“How is it possible that the numbers have changed so much in three weeks? Did they do magic? », asks Banji, a resident of Lagos, comparing the results of the presidential election on February 25 and those of the local elections held on March 18.
At the end of the first vote, Peter Obi, the candidate of the Labor Party (LP), had come out on top in the megalopolis of more than 20 million inhabitants, carried by the aspiration for change of a good part of the urban youth. His lead of 10,000 votes in the stronghold of the elected president – the powerful Bola Tinubu – from the Congress of Progressives (APC, party in power) had raised hopes that the post of governor could change hands.
But the APC did not give the opposition a second chance. The incumbent governor, Babajide Sanwo Olu, won the election hands down in Lagos with more than 400,000 votes ahead of Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, the LP candidate.
“What we witnessed was theft, hooliganism. A government of thieves, made by thieves, for thieves. declared this architect of 40 years, during a press conference. Even before the announcement of the results, Mr. Rhodes-Vivour was already denouncing “the collusion between the ruling party and the officials of the Electoral Commission to have the APC candidate re-elected, which constitutes a slap in the face for democracy and all those who came out to vote on Saturday. »
Two elections deemed “inconclusive”
During this day, at least twenty-one people were killed on the whole territory, according to the observation mission of the European Union. This one noted “multiple incidents and intimidation towards voters, electoral agents, observers and journalists. »
In a statement released Tuesday, March 21, the US Embassy in Nigeria reported that members of the US mission had been “the immediate witnesses of these incidents”. They also noted “the use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during and after the local election in Lagos. » In the megalopolis, where the population is predominantly Yoruba, the ruling APC is accused of having maintained a hostile discourse vis-à-vis the Igbo, the ethnic group to which Peter Obi belongs, as well as the candidate’s wife and mother. Rhodes-Vivour. In an already charged context, several lieutenants of the newly elected president did not hesitate to declare publicly that “Lagos belongs to the Yoruba”.
This speech sickened Onyinye, a 25-year-old actress, herself Igbo, born in Lagos. “There is poverty in our country, a lack of education, she laments. If you put these kinds of ideas on the street, people buy into them without thinking. » These repeated threats have scared off some potential voters in a country already plagued by electoral apathy. Onyinye persisted in making her voice heard, despite a bad experience during the February 25 presidential election. That day, she remembers, “Election officials stopped the vote at the person queuing right in front of me. They told us that they had to leave to send the results to their bosses or because of insecurity… These were obviously lies. I waited until 11 p.m., but I was never able to vote”. On March 18, she found, unsurprisingly, that the line was thinner outside her polling station.
The data collected by the analysis group Steers confirm “a significant drop in turnout between the two elections, especially in constituencies where Igbo people are the most numerous. » Its co-founder, Michaël Famoroti, believes that “violence and intimidation” were key instruments in dissuading opposition voters from slipping their ballots into the ballot box. Videos of attacks on polling stations, widely disseminated on social networks on the day of the election, completed this undermining work.
The March 18 local elections were “much more violent and less believable” than the election day of February 25, he assures. The Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) deemed the election to be “inconclusive” in Kebbi and Adamawa States, where too many votes had to be canceled due to irregularities or violence.
In the end, of the 28 states that elected their governors, the APC took the lead in fifteen regions, while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP, opposition) was only able to secure nine seats of governors. The Labor Party (LP) only managed to take the lead in Abia State, in the heart of south-eastern Nigeria with an Igbo majority. Another opposition party, the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), secured a significant victory in the Kano region.
This formation is led by a former local governor, the very popular Rabiu Kwankwaso, whose candidacy had already united the inhabitants of the region during the presidential election. Here again, the campaign was marked by violence and very offensive statements by the APC in power.
“Many people felt their vote was stolen from them in 2019, when the election was deemed inconclusive as the PDP raced ahead,” analyzes Aminu Hayatu Sanusi, who teaches political science at Bayero University in Kano. “Kwankwaso really mobilized people around the idea that they had to get their mandate back”, he continues. The corruption charges against the outgoing governor, a member of the APC, and the “very strong personalization” of local politics in Nigeria cemented the victory of the NNPP candidate – a close Rabiu Kwankwaso.
These elections are above all a disappointment for the voters of the Labor Party (LP) and its figurehead, Peter Obi. The latter has just officially lodged an appeal to have the presidential election annulled, which he considers to have won. However, his party’s failure at the local level is not “not necessarily surprising”, according to Dengiyefa Angalapu, analyst at the Center for Development and Democracy, in Abuja. “Locally, people vote for personalities more than for parties, he points out. The popularity of Peter Obi could not play this time. » The governors were surprised by the success of this “third force” during the February 25 presidential election and this prompted them to campaign more seriously.
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The extent of violence and intimidation is no less worrying. “This questions the role of the security forces, who were massively deployed in the polling stations”, points out Dengiyefa Angalapu, who is also worried about a possible multiplication of disputes and disputes. At the risk of weakening the entire Nigerian electoral system.