- …Uche Ekwunife, Orji Kalu got lowest votes
Former Governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau is going into the 9th National Assembly as the senator elected with the highest number of votes, Daily Trust reports.
Shekarau, according to the results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was elected to represent Kano Central Senatorial District, with 506, 271 votes.
His closest challenger, Aliyu Madaki (PDP), polled 267, 778 votes, few thousands shy of the 273,404 Emeka Ihedioha got to emerge Imo State governor-elect.
Kano Central District has 15 local governments namely: Dala, Gwale, Dawakin Kudu, Gezawa, Tarauni, Fagge, Garun Malam, Kano Municipal, Kumbotso, Kura, Madobi, Minjibir, Nasarawa, Ungoggo, and Warawa.
The zone also produced the highest scoring senator in the 2015 elections with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, then of the APC recording 758, 383 votes, over 200, 000 more votes than Shekarau scored.
The result may not be a surprise, analysts say, with Kano having a total of 4, 696, 474 PVCs collected, being the second highest in the country behind Lagos.
Findings by Daily Trust showed that 358, 024 fewer voters turned out as opposed to the previous elections in 2015 recorded in the state.
However, the drop in the votes scored may be due to several factors, one is the general drop in voter turnout in the country as a whole for the February 23 elections with data released by INEC showing that only 34. 75 percent of eligible voters turned out.
The second highest grossing senator is Bello Mandiya (APC), with 433,139, to beat his opponent Imam Shehu Inuwa (PDP) who scored 158, 081 to represent Katsina South in the Senate.
While Katsina State also produced the third highest scoring senator with Kabir Barkiya also of the APC winning the Katsina Central senatorial seat with 340,800 votes, while his challenger Mani Nasarawa of PDP got 127,520 votes.
Traditionally, Katsina is one of the states with the highest number of registered voters. With 98 percent of PVC collection in the state amounting to 3, 187, 988 eligible voters, the state is the third highest in the country.
This is carrying on from 2015 when Umar Ibrahim Kurfi of the APC scored 375, 360 votes to clinch the seat for Katsina Central while Abu Ibrahim scored 409, 624 to clinch the seat for Katsina South.
Katsina State recorded an improved voter turnout by 50, 219 voters compared to 2015.
However, analysts have tried to explain Ali Ndume’s score of 301, 312 votes, against his challenger who scored 84, 692 votes, to retain the Borno South Senatorial seat.
This is despite the district being one of the worse hit by Boko Haram insurgency.
However, 409, 813 of the registered voters from eight local governments were cleared to vote in displaced person camps in and around the state, the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the state Alhaji Mohammed Ibrahim told journalists in Maiduguri just before the elections.
‘Why votes differ’
The executive director of CISLAC, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said this development is occasioned by the fact that the northwest and northeast voters were swayed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s popularity.
He said the senators from these regions got higher votes because “voters were looking for Buhari’s party, not any competent candidate. It was a ‘sak’ matter. He said in the northwest and northeast, winning the party’s primaries is more difficult than winning the general elections.”
He said, on the other hand, during the governorship elections (since Buhari was not on the ballot) there was a semblance of stiff competition and balance of power. “The difference between Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of APC and Abba Yusuf of PDP is not staggering. This is because people voted for candidates based on merit, not on bandwagon effect,” the CISLAC chief said.
He said the refusal of President Buhari to sign the amended Electoral Act that changed the elections sequence (separating the day of presidential from National Assembly elections) might have fueled this bandwagon effect in the north.
Rafsanjani said this bandwagon effect has catapulted rogue politicians into the National Assembly. “What we have today is that competent and responsible lawmakers were edged out because they couldn’t afford the huge amount of money needed to buy tickets during the primaries. This is because getting the party’s ticket, with Buhari on the ballot is the surest way to victory. And the voters don’t care who the candidate is provided he is in Buhari’s party,” he said.
He said the larger number of registered voters also factored. “The voting strength of Kano, Katsina and Kebbi is higher than the total number of the southwest.
Low scoring senator
While some senators were turning in huge numbers, Senator Uche Ekwunife of the PDP needed only 18, 412 votes to reclaim her senatorial seat of Anambra central, beating her closest challenger with a margin of 4, 009 votes.
It is the lowest number of votes recorded by any senator-elect in the 2019 elections, according to INEC results anlaysed by this newspaper.
The result is a staggering drop from her score of 101, 548 votes with which she beat notable candidates like then APGA Chairman Victor Umeh and Chris Ngige of the APC.
What happened in the last four years to bring her votes down is baffling analysts.
Speaking to Daily Trust, a former executive director of Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), and head of Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education, Ibrahim Zikirullahi, the lower votes in the southeast is due to the region’s attitude to politics.
“Elections is one issue the southeast people don’t take very seriously,” he said. He said he was in Anambra in 2013 during the governorship elections between Chris Ngige and Peter Obi.
“There was a stalemate and the elections were declared inconclusive. Surprisingly, on the day of the rerun, all shops were opened. People went about their businesses as if nothing was happening. That is their attitude to elections,” Zikirullahi said.
On his part, Rafsanjani said the low votes for senators from the southeast may also be the result of stiff competition by many parties. “In the southeast, there were so many candidates. And they might have eaten away from the shares of the winning senators. This is unlike in the northwest and northeast, where it was one-way traffic. Buhari’s party candidate got everything. Leaving very dismal figures for the opposition candidate, which usually not more than one,” he said.
Ekwunife is only bested by Solomon Olamilekan (APC) who polled 23, 189 votes to beat his PDP rival to the Lagos west senatorial seat.
However, in Lagos West, Senator Solomon Adeola recorded 323, 817 votes to beat PDPs Gbadebo Rhodes who scored 243, 516 votes.
While Senator Remi Tinubu (APC) managed 131, 735 votes to beat PDP’s Onitiri David who polled 89, 107 votes.
The numbers are nowhere near as impressive as the numbers recorded in the likes of Kano and Katsina despite Lagos being the state with the highest number of eligible voters in the country with 5, 531, 389 PVCs collected. However, the state also recorded a decrease of 482, 034 people turning out to vote compared to 2015 figures.
Zikirullahi said voter apathy is a common denominator in southwest politics. “Majority of voters in Lagos stayed at home on the day of elections. We have seen on television stations people holding parties on the streets at the same the voting was taking place,” he said.
Another factor responsible for the apathy, according to Zikirullahi, is the fact that “elections have become mere periodic rituals. People don’t bother again. The people they voted for didn’t leave up to expectation. So why worry themselves to vote for another set of characters again?”
Another low-scoring senator is former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu (APC) who needed only 30, 580 votes to beat his PDP rival who scored 8, 640 fewer votes to clinch the Abia North senatorial seat.
It is not surprising though that the two lowest scoring senators are from the Southeast, which recorded a drop in the voter turnout in all the states in the region and has a total number of eligible voters (with PVCs) at 8,293,093.
This figure is at least 10 million lower than the Northwest region which comprises states like Kano and Katsina.
The voter apathy in the region, coupled with the call by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) for a boycott of the election as well as collection of PVCs, might also be another factor as a total of 1,466,710 uncollected PVCs are still in possession of INEC. This is slightly lower than the total number of PVC carrying voters in all of Abia state at 1.7 million.
Ekwunife’s Anambra, on the other hand, has only 2 million PVCs collected.
Despite the disparity in the number of votes recorded and the sizes of the various constituencies, as well the numbers of the electorate each senator is representing, the senators have equal rights on the floors of the red chamber and will receive the same allowances for constituency projects.