A year to the 2023 general elections, Nigeria’s two major political parties last Saturday restated their dominance of the polity by sharing the six vacant seats filled in bye-elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The elections were held in four of Nigeria’s six geo-political regions.
At the end of the polls, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) won four seats to edge the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which picked the two other seats.
The bye-elections were conducted by INEC in four states to fill three vacant seats in the House of Representatives and three seats in state Houses of Assembly.
The vacant federal seats were Akure North/Akure South of Ondo State, Jos North/Bass of Plateau State and Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency of Cross River State. The state assembly seats were Pankshin South of Plateau State, Akpabuyo of Cross River State and Ngor Okpala of Imo State.
Four of the seats became vacant following the death of their occupants while the member of the House of Representatives for Ogoja/Yala of Cross Rivers gave up the seat after being elected to the Senate.
The Ngor Okpala State Constituency seat in Imo became vacant following the sack of its occupant, Tochi Okere, for dereliction of duty.
The bye-elections also saw the two leading political parties exchanging seats.
No third force
There are always talks at the approach of general elections about a third force emerging to challenge the dominance of the APC and PDP, but the results of Saturday’s bye-elections only indicate such political development may again be a mirage in 2023.
Although there are 18 registered political parties, only 12 fielded candidates for the bye-elections. Aside from the APC and PDP which took the seats, the also-rans are the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), National Redemption Movement (NRM), Social Democratic Party (SDP), African Democratic Party (ADP) and Labour Party (LP).
The others are the All Peoples Party (APP), Accord (A), Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Young Progressives Party (YPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
In Akure South/North Federal Constituency, the APC snatched the seat from the PDP as its candidate, Alademayokun Olarewaju, polled 26,370 votes to defeat his closest rival, Olumuyiwa Adu of the PDP, who polled 24, 201 votes.
The candidates of the NRM, ADP, APP, SDP and Accord scored a combined total of less than 20 per cent of the votes garnered by the victorious APC candidate.
The seat became vacant in August 2021 after the death of Adedayo Omolafe of the PDP.
In Plateau State, where voters’ turnout was relatively impressive, the APC and PDP shared the state and National Assembly seats on offer.
Musa Avia of the PDP won the Jos North/Bass Federal Constituency seat with 40,343 votes. However, his main challenger turned out to be the candidate of the PRP, Muhammad Alkali, who polled 37,757 votes to post the most impressive result by a minor party candidate on Saturday.
The APC candidate, who is the immediate past commissioner for commerce in the state, Joseph Aku, received 26,111 votes to come a distant third in the poll to the disappointment of Governor Simon Lalong.
The seat was occupied by Haruna Maitala of the APC until his death in April 2021 in a motor accident on the Abuja-Jos road.
However, the ruling APC took a slim consolation in the Pankshin South State constituency where its candidate, Ezra Dakup, received 6,641 votes to narrowly defeat the PDP candidate who polled 6,488.
The seat became vacant following the death of Henry Longs (APC) in November 2021, after a surgical operation.
The scenario in Plateau in the North Central region was reenacted in Cross River in the South South region. Despite its history as a PDP state, the state shared the two vacant seats between the two dominant parties, underscoring changes in the politics of the state since the defection of Governor Ben Ayade last year from the PDP to the APC.
PREMIUM TIMES in June 2021 reported that two House of Representatives members from the state dumped the PDP for the APC, nearly a month after Mr Ayade took the same route.
On Saturday, APC further snatched the Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency seat formerly held by Agom Jarigbe of the PDP who had been elected to the Senate.
In the bye-election, Jude Ngaji of the APC polled 22,778 votes to defeat Mike Usibe of the PDP, who polled 20,590 votes.
Both parties now have four representatives each from Cross River in the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
But in another keen contest, the PDP retained the Akpabuyo State constituency seat as its candidate, Ekeng Edet, polled 5,866 votes to edge Bassey Efiom of the APC who garnered 5,363 votes.
Mr Edet beat Mr Efiom in seven out of the 10 political wards that make up the state constituency.
The bye-election in Ngor Okpala State Constituency of volatile Imo State was marred by the snatching of election materials and abduction of INEC officials.
Perhaps due to the protracted violence in the state widely linked to politics, voters’ turnout was poor. Out of the 94,118 registered voters in the constituency, only 18,083 were accredited for the bye-election.
Blyden Okanni of the APC polled 9,248 votes to defeat Emeka Nwachukwu of the PDP who scored 7,161 votes. The candidate of APGA, Christopher Nwaiwu, came third with 501 votes.
Imo State has been a centre of attention since the controversial 2019 governorship election in the state that was decided by the Supreme Court which declared Hope Nzodinma of the APC as the winner, overturning the return of Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP by INEC.
Two-horse race in 2023?
Saturday’s bye-election results suggest that the next general elections next year would again be between the APC and PDP, the two parties that have held power at the federal level and in most of the 36 states under Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
INEC has already announced the dates for the general elections.
Presidential and National Assembly elections have been slated for
February 25, 2023, while governorship and state assembly elections will now be held on March 11, 2023.
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