Willy Eya And Desmond Mgbo
Following the declaration of some governorship elections as inconclusive, the nation’s electoral process will today, be put to test once again in Kano, Sokoto, Plateau, Benue and Bauchi states. Like the past elections, of the 93 registered political parties, the two major contenders are the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Tension has already reached fever pitch as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is set to conduct the supplementary elections in the affected states.
Already, Acting Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr Mohammed Adamu has directed the Zonal Assistant Inspectors General of Police and their respective Commissioners of Police in states where supplementary elections are taking place to ensure that adequate mechanisms are in place towards ensuring a safe and secure environment for the conduct of the elections.
In the March 9 poll, violence, over-voting, hijack of electoral materials were problematic in many places and the INEC declared the elections in the five states inconclusive because the votes cancelled in each of them is more than that between the leading candidates and the runners-up.
Dubbed the ‘Margin of Lead Principle,’ this rule is contained in Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act and paragraph 41(e) and 43(b) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines.
So, in accordance with the margin of lead principle, supplementary elections will be held in polling units where elections were cancelled or did not hold at all. Interestingly, of the five states where the supplementary poll is holding today, the PDP governorship candidates are leading in four except in Plateau State.
The House of Representatives had last week debated the spate of inconclusive elections recorded in the just concluded polls and urged INEC not to subvert the will of Nigerians.
Sunday Karimi (PDP Kogi) who moved the motion said prior to the 2015 governorship election in Kogi, there were very few cases of inconclusive elections and reruns.
He said the frequent cases of inconclusive elections in the last four years had made some Nigerians refer to the electoral umpire as “Inconclusive National Electoral Commission.”
However, despite the criticisms it has faced on the matter, INEC says it has done no wrong by declaring elections inconclusive.The INEC national commissioner, Festus Okoye said inconclusive election is part of the nation’s democratic process.
“It will not be right if for instance a particular candidate who knows he is not strong in one area goes there to disrupt elections and a supplementary election is not conducted there”, he said. He also explained how the commission determines an inconclusive election. “If we have over voting in any polling unit in which the number of votes cast is more than the number of registered voters, the results will be cancelled and another poll will take place.
“The commission also cancels polls if there are violent disruptions of the process. We are going to redeploy and conclude elections in those areas. “If on account of our own logistics, we are unable to deploy in some areas, it will be unjust to deny the people the right to vote. We will go back,” he said.
Despite the explanation by the INEC, many would like to see how the umpire will handle the supplementary election in the affected states.
Many Nigerians are anxious to know the outcome of the Kano governorship poll and it is for obvious reasons. The state is strategic to the nation’s politics because of its population. Apart from Lagos, Kano is the most populated state in Nigeria. So,, when the Returning Officer for the governorship poll, Professor Bello Shehu declined to return a winner at the end of the exercise, little did he know that he was laying a foundation for one of the biggest supplementary contests in the political history of Nigeria.
Professor Shehu, a slim, lanky fellow from Sokoto State, while addressing the parties and their agents, at the end of the collation of results from the 44 Local Government Areas of the state, relied on the provisions of INEC’s electoral guidelines to refuse to return a winner in the contest.
The INEC’s electoral guidelines he quoted, clearly stipulates that,“ where the margin of lead between the two candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling units where election was cancelled or not held in line with Section 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, the Returning Officer should decline to make a return until polls have taken place in the affected polling units and results included for the declaration of return”.
In the case of this election, while the APC in the state garnered 987,819 votes to come second, the opposition party, PDP came first with a total of 1,014,474 votes.
The margin of difference between the two leading parties therefore stood at 26,655 votes while the total number of void or cancelled votes in a total of 234 polling units, 88 registration areas and 30 Local Government Areas of the state stood at 141, 694 votes.
Since the inconclusive declaration of the governorship result in the state, to remark that Kano State has been electrically charged is to understate a fact. The present silence in the metropolis, which many observers had likened to that of a graveyard, is ominous with unpleasant signs.
Interestingly, the two leading parties are quick at accusing each other of plotting to plunge the state into chaos. Both of them, at different times, have been credited with inciting statements anyway. Their supporters are ready to go and whichever way the votes swing today, it is bound to provoke a whirlwind of dusts.
In the words of the Alhaji Bashir Tofa-led Kano Elders, who briefed the media in the state on this growing fear, they held that they, “ are anxious, concerned, disturbed and troubled by the seeming discord and agitated impatience manifesting in Kano State since the collation of the March 9th Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections.”
The Elders who came under the aegis of Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI) counseled politicians and their supporters to de- escalate the tension in the town and give peace a chance in the state. The Kukah Peace Committee also held a town hall peace meeting on the supplementary elections at the Center for Democratic Training and Research, Mmabbayya House. The meeting held on Thursday.
In the current build-up, the APC appeared to have been grievously wounded. Their accustomed pride is blighted and their ego bruised. The hypothesis that APC can never go under in Kano State- the city of Buhari and Ganduje- has been shattered in a whiff of seconds.
In this sudden realization, comes their anger. They are fighting back from all fronts, doing everything legitimately possible to hold on to power and defeat their opponent in the supplementary poll. First, they are questioning the credibility of the collated results, which seemed as shocking as it is doubtful. To them, their rivals had rigged the process blue and black.
Against this background, the state party chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Abbas Sanusi has since communicated a petition to INEC headquarters in the state. Dated March 20th, and entitled” Request for the Card Reader Data for the Governorship and State House of Assembly Elections of some Local Government Areas of Kano State”, the party said that they were simply not satisfied with the results of the elections in eight local governments in the state, namely Kano Municipal, Dala Fagge, Nasarawa, Taurani, Gwale, Kumbotso and Ungogo.
The petitioners said that they have compelling evidence to the effect that there were over voting and multiple voting in the aforementioned local government areas. “It has therefore become imperative to demand for the card readers in these local government areas to enable compare notes” said the petition.
Aside that, the APC is also accusing the police command in the state of bias. They said the actions of the Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Muhammed Wakili, during the poll were in support of the PDP. In fact, a number of sources alleged that the party had since made a case for the replacement of the police commissioner in the state. Recall that the Deputy Governor of the state, Dr Yusuf Gwanna was arrested (or rescued) in his ward in Gama , Nassarawa Local Government Area following a fracas that erupted during his visit to the collation centre of the Local Government Area.
On the political front, they are running the race of their lives, knowing that either they get their acts right this time or they kiss goodbye to power.
The state government has since reeled out scores of enticing facilities and basic amenities to the benefit of the areas where supplementary poll will take place.
The governor has only recently upgraded a community health center to a hospital in Nassarawa Local government Area just as he has been reaching out to virtually every approachable stakeholder in the area and in the state at large.
One of the rapid response strategies deployed by the APC ahead of the supplementary election is to invite the former governor of the state, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, to a far deeper striking role. The former governor, who is now a senator – elect, is a crowd puller any day.
“Both Mallam Shekarau and his supporters have unsettled businesses with Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwaso and his Kwankwassiyya group. Therefore, putting them in a lead position for the onslaught would ensure that his sympathisers would effectively join the fight,” said an insider.
The party has also entered into alliances with a host of smaller but consequential political parties in the state. It was gathered that a good number of them had hitherto shared a working understanding with the APC on account of their support for President Buhari’s second coming, making it easy for them to be re-engaged for the present exercise. But will the PDP watch the alluring promises of power slip away from their grips? That is the million dollar question..
The party has been working, night and day, to consolidate on their slim margin of victory over their rival. Their supporters are everywhere and have painted the whole metropolis red in their daring red caps.
Some of them had trekked in solidarity with the PDP candidate, Abba Kabir Yusuf, to the palace of the Emir of Kano, Malam Muhammad Sanusi. The party, sources also said, is putting together a grand alliance of political interests and stakeholders to push out the Ganduje administration.
But more importantly, they are calling the police in the state to be up and doing. A statement signed by the party chairman, Rabiu Bichi on Wednesday had called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security agencies to ensure that the Saturday supplementary election in the state went well.
Bichi said that security agencies had a duty to ensure that voters and their votes were protected from harassment, intimidation and manipulations from any quarters. He urged the Presidency to compel all political, religious, business and traditional leaders in the state to conscientise the political actors on the need to keep peace during the polls.
“In addition, it is our hope and prayer that you would use your good offices to ensure that the re-run election is not disrupted at some levels,” “We also want them to practise the principle of politics without bitterness”, he stated
Bichi also urged INEC to be firm, uncompromising and transparent; and to ensure anyone found subverting the electoral process was dealt with accordingly.
He further suggested that INEC should collate election results of all the polling units at the INEC headquarters in the state, noting that this would reduce risks of attacks from hired thugs, especially in areas that were far from the state capital.
INEC declared the Benue governorship election inconclusive based on statistics it gave that 121,011 electorate were either not able to vote or election did not hold in their areas and that was even as the state returning officer, Sebastian Maimako, announced that Samuel Ortom of the PDP scored the highest number of votes of 410,576 while his closest rival, Emmanuel Jime of the APC polled a total number of 329,022 votes.
Today again, Ortom and Jime will go back to the trenches over who occupies the state Government House. The question is -will Ortom consolidate on his margin of lead or be overtaken by his rival after the supplementary poll. Both candidates have engaged each other in a war of words over the conduct of the election.
In a statement by his campaign organisation’s Deputy Director, Mr Kula Tersoo, the APC candidate alleged that Ortom and some chieftains of the PDP rigged the election in the state. He claimed that the governor and his predecessor, Gabriel Suswam, were responsible for the massive rigging which he said resulted in the declaration of the governorship election as inconclusive.
But Ortom said Jime’s outburst was just because he had lost the election. The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Terver Akase, noted that with 81,554 margin of lead, the APC candidate knew that defeat was staring him in the face. He said all Benue residents were aware that the APC tried to manipulate the March 9 election but failed because the people stood firmly behind the governor.
This is also one of the states where the supplementary election is holding today. All eyes are also on Bauchi with many anxious to know who between Governor Abubakar and Senator Mohammed will carry the day.
The INEC had after declaring Bauchi inconclusive, ordered a rerun election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area to be conducted within 21 days time. Rerun election, according to the electoral umpire, will today hold in all polling units across the state where elections were cancelled.The PDP was in the lead after scoring 469,512 votes while the APC had scored 465,453 votes from 19 out of the 20 local governments that were announced at the state collation centre.The state Returning Officer, Professor Mohammed Kyari of the Federal University of Technology, Adamawa, stated that the election was inconclusive and explained that the difference between the two top contenders, Governor Mohammed Abubakar (APC) and Senator Bala Mohammed (PDP) was not up to the number of registered voters in Tafawa Balewa LGA, which results had earlier been cancelled.
The local government has a total of 139,240 registered voters. Professor Kyari informed that the difference between the two was 4,059 votes.
In Sokoto, the incumbent governor, Aminu Tambuwal will be battling to retain his seat against pressure from his main rival, Alhaji Ahmad Aliyu of the APC. Already Tambuwal is leading with a margin of 3,413 votes while 75, 403 votes were cancelled.
Although the governor filed a suit challenging the decision of the electoral umpire to declare the election ‘inconclusive’ on the ground that it is unknown to the Nigerian constitution, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Sokoto State, Sadiq Musa, defended the decision of INEC to declare the election in the state inconclusive. “The total number of votes cancelled were higher than the winning margin. It can significantly change the result”, he said.
But citing Section 179(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic, Tambuwal stated that the provision clearly explains how to conduct governorship polls,
Tambuwal had said: “Our party, the PDP has returned the highest number of votes and have won 2/3 of the local governments in the state and, therefore, the decision of INEC is not founded in law. We wonder why INEC is coming with this technical reason to declare the exercise inconclusive.”
The situation is the same in Plateau State where the INEC declared the elections inconclusive. Governor Simon Lalong who is the candidate of the APC had polled a total of 583,255 votes while Jerry Useni of the PDP scored 538,326.
Prof. Richard Kimbir, the Returning Officer for the election in the state said the total number of votes cancelled was more than the difference in the number of votes the two major candidates got, “hence was constrained to declare the polls inconclusive”.
Kimbir said the total number of votes cancelled in the state is 49, 347, which is above the total difference of 44, 929 in the votes scored by the two major candidates.
“In line with section 179, subsection two of the 1999 constitution as amended, I am constrained to declare this election inconclusive.
“This is because the total number of cancelled votes is above the difference that exists in the votes polled by the two major candidates. “So, in line with the electoral act, a supplementary election will be conducted in the affected areas in 21 days, ” he had declared.
The LGAs where votes were cancelled include Shendam, Barkin Ladi, Bassa, Bokkos and Kanam. Others affected include Jos North, Langtang South, Mangu and Pankshin.