There have been inconclusive elections and reversals by INEC in the 2019 general elections. However, inconclusive elections have been a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s election history.
Prof. Yakubu’s shocking announcement
It is already history that Nigerians rudely woke up on February 16 to learn that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had postponed the commencement of the 2019 general elections by one week.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who briefed journalists at about 2:43am that Saturday in Abuja, said the commission had the previous day reviewed its preparations for the elections earlier scheduled for Saturday 16 February, and therefore, shifted the Presidential and National Assembly elections to Saturday, 23rd February 2019. But, only the passive observer will not take note of previous issues associated with elections in Nigeria.
Previous cases of inconclusive polls
Before this year’s wave of inconclusive elections, the September 2018 Osun State governorship election was the last and mostly known by many Nigerians.
It was however not the first to be declared inconclusive by INEC despite INEC’s returning officer for the election and Vice Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Akure, , Prof. Joseph Fuwape, claiming that this was unprecedented.
The late Minister of Information and Director-General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dora Akunyili, contesting for the Anambra Central Senatorial seat on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), was leading with 66,273 votes. Her opponent, former governor of the state and Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was trailing with 65,576 votes, when the election was declared inconclusive.
The returning officer, Charles Esimole, said voting had been cancelled in several wards of the senatorial district, and that the number of registered voters in those wards was higher than the votes difference between Akunyili and Ngige. Eventually, Ngige won the re-run election with a total of 69,725 votes to Akunyili’s 69,236 votes.
The Anambra governorship election of 2013 was declared inconclusive despite Dr. Willie Obiano, the candidate of APGA’s massive lead with 174,710 votes. His closest challenger, Tony Nwoye of the PDP, had a total of 94,956 votes.
As it stood, Obiano’s votes was higher than that of Nwoye’s 79,754 votes, but the number of cancelled votes in about 15 local government areas of the state was 113,113, higher than the number of votes Obiano was leading with. As a result, the returning officer, James Epoke, then Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, declared the election inconclusive, to allow for a supplementary election in the places where voting was cancelled. Obiano went on to win the election.
Incumbent Governor Seriake Dickson of the PDP was leading the polls with 105,748 votes, and Timipre Sylva of the APC was trailing with 72,594, when INEC declared the election inconclusive. Dickson had won the election in six out of the seven local government areas in the state, and Sylva had won just one local government but the election was declared inconclusive following the cancellation of the entire votes in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area as a result of massive electoral malpractice and violence.
The number of registered voters in Southern Ijaw was put at 120,000, which was above the difference between Dickson and Sylva’s total votes. Dickson went ahead to win the election.
The late Prince Abubakar Audu, candidate of the APC in the November 2015 Kogi governorship election, was already coasting home to victory with 240,867 votes. The PDP candidate and incumbent governor at the time, Idris Wada, was trailing with 199,514 votes. But the number of cancelled votes was 49,953, higher than Audu’s victory margin of 41,353 votes. Hence the returning officer, Emmanuel Kucha, declared the election inconclusive. Unfortunately, Audu died, that same evening, and Yahaya Bello, who had come second in the APC governorship primary, was presented to complete the race on Audu’s behalf. Bello was later declared winner.
The 2015 governorship election in Imo State was also declared inconclusive due to vote cancellations over electoral malpractices. At the time, Rochas Okorocha, who was running on the platform of the APC, was leading PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha with 385,671 votes to 306,142, a margin of 79,529 votes. However, the cancelled votes in several polling units across the state totaled 144,715, leaving the returning officer, Ibidapo Obe, with no choice but to declare the election inconclusive. Okorocha went on the win the supplementary election.