The outcome of the Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi polls will be determined by a minority of less than 30% of registered voters.

Busy Bee
Busy Bee November 7, 2023
Updated 2023/11/07 at 10:23 AM

As the November 11 governorship elections in Bayelsa, Imo, and Kogi approach, it appears highly likely that approximately 70 percent of eligible voters, particularly in Imo state, will choose not to participate due to concerns about insecurity and a lack of confidence in the electoral process.

Previous elections have shown that only around 20 percent of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) holders actually vote. Current findings suggest that this percentage may decrease even further as widespread apprehension about personal safety and doubts about the credibility of the electoral process grow.

Both Bayelsa and Kogi have also been affected by security concerns, leading to a decline in voter turnout. In the last presidential election, for example, Bayelsa’s turnout dropped by 20 percentage points from 36.4 percent to 16.4 percent, while Kogi’s dropped by 9 percentage points from 33.6 percent to 24.6 percent.

INEC has revealed that there are approximately 5.4 million registered voters for the upcoming Governorship Elections on November 11 in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa states. Specifically, there are 1,056,862 registered voters in Bayelsa State, 2,419,922 in Imo State, and 1,932,654 in Kogi State, resulting in a total of 5,409,438 registered voters across these three states.

Notably, Imo State stands out as a unique case. According to INEC’s official records, approximately 2.42 million individuals registered as Permanent Voters Card (PVC) holders for the 2023 general elections in the state. Out of this number, 2,318,919 individuals collected their PVCs, while 101,003 PVCs remain uncollected.

During the February 2023 presidential election, only 469,685 individuals cast their votes, despite 476,730 individuals being accredited to vote and having collected their PVCs. This signifies that only approximately 20 percent of those eligible to vote in the election actively participated in Imo State.

In light of the rising insecurity in the state, recent findings indicate that there may only be 600,000 eligible voters in the state. Out of this number, it is estimated that only 300,000 individuals, which is 13% of the total PVC holders, will actually vote.

The electoral body has already declared that there will be no election in 38 polling units out of the 4,758 polling units in Imo state due to the lack of registered voters. Therefore, the elections will take place in the remaining 4,720 polling units.

Although the specific polling units affected have not been disclosed by the commission, a non-governmental human rights organization called Alliance for Africa (AfA) has confirmed that both insecurity and apathy will discourage many from participating in the elections.

According to the AfA report titled “The Imo State Citizens’ Charter of Demand,” 43% of the sampled Imo state citizens have stated that they will not take part in the election. Residents cited reasons such as insecurity, loss of confidence in the election process, and lack of trust in INEC as their primary motives for their decision.

However, even more concerning is the research outcome presentation by the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law (Intersociety) last week. According to the report, only approximately 130,000 legitimate votes can be trusted to determine the winner of the governorship election.

Intersociety conducted this research in collaboration with the South-east based Coalition of Democracy and Human Rights Organisations (SBCDHROs). They additionally stated that the genuine votes would be chosen from a pool of approximately 300,000 voters who may participate in the election.

Emeka Umegbalasi, the Board Chairman of Intersociety, revealed that this projection took into account the apprehension, turmoil, and violence that significantly affected the state. Around 65% or 1.8 million registered voters were displaced and forced to leave their voting areas. Consequently, the state is left with only 600,000 eligible voters, out of which a maximum of 300,000 may actually vote.

Umegbalasi pointed out that the situation in Imo state is similar to the November 2021 Anambra governorship election, where the winner was determined by a small margin of 112,229 votes out of a total of 249,631 lawful votes. He also noted that many households in Imo have become vacant due to the ongoing violence, intimidation, and fear.

Umeagbalasi expressed concern that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) may resort to manipulating and falsifying the election results to determine the winner. He based his assumption on the Supreme Court’s January 14, 2020 verdict that installed Governor Hope Uzodimma, which was allegedly based on harvested results from 311 polling units. These polling units either didn’t hold voting or had their results cancelled due to widespread violence and electoral malpractices during the state’s April 2019 governorship elections.

He, nevertheless, emphasized that the organizations are focused on restoring the integrity of the electoral process and safeguarding the rights of the voters in the state. He emphasized the importance of implementing a “one man, one vote” system to ensure a fair determination of the winner.

In addition to protecting the voters and ensuring their safety, steps should be taken to secure the voting routes, voting environments, residences, and crucial voting materials such as result sheets. It is crucial to prevent subversive individuals within the security forces, including deployed soldiers, police, and the Ebubeagu militia, from causing further disruptions.

Concerns are arising in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, regarding voter apathy. Many residents seem to have lost interest in voting, as evidenced by the turnout in the previous governorship election and the recent general elections.

He, nevertheless, emphasized that the organizations are focused on restoring the integrity of the electoral process and safeguarding the rights of the voters in the state. He emphasized the importance of implementing a “one man, one vote” system to ensure a fair determination of the winner.

In addition to protecting the voters and ensuring their safety, steps should be taken to secure the voting routes, voting environments, residences, and crucial voting materials such as result sheets. It is crucial to prevent subversive individuals within the security forces, including deployed soldiers, police, and the Ebubeagu militia, from causing further disruptions.

Concerns are arising in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa State, regarding voter apathy. Many residents seem to have lost interest in voting, as evidenced by the turnout in the previous governorship election and the recent general elections.

Some individuals may choose not to vote due to concerns about violence and threats from the main political parties, PDP and APC, in Nembe and Southern Ijaw Local Councils. These parties are known to deploy thugs and troublemakers to intimidate voters and ensure that they have an advantage. Both the PDP and APC have recently expressed concerns about attempts to disrupt the election through intimidation and violence. Incidents of violence and killings have already occurred in Opu-Nembe, which will likely have an impact on voter turnout on Saturday.

Although there have been isolated cases of election-related violence in the state, it is not on the same scale as previous elections. Nonetheless, the fear of violence will affect voter turnout and ultimately influence the outcome of the election.

Hot spots in the upcoming election include Basambiri, Opu-Nembe, and other strongholds of the two main candidates and political parties, Governor Douye Diri of the PDP and former governor and immediate past minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva of APC.

Kogi is also facing concerns. Leading up to Saturday’s election, opposition parties, PDP, ADC, and SDP have accused the ruling APC of employing tactics to suppress the opposition and recruit foreign troublemakers to disrupt the election. The parties have objected to a recent directive from the Kogi State Government which requires hotel owners in the state to reserve all hotel rooms in the 21 Local government areas of Kogi State from November 4th to 12th.

Citing serious security implications, the opposition claims to have reliable information that Governor Yahaya Bello plans to utilize these hotel rooms to accommodate imported militias who will be instructed to create chaos leading up to and during the elections.

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