By Funke Cole
March 18th 2023 was indeed a watershed in the political firmament of Lagos State as the electorate in the famous state of aquatic splendour thronged out across its length and breadth to elect their governor.
While the process leading to E-Day lasted and thereafter, there have been cases of individuals working for the opposition parties, who, in their desperate bid to change the narratives, have resolved to rubbish the process.
To recap, 16 candidates participated in the governorship election in the state, including major candidates such as the incumbent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Jide Adeniran of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party (LP).
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Lagos State had a total of 7,060,195 registered voters.
Independent monitors confirmed that returning officers of each political party working at each of the local governments presented results from their polling units, collated and announced at the wards and finally at the State collation centre.
At the end of the daunting exercise, Sanwo-Olu polled 762,134, votes to defeat his closest rival, Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran who got 312,329 and 62,449 votes respectively.
The process has been adjudged to be free and fair by all observers and election monitors across the state. It therefore beggars belief that some elements would choose to raise eyebrows, crying wolf where there is none.
From available information some disgruntled elements have raised false alarms, peddled fake news, all in a bid to suit their contrived plans and narratives that voting did not take place in many areas, thus suggesting that results were rather cooked up.
Reliable sources confirmed that in some of the polling units accessed across the state, few cases of disruptions were swiftly nipped in the bud.
But why some of the opposition party supporters isolated the cases as something that should warrant a total cancellation of the polls, simply shows that they are just grappling at straws. An APC faithful in Eti-Osa local government area, Mr Eniola Adeyemi share this position.
The Labour Party, for instance, did not have agents on ground in most of the polling units. They couldn’t therefore have provided an objective report on the poll, which explains why they resorted to false claims in the face of the glaring facts. “This rankles the mind”, Adeyemi further said.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is now clear that the euphoric wave of the presidential election victory which the LP hope to repeat at the governorship poll, was built on quicksands, and forlorn hope, Adeyemi emphasised.
Lending credence to the foregoing, in a monitored television magazine programme on Channels TV, the Lagos State Deputy Governor, Dr. Kadiri Obafemi Hamzat observed that those saying these elections are the worse ever are simply telling a lie. According to him, in the 13,325 polling units across the state, only 349 recorded incidences of violence, disruption, logistics challenges or one form of issue or the other. That is indeed a drop in the ocean.
While responding to claims of rigging, Hamzat said: “People tend to be bad losers, instead of re-examining what happened and thinking of how to get better, they didn’t do that. The PDP candidate was saying ‘we ran against INEC’. The reality was that he lost his party members. People left. Same with the Labour Party candidates.
“When you are talking about violence, you have to look at all of the components. In a place like Ago Palace, you see people locking their estate gates, although outsiders were expected to come and vote there – those are part of the components that breeds violence”.
While reiterating that the will of the people prevailed in the last gubernatorial polls in the State, Hamzat said the opposition parties are bad losers.
The Deputy Governor observed that due to infrastructural and logistics problems, INEC could not be everywhere at the same time but did its best in conducting an election that was better than any other in the history of Nigeria.
“This is a fantastic election and the will of the people prevailed. Governors lost senatorial seats unlike in the days of President Obasanjo when the number of votes counted was more than the number of registered voters”, he said.
Hamzat added that the reason Labour and People’s Democratic Party are crying foul over the results of the election is that they lost, noting that the loss resulted from the gap created by decamped members of their party very close to the elections.
He stated further that the violence witnessed during the elections should not be isolated in context as the elections reflected the kind of people we are.
This writer spoke to a cross section of political analysts including Korede Abdullahi, an independent monitor, who observed the election across Alimosho axis of Lagos. He observed that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation Machine (BVAS) deployed by the electoral umpire made it practically impossible for parties to rig the election.
Pressed further, Abdullahi said: “At the Alimosho axis of Lagos State, where I monitored about 300 wards in whole I can say without fear of equivocation that it was not business as usual.
“In time past, there were cases of parties cooking up figures where they have high voting strength but it is to the credit of INEC that all such incidences were reduced if not completely curbed this time around”.
On insinuations that some of the opposition parties have alleged rigging, he said that such claims were far in between and should not be taken seriously.
“As the law says, he who alleges must prove. Anybody who feels very strongly that the elections were rigged has a right to provide circumstantial evidence at the tribunal. That is the only irreducible minimum requirement. For those unsatisfied with the outcome of the governorship election, they can go to court to argue their case. It’s as simple as that”, he added.
The few dissenting voices trying to invalidate the outcome of the last election are swimming against the tide of public opinion. They should realise that it’s time to begin preparing for another round of elections – in four years!
° Cole is a writer and social analyst