Lessons from Saturday

Below are some of my thoughts on the conduct of the National Assembly Elections.

1. A long way from 2007: The 1st leg of the elections even with the postponements were not perfect, but improvements are noticeable from 4 years ago. Attempting to go from 0 to 100% in one election is unrealistic, but the positives are there. For example, I got to my polling unit by 9am, 90 minutes earlier than I arrived on April 2nd. The logistics were better. The turnout also increased. On April 2nd, I accredited 165 people. The number went up to 259, the vast majority of which voted. I was also impressed with the security. Across the country, similar improvements were recorded. International observers declared their satisfaction with the conduct of the elections and while there were still few lapses, it is clear that Nigeria will get there eventually.

2. Beware early results: the first results that came in showed the ruling PDP at a seemingly huge disadvantage. However, they were mostly from the south-west and there was a lot more counting to be done throughout the country. Two very interesting cases involved Bukola Saraki and David Mark, who were trailing on saturday night only to cross the line first on sunday. All early results must be viewed with caution henceforth. More on Saraki later.

3. Bankole, Oyinlola display sportmanship: the Speaker of the House, Dimeji Bankole won a lot of sympathy when he released a statement conceding defeat. Olagunsoye Oyinlola followed suit on sunday when he lost his Senate bid in Osun state. The hope is that other politicians can emulate both these men. There is honour even in defeat.

4. ACN roars back in the South West, but it’s gains elsewhere are limited: from a record low of one out of six south-west states in 2007, the ACN looks set to dominate the zone once again with sweeping victories in the legislative races setting them up nicely in the other elections. The gains in other zones have been less dramatic, picking up just 2 senate seats in Edo and 1 Rep. Seat each in Akwa Ibom, Kaduna and Plateau. A lot of results are outstanding however, and the picture may change considerably.

5. Delay in release of final results could change perception: the delay in the release of the full results, 48 hours after close of voting is cause for anxiety and leaves room for speculation. Many have even joked that there might be some advanced mathematics involved in result computation other than simple addition, or that an abacus is being used at INEC HQ. I hope we won’t have to wait 3 days before the results of the Presidential election are announced.

6. Is a reset in Nigerian politics underway? : the full answer to this question won’t be known until all the results of all the elections come in, but the trend certainly points to a reduction of the PDP’s majority in both houses. Will it extend to the governorship and Presidential elections? How will the results influence each other? The outcome will definitely be interesting to see.

7. Did the NYSC DG lie?: the bomb that went off at the INEC office in Suleja, Niger state will be remembered as one of the most cowardly acts ever committed on our soil. Several news media carried the story that members of the NYSC died in that explosion. The Director-General of the NYSC later issued a statement saying that no Corper was killed. ThisDay reported that Victoria Akonde lost her life in the blast. Why would Tsiga lie about it? To save face? If he did lie, he certainly has a case to answer.

8. The role of social media: I really can’t end this without talking about the role of citizen reporters in the elections. There were a number of platforms: like Revoda, that enabled voters to send in reports from their polling units. This added to the openness of the process, and the scenes of people cheering as the votes were counted was a heart-warming sight. The people’s votes are counting once again. Reports from various polling units flooded Twitter throughout saturday night. One especially interesting event was that despite reports indicating the Bukola Saraki had lost his bid for the Senate in Kwara, his twitter account said on saturday night that the PDP had won all the legislative seats available. The tweet was soon deleted, but the results turned out exactly as he said. Was he clairvoyant?

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