artery of the state, thereby reducing travel time and stressful trips, might not have gone unnoticed. These infrastructural developments are the things the ordinary people saw and many might not have been vocal enough to voice them out, but they registered in the minds of a lot of people. Such supporters might not have been vocal enough, because of the antagonism that goes with being a supporter of President Buhari in Cross River state, but only waited for the polls to make their statements.

In fact, there are those who believe the APC could still have had a better outing than it did in the last elections, if not for a couple of factors. The first is leadership tussle in the party in the state, which is believed to a great extent, hampered the chances of the party’s candidates. Again making it worse was the abrupt announcement by INEC on the eve of the presidential and National Assembly elections that the APC would have no candidates in the elections in the state. This led APC’s candidates in the elections to frantically try to reach out to their people that they were still in the race, but again there were those who believed that if not for the strange announcement by INEC, that APC could even have recorded far above the number of votes the candidates of the party had.

Going into the March 9 governorship election, with votes now counting, the Ben Ayade-led PDP government will have an uphill task to remain in Government House, Calabar.

Edo:

It was not a defeat the APC in Edo State had expected during the conduct of the 2019 presidential, and National Assembly elections. The results showed the PDP reinforcing its dominance of Edo politics, just as it did in 2015.

In 2015, the PDP won the presidential election with a margin of defeat of 78,400 by scoring 286,869 votes. It won in 15 LGAs, while the APC won only in three LGAs. The APC had 208,469 votes. For the National Assembly election in 2015, the PDP won two senatorial and five House of Representatives’ seats, while the APC had one seat in the Senate and four seats in the House of Representatives.

During the February 23, presidential election, the reverse appeared to be the case, even though the PDP won the election with a margin of 7,849 votes. The PDP won in eight LGAs and had a total 275,691 votes, while the APC won in ten LGAs and had a total of 267,842 votes.

Akwa Ibom:

In the 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections, the influence of the PDP, which was the government at the centre, indicated how each of the political parties fared in the elections of that year in Akwa Ibom State.

The towering influence of the then governor of the state, Senator Godswill Akpabio, who was an ardent and strong pillar of the PDP and Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, also affected the results of 2015 elections.

Fourteen political parties participated in the 2015 presidential and National Assembly elections in Akwa Ibom State.

Of these political parties, only the APC, which emerged from an alliance of political parties, was the  contender against the PDP.

The total number of accredited voters in Akwa Ibom in 2015 was 1,074,070, of 1,644,481 registered voters.

The result of the presidential election showed that the PDP polled 953,304 votes, while APC came a distant second with 58,411 votes.

The margin of victory for the PDP over the APC in the February 23, 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections in Akwa Ibom  narrowed significantly, giving a clear indication that the APC is stronger now than it was in 2015.

PDP’s candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, polled 397,831 votes, while President Muhammadu Buhari of APC got 175, 429 votes.

Bayelsa:

In 2015, Jonathan won Bayelsa, his home state by landslide. He had 361, 209 votes in the state. Buhari only scored 5,194 votes. Statistics from INEC showed that of 605, 637 registered voters in the state then, 384,789 persons voted in the election.

But field monitoring gave an indication that the figures were merely allocated to the parties in favour of the PDP.  Without strict implementation of the card reader in the election, it was easy for PDP leaders to depend on the use of incidence forms to allocate votes in various polling units.

Observation showed that the PDP leadership, enabled by its state government, circumvented all the electoral procedure to deliver bogus figures to their kinsman and President. The breakdown of the results in the eight local government areas gave no chance to APC to even score up to the 25 per cent of the constitutionally required votes.

For instance, in Ekeremor Local Government Area, while Jonathan scored 61,507 votes; Buhari trailed from behind with 374 votes. In Yenagoa, Jonathan, 45, 429, Buhari, 462; Ogbia, Jonathan, 50,754, Buhari, 214; Sagbama, Jonathan, 41,221, Buhari, 361; Brass, Jonathan, 31,312, Buhari, 1,968 and Southern Ijaw, Jonathan, 78,898, Buhari, 856.

In the National Assembly election conducted simultaneously with the Presidential poll, the APC candidates only contested for formality. While their PDP candidates posted bogus figures and were declared winners of their districts and constituencies, the APC contestants were left to lick their wounds.

But the scenario changed dramatically in the just-concluded Presidential and National Assembly elections. The strict electoral procedure adopted by INEC to conduct the polls made it a Herculean task for any party including the party at the centre to allocate results. Each vote was largely contested for and mostly persons who came out to cast their ballots were counted by the commission.

Though there were controversies in some local government areas such as Nembe and Southern Ijaw following suspicion by the state government and the PDP that APC members manipulated the results in those areas, the general performance showed a drop in the number of voters when compared to 2015 elections.

Despite an increase in the state voter population from 605,637 to 923,182, the total number of votes cast in the just-concluded presidential election was still less than the votes recorded in 2015. In 2015, 384,789 voted in the election. But in 2019, 335,859 cast their votes.

Also the margin of difference between Buhari of the APC and the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was a remarkable departure from the 2015 election. According to INEC Returning Officer, Prof. Zana Akpagbo, Atiku polled 197, 933 votes to beat Buhari of APC who scored 118, 821 votes. It is a difference of 79,851 votes compared to 356,015 difference between votes between Jonathan and Buhari in 2015.

A breakdown of local government performance also showed that unlike in 2015 when Buhari won no council, he was declared the winner of two councils in the state in 2019. For instance he won in Southern Ijaw scoring 47, 627 votes to beat Atiku, who got 41627. In Nembe, Buhari scored 31, 811 votes to win Atiku, who got 7,167.

Other local government results did not show the kind of wide margins between the two parties in 2015. In Kolokuma-Opokuma, Atiku got 16,040 while Buhari scored 3,938. Others are Yenagoa, Atiku, 37,676, Buhari, 7,483; Brass, Atiku, 15,936, Buhari, 15,936; Sagbama, Atiku, 30,122, Buhari, 7,949; Ekeremor, Atiku, 21,856, Buhari, 21,857 and Ogbia, Atiku, 27,506, Buhari, 5003.

There was also a close contest between the National Assembly candidates of the PDP and those of the APC. Beyond all expectations, INEC confirmed that candidates of the APC won two seats in the House of Representative and one in the Senate.

But the Bayelsa State government and the PDP believed that the former Governor of the state, Chief Timipre Sylva, INEC and security agencies manipulated the results to favour the APC especially in Nembe and Southern Ijaw.

The governor rejected the votes saying they were allotted to Buhari, and other candidates of the APC in Nembe Bassambiri and Southern Ijaw Local Government Areas òf the state.

Dickson said what happened in Nembe and Southern Ijaw was a blatant violation of the rights of the people to elect their leaders and representatives.

Dickson said further that a former Governor òf the State, Chief Timipre Sylva, an oil surveillance Contractor, David Lion, and officers and men of the Nigerian Army commandeered materials to non-designated locations and held electoral officers hostage to allocate fake figures at gunpoint.

He said that it was the height of absurdity for INEC whose staff had admitted and spoken out against the abduction and violence in the area to brandish a purported result for the seven wards of Nembe Bassambiri and Constituency 4 of Southern Ijaw.

According to the governor, Army Officers and men under their command compelled collation officers at gun point to concoct figures from non-existent votes that were never captured by card readers.

But the APC in Bayelsa condemned efforts of Dickson to discredit results of elections in some wards in Southern Ijaw and Nembe local government areas of the state.

The party dismissed as groundless Dickson’s statement against votes garnered in the state by President Muhammadu Buhari and APC candidates.

The party in a statement signed by its Publicity Secrtary, Doifie Buokoribo, also rejected an attempt by Dickson to equate himself with Bayelsa by claiming the state condemned votes polled by APC.

Buokoribo stressed that Dickson was not Bayelsa, and that the state was neither Dickson nor a political party.

He advised Dickson to explore the democratic option of seeking redress in the courts if he had any grievances about the poll results, instead of plunging into the realm of reckless and enflaming statements.

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