#NigeriaDecides2023: States of violence

20th March 2023

The 18 March governorship and Houses of Assembly elections—held three weeks after the presidential and National Assembly elections—were characterised by poor turnout rates, but many had hoped that the 2023 elections would be better given the initial widespread enthusiasm.

However, SBM’s pre-election survey showed that only 34.53% of Nigerians were invested in the gubernatorial elections, so we sent only two researchers to the 28 states having such and relied on open-source intelligence (OSINT) for states with only legislative elections. Our research shows that logistical issues and violence resurfaced, and Nigeria’s elections risk normalising ethnic-based voter suppression.

Lagos State was especially affected as non-Yoruba residents were disenfranchised, and some Yorubas were asked to confirm their ancestry before voting. The Cross River Young Progressives Party (YPP) deputy governorship candidate was kidnapped for political or other reasons. Thugs hijacked and burnt election materials in Ogbia, Bayelsa, making the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials flee to Yenagoa for safety. “Iceland” members were accused of threatening non-PDP voters in Rivers, while supposed YPP thugs forcefully demanded access to election materials in Akwa Ibom.

In Chiranchi ward, Kano, suspected political thugs were hostile at the NNPP candidate’s home ward, while the Kano line Managing Director and two others were arrested for allegedly destroying ballot boxes in Dala LGA. In Kokena North, Kebbi, some party agents demanded that voters display their ballot papers before casting their votes, while in Dongo LGA, Taraba, APC thugs disrupted the voting process.

In Enugu, a thug attacked Obiagu Primary School polling unit and lunged at a voter who tried to capture the incident. In Akpa Ozzi, Nsukka, some party representatives ordered that voting be suspended until security agents were available to monitor the process and protect voters. And in Enugu South, the PDP local chapter chairman reportedly harassed voters and the opposition with his thugs.

The most striking examples of violence are from Lagos and other states where a long-standing ruling party wants to stay in power forcefully. However, we find the prevalent ethnic bigotry particularly disturbing.

The electoral body’s misconduct in the just-concluded elections leaves Nigeria in danger of illegitimate leadership, which will erode trust in the electoral process. To reclaim credibility, the cheated candidates and victims of electoral assault must obtain justice; operational challenges should also be addressed. Essentially, the progenitors of the violence should be prosecuted according to the law.

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