Romanus Ugwu, Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
Five days to the Saturday, March 23 supplementary polls, the Presidency has tasked members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in areas where elections were declared inconclusive to work hard to earn their people’s votes rather than expect President Muhammadu Buhari to manipulate the process in their favour.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, in a statement, yesterday, said President Muhammadu Buhari would not abuse power by manipulating the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) or results to favour anybody.
INEC is scheduled to organise supplementary elections in some polling units, wards and councils in Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Adamawa, Bauch and Plateau states.
Shehu’s statement is a reaction to insinuation by the opposition that President Buhari is teleguiding the electoral umpire to swing victory for candidates of his party in the five states.
Shehu also dismissed as “unfair and ridiculous” criticisms of President Buhari’s apparent disinterest in the upcoming elections in some states by party members who wrongfully assume that the president will abuse power by changing results to favour them.
“Past presidents of Nigeria were known to interfere in inconclusive elections, and that is why party members appear to be upset that the same thing is not happening now, but President Buhari is a different kind of leader. He swore to defend the constitution and will not veer off from that.
“The constitution of Nigeria gives the president no such powers. It is unfair and ridiculous to criticise President Buhari for not going against the constitution.
“Party members in states where there will be supplementary elections then need to be reminded that they need to work hard to earn their people’s votes, rather than expect President Buhari to manipulate INEC in their favour.
“Interestingly, while members of the ruling APC party were criticising the President for not interfering on their behalf, members of the opposition were condemning the president based on their assumptions that he would definitely interfere, as many in the opposition did while in power.
“Under President Buhari, INEC had been and will be completely independent throughout the elections, free from any interference.
“President Buhari is a man of conviction, and the manipulation of election results goes against everything he stands for. INEC is completely in charge.”
The presidency spokesman cautioned against a lot of the hate spewing, incitement to violence and the polarizing statements by those he referred to as “so-called political leaders.”
Notwithstanding, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said the declaration was an indication that the president interfered in past elections.
The PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, told Daily Sun that statement from the Presidency was a ploy to beguile Nigerians and the opposition, so that they do not prepare to effectively check the APC during the polls.
Ologbondiyan said: “So, he has admitted that he has been interfering in other elections? Is that an admittance that he has been interfering in other elections? That he was responsible for the militarization of the past elections? That he was responsible for the manipulation of figures in the past elections? The truth of the matter is that the APC today is confronted by the people and the will of the people.
“If he (President Buhari) came out and says he is not interfering in this one, it shows that he has interfered in the past. And it is an admission that he was responsible for the militarisation and rigging of the past elections. Now that he is confronted by the will of the people, he is now trying to dodge and say that he is not involved. And who is going to believe him? It is just beguilement to lure the people not to prepare. As for the PDP, we are prepared for the election.”
Inconclusive elections: APC tackles INEC
Meanwhile, the ruling party has flayed the decision of INEC on the various supplementary and suspended governorship elections.
PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Mallam Lanre Issa-Onilu, rejected the decision to continue with the collation of result in Bauchi, just as it accused police of collaborating with the PDP in Kano State.
The ruling party claimed that the Commissioner of Police connived with the PDP with the deployment of his personnel to loyalists of the former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, while state commissioners’ Orderlies were withdrawn.
“The opposition PDP camp in its self-deceit has continued to delude itself on its non-existent electoral chance in Nasarawa Local Government Area. The Kano electorate are not deceived. Considering what happened in the inconclusive election widely characterised by PDP vote buying and voter intimidation, relevant agencies must ensure that such antidemocratic practice is not repeated.
“It is on record how the Kano State Police Commissioner actively assisted the opposition PDP to rig inside Kano city with the deployment of police security for Rabiu Kwankwaso’s loyalists while state commissioner’s orderlies were withdrawn.
“Kano remains an APC state. With the massive votes garnered by our presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, the entire incoming ninth National Assembly positions- three Senators and 24 House of Representatives, 27 House of Assembly seats won by the APC out of 39 and governorship election victories in all local governments outside Kano metropolitan- there is no doubt that Kano State is a stronghold and key support base of the APC.
“The APC’s visible achievements in Kano State under Governor Abdullahi Ganduje are enough to give the party an emphatic victory in the rerun election. Again, the rerun will be mostly in APC-controlled rural areas and Nasarawa Local Government Area where our Deputy Governor, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna is from. Undoubtedly, Kano State remains an APC stronghold and remains in our firm control.”
Reacting to INEC’s decision on Bauchi, APC accused the INEC’s National Commissioner, Festus Okoye, of an unholy alliance with the Speaker House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
“While the close relationship between Festus Okoye who chaired the fact-finding committee and Yakubu Dogara of the PDP is well known, hence inappropriate for the fact-finding exercise for Bauchi state, INEC has failed to adhere to the fundamental principle of fair-hearing by not inviting our agents during the hearing to ascertain the circumstances leading to the cancellation of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government election result.
“INEC’s decision is illegal as the electoral body contravenes the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. We reiterate that according to Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution (as amended) and INEC guidelines for 2019 General Elections, the electoral body is not empowered to reverse any decision taken at the Collation Centre by the Returning Officer appointed for that purpose. Such decisions can only be reversed by a court of law, especially when INEC cannot approbate and reprobate,” Issa-Onilu said.
On Sokoto, the ruling party noted that going by the results of the presidential election, Sokoto is a strong APC state.
“The forthcoming supplementary election in Sokoto State gives the APC, our governorship candidate, Aliyu Ahmed and indeed the Sokoto electorate and an opportunity claim our mandate. Sokoto State is ready for the Next Level, we must not allow unpopular elements in the state and their backers in the discredited PDP to steal their mandate and subvert the will of the Sokoto electorate.”
On Adamawa, the APC called on INEC and relevant security agencies to ensure the supplementary election is free, peaceful and fair compared to the last inconclusive governorship election in the state which was characterised by irregularities and voter intimidation.
“In Benue state, INEC declared the governorship election in Benue State inconclusive, citing an insufficient margin in votes obtained by the APC candidate Barr. Emmanuel Jime and the PDP candidate, Governor Samuel Ortom.
“Even though the PDP claims a bogus lead of over 81,000 votes, reports strongly establish that this dodgy figure is an aggregate of ‘votes’ obtained by subterfuge not from the numbers recorded by the card reader. There were cases in Logo, Gwer-West, Vandeikya, Guma, Buruku and Gboko Local governments where the card reader was not used.
“In Guma, a local government predominated by the APC, zero votes were allocated to our candidate by thugs loyal to the governor of the State, as agents of the party were chased away and election material diverted and ballot papers thumb-printed for the governorship candidate of the PDP.
“In Logo, security reports indicated that the ballot papers were massively thumb-printed the night before the election day, while a brazen case of under-age voting supervised by state government compromised security personnel, was prevalent on the actual day of voting. INEC also reported that 41 polling units in Vandeikya did not use the card reader, as it was the case in many in Gwer-West, Gwer-East, Gboko and other places.
“A coalition of election observers in Benue has since called on INEC to declare the candidate of the APC, Barr. Emmanuel Jime, the winner of the governorship polls, in line with the Electoral Act and we align with the position of these observers. There is no doubt that our candidate obtained the highest number of legitimate votes obtained with the usage of the card reader.
“In Plateau State, our comfortable lead is unassailable. We however urge our members, supporters and indeed the entire Plateau electorate not to be complacent, but remain focused as we prepare for the supplementary election that will give our performing candidate, Governor Simon Lalong a second term in office to consolidate on his first-term achievement,” it noted.
The ruling party claimed that inspite of its alert, the PDP executed its rigging plot through its agents across the country by unleashing violence, vote-buying and hijacking election materials to rig and falsify elections results.
“Our commitment to free and fair elections in the county remains resolute. We urge INEC to ensure that all loopholes that led to rigging, vote buying and intimidation of voters by the PDP is blocked,” he said.