Last Saturday’s election bonanza for Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been diminished by various challenges and rejections from opposition groups around the country. With the PDP on the verge of claiming 21 gubernatorial seats, opposition groups still fear that tensions may be building for next weekend’s presidential round. Voice of America reporter Chinedu Offor has been surveying areas of voter discontent in Nigeria and gives the Voice of America a rundown of alleged irregularities and potential troublespots.
“In Edo State there’s a mass protest that has turned violent. Streets are barricaded by angry youths burning tires. Police and military personnel have been deployed. The youths are alledging that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has thus far refused to announce the state’s gubernatorial elections because the ruling party’s candidate is losing. They are alleging that the opposition Action Congress (AC) candidate, Adam Socharmaly, is leading in the polls, but that INEC is trying to rig the results,” he said.
Reporter Offor cites sporadic protests occurring in Rivers State, Kano, other parts of the north, in southwestern Nigeria, in Oyo, Ondo, and some other states. The reason he explains why the opposition was kept minimal is because Nigerians remain hopeful that the country’s courts and legal institutions will help sort out various inequities.
“A lot of the candidates and a lot of the people are still giving courts a chance to weigh in on some of the disputed results,” he said.
Addressing Monday’s disorder in the northern state of Kano, where youths barricaded streets and burned tires, Offor explains that protesters were demanding that election officials release local results.
“People are claiming that some of their favorite candidates were not cleared to run. And those who ran and won the elections had the results turned in favor of some ruling party candidate or those supported by the authorities. And some people were protesting the shoddy arrangement by INEC, claiming that they did not get the vote because INEC aided deliberately or just that their preparations did not arrive at the polling stations on time or did not show up at all. A lot of people are saying if INEC did not get it right with the gubernatorial election and are faced with the speed of conducting the presidential election, the potential is there for it to explode,” he said.
Chinedu Offor says that INEC’s biggest test will come in the next five days, when it has to revise 60 million presidential ballots to include the Action Congress Party’s nominee Atiku Abubakar, after a Supreme Court decision Monday ruled that INEC had no authority to exclude the vice president from running in the first place. He says there is no likelihood under Nigeria’s election mandate that the vote would have to be put off until adjustments on the ballots can be fully prepared.
“Authorities have ruled out any postponement and it’s not possible to print the ballot papers with (Vice President) Atiku’s name on it. But INEC had anticipated this because the chairman of INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, said that the Supreme Court rules in favor of Atiku, then the Commission would go to Plan B. The candidates, instead of having their pictures on the ballot papers, as was their original plan, would now have only the party’s logo with the names of the candidates on it,” Offor noted.
Nigeria's presidential elections are scheduled to be held on Saturday, April 21.