After Bola Ahmed Tinubu lost Lagos State to Peter Obi of the Labour Party in the 2023 Nigerian Presidential Election, Lagos has been in the spotlight, making its gubernatorial election this year one of the most anticipated. Will the ruling party in the state, the All Progressive Congress (APC), be able to keep its grip on power? On the other hand, will any of the opposition parties be able to topple them? All eyes were on the outcomes of these hypothetical situations.
Before the election, the state’s APC, LP and PDP campaigns took centre stage in the country. It was a struggle to finish the APC. At the same time, the opposition parties – Labour Party (LP) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), saw it as an opportunity to wrest power from the hands of the ruling party, APC. As expected, the Lagos Gubernatorial Election had its share of intrigues. According to the results announced by INEC, the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Jide Sanwo-olu, triumphed over his opponents with 762,134 votes, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the Labour Party had 312,329 votes, and Azeez Olajide of the People’s Democratic Party had 62,449 votes. In this post, we’ll look at the main forces during the election and how they impacted the outcome.
Before the Election
In the run-up to the election, both major parties engaged in extensive propaganda campaigns. The fact that Bola Ahmed Tinubu lost the presidential election in Lagos State to Peter Obi of the Labour Party has boosted the morale of the opposition parties. This gave them hope that they might depose the APC government if they worked hard enough. But, to prevent a repeat setback of the Presidential election in Lagos State, the state’s ruling party also needed to refine its tactics. To win the election, Governor Jide Sanwo-olu ran an intensive campaign. Members of the party who felt wronged were also urged to back the Governor’s campaign. For example, former Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola, who disagreed with Bola Ahmed Tinubu before the election but is influential in the Alimosho Local Government Area, pleaded to campaign for the APC. Aregbesola, often known as the “Game Changer,” held town hall meetings to promote Sanwo-olu’s candidacy. As a result, although APC lost the presidential election in Alimosho Local Government Area, they did win the gubernatorial election there. Bringing in aggrieved stakeholders saved the situation for the ruling party in Lagos State.
The candidate for the Labour Party was portrayed as a stooge of the Igbos, who were supposedly plotting to take over Lagos State, thanks to some less fascinating propaganda. The Labour Party’s nominee also had a cloud of controversy behind his Igbo name, “Chinedu,” which was used to discredit him. Even though he could trace his family in Lagos State back to the fourth generation, he was accused of not being a real Lagosian. The notion that “Lagos is a no man’s land” was also propagated. This little blackmail undoubtedly swung the election in one candidate’s favour.
On the Election Day
While high voter turnout was anticipated, especially compared to the Presidential election, the number of voters who cast ballots could have been much higher. Also unrelated is that some APC members, led by MC Oluomo, the former leader of the National Union of Road Transport Workers in the State, have issued threats. He had previously threatened everyone not voting for the APC in the state to keep away from the polling boots or suffer repercussions. As a result, several voters (particularly Igbos and those who looked like Igbos) were denied entry to the polling boots on election day. Several more were also severely assaulted. In other situations, curfews were imposed on opposition strongholds in the days leading up to the election to intimidate the local populace. Because of these factors, many eligible voters choose not to cast ballots rather than risk their safety.
Another factor that shaped the election’s outcome was the failed merger of the PDP and LP. Please remember that the candidates of both parties had announced that negotiations for a merger were underway. However, this didn’t materialise as candidates of both parties could not reach a compromise on who should fly the joint ticket. Analysts have predicted that it would have been easier to unseat the ruling party if there had been a merger between the opposition parties. Failure to achieve diminished the chances of any opposition parties clinching power.
Voter suppression is unacceptable and must be opposed. While political campaigns always involve some form of propaganda, it’s crucial to avoid inciting unnecessary tension through hate speech. In addition, politicians should avoid partisan tactics and instead run campaigns centred on concrete policy proposals. The beauty of a democratic election is that voters choose their representatives however they see proper.
Predictions for the Future
If opposition parties have sufficient proof of electoral malpractices in the Lagos State Gubernatorial election, they can approach the court for redress. Although, this will be challenging because many voters, particularly those of the opposition, were prevented from casting ballots or remained away from the polls out of fear for their safety.
However, a significant takeaway from the 2023 Nigeria General election results is that power ultimately rests with the people. Therefore, those who occupy political office must bear in mind their responsibility to serve all citizens well. If Democracy must grow, concerted effort from everyone is needed.