Ododo wins Kogi, Uzodimma is re-elected, and Diri leads in Bayelsa

Ododo wins Kogi, Uzodimma is re-elected, and Diri leads in Bayelsa
INEC announces results for six LGAs in Bayelsa; collation will start today. SERAP and YIAGA Africa criticize INEC for irregularities in Imo. The APC faithful in Uzodimma celebrate as the governor dedicates victory to God and obedient citizenry.

• Imo governor: LP rejects the outcome and goes to court

Usman Ododo of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was proclaimed the winner of Kogi State's off-cycle gubernatorial election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Friday night, following a tumultuous wait marked by fears over canceled results in some Polling Units (PUs).

With 446,237 votes, Ododo defeated Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Murtala Ajaka, who received 259,052 votes. Dino Melaye, the PDP candidate, received 46,362 votes.

There was no significant upset in the results of the other two states, Imo and Bayelsa, where elections were held on Saturday. Governor Hope Uzodimma of the APC was declared the winner by INEC, and Governor Douye Diri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is comfortably leading after results collation was postponed until this afternoon at noon, with results from two LGAs, Brass and Southern Ijaw, still pending.

Diri maintained his advantage in the results that INEC has released thus far as of yesterday. After receiving 137,909 votes from the six LGAs, Diri is ahead by 64,106 votes according to the final results from six of the state's eight LGAs. While Timipre Sylva of the APC, his closest rival, has only triumphed in one LGA, Nembe, he has won five.

However, INEC has faced criticism for holding an unsatisfactory election and for collating results in spite of reports of over voting in the Kogi poll.

A few interested parties claimed that the election results that were shown on the IReV portal showed instances of excessive voting in the LGAs of Okehi, Adavi, and Okene. Prof. Sani Mohammed, the Kogi State Collation Officer, nevertheless, continued to support the outcomes.

Concerns regarding the process were raised by the circumstances, and interested parties demanded that INEC headquarters step in right once to resolve the purported irregularities and protect the voting system's integrity.

In response, Social Democratic Party (SDP) governorship candidate Murtala Ajaka stated that INEC had canceled results in Bayelsa due to instances of excessive voting and asked the Commission's headquarters to step in in Kogi.

Ajaka stated during a press conference, "We are being punished for following the law. We made the decision to stand by the law even though we had every chance to falsify the outcome in our own local government.

"The only option available to us when oppressed is to protect ourselves. We will be forced to defend our democracy if the current trend continues, and if providence allows, we are dedicated to doing so.

PDP candidate Senator Dino Melaye demanded that the poll be canceled, citing numerous anomalies that he believes to be unprecedented in the history of the state.

At a press conference held on Sunday in the state capital of Lokoja, Melaye highlighted his displeasure with the anomalies that plagued the election in each of the three senatorial districts, calling the electoral process "shameful and unhealthy."

On Saturday, November 18, however, INEC scheduled new polls in Kogi voting units where the previous exercise was halted.

Mohammed Kudu Haruna, the national commissioner and a member of INEC's Information and Voter Education Committee, revealed this in a statement released Sunday night in Abuja.

"In addition to our statement from Saturday, our Kogi office has provided us with an update regarding the suspension of elections in certain areas of the state where result sheets were finished prior to the start of voting," he stated. The Ogori/Magongo LGA's nine out of ten wards experienced the most serious incidence.

"In Adavi, five Polling Units (Pus) in Okunchi/Ozuri/Onieka Ward; in Ajaokuta, five PUs in Adogo Ward; in Okehi, one PU in Eika/Ohizenyi Ward; and in Okene, five PUs in Obehira Uvete Ward, we received reports of similar and other incidents." Form EC40G for the four LGAs contains the results from the impacted PUs.

On the other hand, only Oshobane Ward II's results—which had eight PUs and 2,264 registered voters—have been tallied in the Ogori/Magongo LGA. The 59 PUs and 15,136 registered voters in the other nine wards—Eni, Okibo, Okesi, Ileteju, Aiyeromi, Ugugu, Obinoyin, Obatgben, and Oturu—still had their elections postponed. A new election will be held on Saturday, November 18, in the impacted Pus, in accordance with Section 24(3) of the Electoral Act 2022 and Clause 59 of INEC Regulations and Guidelines on the Conduct of Elections 2022.

He asserts that the Returning Officer's assessment of the Margin of Lead Principle's application will determine if new elections are called for.

Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa, was heavily guarded, especially the state INEC offices where collation was taking place. Money, voter intimidation, and, to a lesser extent, performance throughout the two candidates' terms in office were the main factors in the election's victory.

As expected by The Guardian, the two front-runners were evenly matched, making it too close to declare until the very end. However, as many locals and PDP supporters have noted, it would have been closer if the APC had fielded David Lyon, its previous candidate in the 2019 election. They also pointed out that many party members would have defected.

Massive protests were held earlier at the INEC office in response to Nembe Bassambiri's alleged manipulation of the election results. Prominent members of the state and national assemblies, women's and youth organizations, and civil society activists from Bayelsa convened at the INEC headquarters to denounce purported attempts to rig the election by the organization's upper echelons. Angry demonstrators blocked the bustling Swali Road, where INEC is located, to stop the commission from adopting Nembe Bassambiri's results.

Additionally, INEC demanded on Sunday that security services help free its staff who are being held captive in Brass LGA, Bayelsa, without delay. The development, according to the commission, is harmful to legitimate elections.

Earlier, the APC had protested against what it called a plan to shift the Brass results collation to Yenagoa, the state capital. The party claimed the action was a premeditated attempt to sway the vote totals in favor of PDP.

Meanwhile, INEC chairman Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has been called by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) to swiftly form a collaborative, wide-ranging investigation into claims of electoral bribery and violence in the off-cycle elections. The body also encouraged him to ensure that suspected perpetrators of serious human rights offenses, regardless of their political connections or status, are effectively prosecuted by locating, apprehending, naming, and shaming them.

There have been allegations of electoral offenses during the elections, such as vote-buying, electoral violence, conspiracies, and undue influence.

The organization stated in the letter, which was signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, that INEC must take decisive action to counteract the nation's culture of impunity for electoral violence and bribery, which denigrates Nigeria's democratic process and participatory democracy, if it is to fulfill its constitutional and legal obligations.

The body also ordered Yakubu to reveal the precise amount spent on voter and civic education and activities carried out in Kogi, Imo, and Bayelsa, as well as the spending data on the governorship elections in these states.

In response to the polls' conclusion in Imo, Uzodimma thanked God for his triumph. With a commanding lead of 540,308, he was proclaimed the victor, besting PDP candidate Samuel Anyanwu, who received 71,503 votes, and Labour Party (LP) nominee Athan Achonu, who received 64,081 votes for third place. There were eighteen contenders for the position.

Prof. Abayomi Fasina, the Returning Officer, proclaimed Uzodimma the winner yesterday morning at around 10:00 a.m. since she received the most votes overall and the majority of the votes in each of the state's 27 LGAs, meeting the standards set forth by the constitution.

Uzodimma gave thanks to God for making his triumph possible and to the Imo people for their unwavering support.

He vowed to follow through on his campaign promise to do more work for the state's citizens during his second term in office.

Strangely, Uzodimma won the local council elections over Anyanwu and Achonu. Both Anyanwu and Achonu, however, have criticized the procedure and insisted that there were electoral irregularities. On January 15, of next year, Uzodimma is anticipated to be sworn in for a second term.

Achonu declared he will file a lawsuit after rejecting the outcome. Achonu said that the election was "marred by irregularities, including vote buying and physical assaults of LP agents, and thus deserving of outright cancellation" while speaking to reporters at his Umulomo country residence in Ehime Mbano LGA.

In addition, he said that, in contrast to INEC's pre-election guarantees, voting took place in numerous places without BVAS accreditation.

Adding that "recorded evidence abound, such as that of a police officer who was beaten by voters for attempting to snatch a ballot box," Achonu further accused security personnel of being complicit in the breach.

He told LP followers they will receive justice from the legal system and praised them for their unwavering support despite provocation.

"Under the full scrutiny of security guards, whose wages we foot the bill for through our commonwealth, our democracy was violated. Collation was abruptly relocated from the ward to LG centers, with the exception of APC agents who were denied entry and other party agents being kept out.

"The judiciary has so many men of integrity; I have not lost hope in it, and we shall reclaim our mandate," Achonu declared.

In order to understand how it uploaded results from EC8A for some of the sampled polling places in Imo where elections were not held, the election monitoring group YIAGA Africa has asked INEC for clarity.

In an Abuja statement, Dr. Hussaini Abdu, the Chair of the YIAGA Africa WTV Working Group, requested clarity and mentioned the LGA results that INEC published without holding elections, including Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ikeduru, and Okigwe LGAs.

Abdu demanded that INEC make clear the voting situation in each polling place in the Imo local government areas of Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East, and Orlu.

"YIAGA Africa demands that INEC provide clarification regarding the circumstances surrounding the places where elections were canceled, including the uploading of polling unit results from those locations," the statement adds.

Reports from a few of YIAGA Africa's Watching The Vote (WTV) monitors in Imo state that 13% of the sampled polling units did not hold elections. Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East, and Orlu LGAs were the most affected by these instances. Additionally, YIAGA Africa kept an eye on the results being uploaded to the IReV, particularly those from voting places where there were no elections.

On election day, there were rumors that INEC had moved all voting places to the LGA headquarters. According to YIAGA Africa, INEC neglected to provide an official statement regarding the alleged temporary relocation of voting places, and voters in Orsu LGA were not notified of the change in polling place location.

Additionally, our observers in Okigwe LGA reported that eight sampled polling units did not hold elections. In eight of the sampled polling places in Oru East LGA, the election was not held. Furthermore, seven of the polling units in Orlu LGA that we sampled, as well as one polling unit in each of Ideato North, Ikeduru, Oru West, and Owerri West LGAs, did not hold elections.

"YIAGA Africa expresses great worry with the findings of the EC8A polling unit sample upload to the IReV. These polling units include Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Ideato North, Ikeduru, and Okigwe LGAs, where elections were not held. We urge INEC to provide clarification on the voting status across polling places in Orsu, Okigwe, Oru East, and Orlu LGAs in Imo in order to maintain openness and safeguard the integrity of the process."

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a civil rights advocacy group, denounced Wednesday the irregularities in violence, armed political thuggery, and electoral heists that marked the off-cycle elections in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi. The group expressed regret that ballot boxes were violently snatched in spite of all the assurances from the service chiefs—including National Security Adviser (NSA), Nuhu Ribadu—that there would be peaceful polls in those three states. In Imo, even armed police officers took part in the violent ballot box snatching.

The organization used the arrest of a senior police officer in uniform in Ikeduru, Imo, by the residents after he was seen carrying voting boxes and turned over to the authorities, as an example.

Calistus Ihejiagwa, an LP agent in the state, was battered and bundled out of the Imo Collation Centre in Owerri, the state capital, early on Sunday morning. HURIWA's national coordinator, Emmanuel Onwubiko, said it was unacceptable that Imo security forces oversaw the violence.

Ihejiagwa was protesting the results being presented at the collation center and claiming that the results collated from the LGAs that were being presented did not match the ones on the Result Viewing Portal (IReV). The group said that it was criminal for the security agencies whose operatives were on the ground at the collation center to have allowed the dehumanization of Ihejiagwa.

Along with questioning why cash-for-votes is still used so heavily during elections, HURIWA also denounced the reported widespread manipulation of the electoral processes in Bayelsa and Kogi. As a result, agents of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) were able to apprehend 14 suspected vote-buyers and seize millions of naira from them at various polling places in Imo and Kogi as well as Otuoke.

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