By Chinelo Obogo
For many, the outgoing year is one of inconclusive elections. In 2016, the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which had been dogged with controversies continued with the monster of inconclusive elections.
The problem gained prominence after the Kogi governorship election of November 21, 2015, and since then, most of the elections conducted by the commission were either declared inconclusive or mired in controversy.
The commission drew the ire of Nigerians on August 20, 2016, when it said it was very doubtful if it would be able to guarantee conclusive elections in 2019, which made critics demand the resignation of the Commission’s chairman. But the Commission fired back at critics, saying that it was the actions of desperate politicians who incite violence during elections that usually lead to its inconclusiveness.
One of the most prolonged and controversial elections are the just concluded National and State Assembly re-run in Rivers. Following the nullification of the elections of all the legislative seats at the national and state levels by the election petition tribunal, re-run elections were scheduled for 2015. While it was underway, INEC declared it inconclusive, citing violence and insecurity as the reasons. For almost a year, the Commission failed to set new dates for a re-run, and it took the intervention of the National Assembly for the Commission to fix December 10, 2016 for the re-run.
Early this year, INEC approved February 20 as the date for rerun elections in Kaduna, Plateau, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi, Taraba and Imo states where elections were declared inconclusive. In Kaduna State, Idris Katari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was declared winner of the rerun election conducted in Lere West state constituency. He polled a total of 17,672 votes to defeat the PDP candidate, Dogara Mato, who received 10,772 votes.
In Plateau State, Jackson Dandali of the APC won in Pankshin North constituency in the re-run House of Assembly election, with the APC’s candidate having polled 17,320 against the PDP candidate’s 16,817.
In Nasarawa, the candidate of the APC, Abubakar Dahiru, emerged winner of the House of Assembly rerun election in Lafia LGA, having polled a total of 74,143 votes while the PDP candidate, Joseph Kigbu, polled 70,301 votes which was made known by the local collation officer.
In Benue State, INEC declared former Senate President, David Mark, as the winner of the February 20 Benue South Senatorial District Re-run election. Mark polled a total of 84, 192 votes while his main challenger, Daniel Onjeh had 71, 621 votes. Mark won in five local government areas while Onjeh won in four. The Benue re-run was perhaps one of the most highly anticipated reruns.
The initial contest between Senator David Mark (the PDP) and Daniel Onjeh (the APC), which held on March 28, 2015, was seen by many as a contest between a political neophyte and a colossus, with the perception in some quarters that Onjeh stood a slim chance of winning the election. The eventual results of the election, though annulled by an appeal court under controversial circumstances, reflected earlier assumptions that David Mark was the candidate to beat.
In Imo State, INEC declared the result of Imo North Senatorial District rerun election, conducted on Saturday, July 23, inconclusive. Also declared inconclusive were the results of Oru East and Isiala Mbano State constituencies following reported cases of shootings, which characterised the exercise in some communities in the two affected areas.
Prof. Arinze Agbogu, the INEC Returning Officer for Imo North Senatorial District who announced the result , however said Mr. Ben Uwajumogu, APC’s senatorial candidate, polled 48,921, while PDP’s Athan Achonu scored 40,142 votes to emerge second in the declared results. INEC subsequently declared Uwajumogu winner of Imo North Senatorial District rerun election held on July 28.
In Osun, INEC declared the by-election held at Ife Central state constituency inconclusive. The Returning Officer, Dr Francis Oladimeji, who made the announcement after the collation of results from the 11 wards in the state constituency, said the result could not be declared because of the violence which led to the disruption of collation at two polling units. Elections were later held in the two affected polling units, Agbedegbede and Moore Ojaja, both in ward three in Ife Central state constituency.
Following the cancellation of elections in the Southern Ijaw Local Government Area, INEC declared the Bayelsa State Governorship which took place on Saturday, December 5 2015, inconclusive. INEC said that there was “glaring cases of electoral malpractices characterized by ballot snatching and thuggery” Prior to the announcement, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had won in six out of the seven Local Government Areas, while the APC candidate Timipre Sylva had won in just one LGA.
INEC subsequently fixed January 9, 2016 for supplementary elections in the affected local government and 101 other polling units in 7 local government areas where elections did not hold on December 5, and the PDP candidate won the election.
Kogi governorship election was controversially declared inconclusive shortly before the announcement of the death of the candidate of the APC, Abubakar Audu. Before then, results declared by INEC’s Returning Officer, Emmanuel Kucha showed that the late Audu polled 240,867 while Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 199,514 votes. Kucha said the margin of votes between Audu and Wada was 41,353, and that the election was inconclusive because the total number of registered voters in 91 polling units, in 18 local government areas, where election was cancelled is 49,953. The figure he said, was higher than the 41,353 votes with which Audu was ahead of Wada. He then said that according to INEC’s guideline, no return could be made for the election until supplementary election is held in areas where election was cancelled.
Faleke, Audu’s running mate laid claim to the seat, while Wada insisted that he should be declared winner. Eventually the APC picked Yahaya Bello as its candidate and Supplementary election was held in 91 polling units across 18 local government areas. Though the supplementary poll did not hold only in three local government area, namely Mopa, Ogori Magogo and Yagba East, Bello was declared the winner of the election. There was also a repeat re- run polls for the Kogi East Senatorial seat and two state Assembly slots. The re-run became necessary after the disqualification of the candidate of the APC, Abubakar Muhammed. Muhammed had previously won the election, but was challenged by Senator Attai Aidoko of the PDP, and was subsequently disqualified by a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja as a Senator- elect and the APC was also disqualified from fielding a candidate for the re-run on the ground of faulty primary election. With this development, the PDP was favoured to win the Senatorial re-run election as other political parties could not mount a stiff challenge.
Unfortunately, the Senator Aidoko, whose legal challenge led to APC’s disqualification from the re-run did not benefit from it as another Federal High Court disqualified him as the PDP candidate and confirmed Air Marshal Isaac Alfa (retd) as the authentic candidate of the party.