The All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, the two major parties in this year’s general elections, live to fight another day as their candidates in six states return to the polls on Saturday, March 23, to conclude the electoral process which started on March 9
By Olu Ojewale
NINETY-ONE political parties participated in the 2019 general elections, but only two parties can be said to be seriously in the race. The two parties did not only heatedly contest for power at the centre, they want to rule the states as well. That has been evident in the results of the governorship and State House Assembly elections, which held on Saturday, March 23.
At the end of the exercise, the All Progressives Congress, APC, had won in 13 states, while the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was declared winner in nine states. Elections in six states were ruled inconclusive, while nothing was said about Rivers State, which was practically under armed siege.
In any case, the PDP was leading in five of the states, namely Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, and Sokoto states, while the APC was coasting to victory in Plateau State before the INEC declared the polls inconclusive based on certain parameters.
So, after much deliberation, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Tuesday, March 12, fixed Saturday, March 23, for supplementary polls in the six states, while Rivers State was left in limbo because of the peculiarity of its case and militarisation of the state.
Festus Okoye, the national officer and chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of the INEC, who announced the date of the supplementary elections, said the decision was taken after a meeting of the senior management team of the electoral body, which reviewed the conduct of the 29 governorship and 991 state Houses of Assembly elections on March 9.
Okoye said: “The returning officers in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states declared the governorship elections inconclusive. Consequently, the commission will conduct supplementary elections on Saturday, March 23, 2019, to conclude the process.”
He added that supplementary elections would also hold in polling units in all states where state Houses of Assembly polls were declared inconclusive and winners could not be declared.
Okoye explained that the elections were declared inconclusive due to the discontinuation of the use of smartcard readers midway into the elections, failure to deploy them, over-voting and violence.
The INEC said it would meet again to discuss the Rivers State case which it described as “peculiar.”
Indeed, the two parties have earnestly sprung into action to ensure their victory in the supplementary elections. Perhaps, to gain sympathy, while the INEC management was meeting in Abuja, hundreds of women and youth groups stormed its Sokoto office on Tuesday, March 12, to protest against the decision of the commission to declare the state governorship poll inconclusive. The protesters, carrying placards, were denied entrance into the INEC state headquarters, but they barricaded the major roads leading to the office of the INEC, adjacent to the office of the Department of State Services, DSS.
Among the protesters are Jemila Bafarawa, wife of a former governor of the state, three serving commissioners in the cabinet of Governor Aminu Tambuwal, namely, A’isha Madawaki, Kulu Abubakar and Hajia Kulu Sifawa.
Muhammad Aliyu, the spokesman for the protesters, who demanded immediate reversal of the inconclusive status, described the INEC’s decision as injustice. He said: “INEC decision is a strategy to deny the people of Sokoto State their choice but, we will resist their imposition. On behalf of the peace-loving people of Sokoto State, we hereby called on INEC to declare Governor Aminu Tambuwal, as the winner of the governorship election held last Saturday.”
Fatima Muktar, the state’s chief returning officer, had declared on Sunday, March 10, in Sokoto that the election was inconclusive because the 75,403 votes which were cancelled, were higher than 3, 413 margin lead of Governor Aminu Tambuwal. The governor, who represents the PDP, polled 489, 558 votes while Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto of the APC, his close rival, scored 486, 145 votes. According to her, the PDP has the higher votes in 12 LGAs while APC has 11 LGAs with a margin of 3, 413 votes difference between them. Fifty-one candidates participated in the polls.
Hence, the PDP candidate asked the INEC to declare him winner in fairness and in line with the electoral law. “Our party, the PDP has returned the highest number of votes and we 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,” Tambuwal said.
While assuring his supporters that he will participate in the rerun, he also threatened to take the INEC to court. “If INEC did not do the needful, I will approach the court to test the viability of the commission’s technicality,” he said.
Nevertheless, the PDP in Sokoto State had set the machinery in motion to consolidate its slim margin of 3,413 votes ahead of the APC. Consequently, the party was reported to have started negotiating with other parties in its preparation towards the supplementary elections as ordered by the INEC. Kabiru Aliyu, the Sokoto State secretary of the party, who disclosed this, said on Tuesday: “We have opened talks with 37 parties that made up the CUPP, for alliance and working cooperation ahead of the run-offs, as ordered by INEC.”
He added, “Discussions similar to what our party opened with CUPP are going on in the state as we are speaking and we are sure of a working alliance to our advantage that will ensure our victory.”
On his part, Aliyu Sokoto, the APC candidate, on Monday, March 11, accepted in good faith the declaration of the election as inconclusive. He said: “I, and my party, have accepted the outcome in good faith. If you recall on the day of election, I made it clear after casting my vote that, I will accept any outcome in good faith.”
Addressing reporters at the Gawon Nama home of Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, the chairman of the Northern Senators Forum and coordinator, Northwest APC Presidential Campaign Council, the APC candidate said: “The declaration of the elections as inconclusive came at a time when the party was leading and we have won more than the two-thirds majority of the votes as required by the law.
“Apt and accurate figures in our possession have shown that, I was already coasting to victory, yet, we directed our peaceful and lawful supporters to halt their celebrations.”
Nevertheless, a chieftain of the party said in newspaper interview: “We will use the opportunity of the supplementary elections to show that our victory at the presidential and National Assembly elections is no fluke.”
That exactly is what the APC in Kano State will have to prove in the supplementary elections holding in the state on Saturday, March 23. But in the meantime, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who is seeking for a re-election on the platform of the APC must know that he has a big fight ahead of him. Abba Yusuf, his PDP opponent was leading in the polls with only the result of Nasarawa local government area, pending. Yusuf had polled 1,014,474 while Ganduje garnered 987,819 in the keenly contested election. Although the APC won in 28 out of the 44 local government areas, the number of votes scored was not enough to counter that of the PDP which won in the remaining 16 decisive LGAs. Reports said some residents had remained indoors for fear of a possible breakdown of law and order as a result of the bitter campaigns.
But not the thousands of youth who trooped out on Wednesday, March 13, who staged a peaceful protest in the Kano, metropolis over the INEC’s decision to declare as inconclusive the March 9, gubernatorial poll in the state.
The protesters who were mainly young men and women holding rosary beads accused the INEC of deliberate plan to set Kano on fire. They chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest) “Hasbunalahu Wani’imal Wakil” (Allah is sufficient for me) as they marched through some major streets within Kano metropolis.
The orderly young protesters also chorused intermittently that “Kano is not Osun” “Kano peace is non-negotiable” Declare Abba the winner now.” The protest eventually terminated at the emir’s palace, Kano, where they performed special prayer. Reports also had it that similar protests were recorded across the 44 local government areas of the state.
A protestant who identified himself as Illiya Inusa told Daily Independent on the sideline that the street protest was to draw the elders to take action on what he described as “plain theft.”
In any case the desperation of the two parties was also driven home as the Kano Police command arrested three persons for allegedly buying permanent voter cards, PVCs, ahead of the elections.
Abdullahi Haruna, a deputy police superintendent and the State police public relations officer, PPRO, disclosed this in a statement issued in Kano, on Wednesday that on Tuesday, March 12, at about 8 pm, on a tip-off, police arrested Sa’adatu Isma’il a 39-year-old man of Brigade Quarters, Kano, and Halima Abba, 55, of Tal’udu Quarters for purchasing PVCs from voters at Gama Quarters Nasarawa local government area of the state. “The suspects bought the PVC each at the sum of N5,000 and above, eight PVCs were recovered from them with the cash sum of 10,000,” Haruna said.
The PPRO also said that on Wednesday, March 13, at about 10:00am one Mukhtar Shu’aibu of Dandishe Quarters, Kano, was also arrested for buying PVCs within the Quarters. “He confessed to have purchased two PVCs at the sum of N3,000 each,” he said.
Similarly, Haruna said that on March 13, at about 10:00a.m two more suspects were arrested all of Gama Quarters, Kano, for moving about with a view to buying PVCs, but they were rescued from a mob that was about to lynch them.
Indeed, Ganduje has boasted that he would win the re-run and that the PDP and its candidate should prepare for a shocker because the APC had gone back to the drawing board.
The governor, who spoke through Muhammad Garba, the state commissioner for Information, Youth and Culture and chairman, Publicity 2019 Election, said: “The APC as a party has also re-strategised and is very confident of victory because the local government areas where the rerun will take place remain the APC strongholds and the electorate in these areas have made up their minds to vote massively for the governor they trust.”
However, not to outdone, the PDP candidate also expressed confidence that he will emerge victorious in the run-off elections. Through Sanusi Dawakin-Tofa, his spokesman, in Kano on Tuesday, Yusuf accused the ruling APC of electoral fraud, which he said, was responsible for cases of over-voting which led to the cancellation of results from 172 polling units, thus reducing the margin of PDP’s victory which led to the declaration of the election as inconclusive.
Yusuf said: “Kano people have glaringly seen how the enemies of democracy who are high ranking officials of the state government, including the serving deputy governor, and others vandalised an election collation centre with the sole aim of truncating the declaration process to deny PDP of victory.”
The APC and PDP are similarly getting ready for supremacy battle in the Plateau State supplementary poll. Governor Simon Lalong, who is the APC governorship candidate, was leading in the poll with 583,255 votes, Jeremiah Useni, a retired lieutenant general and candidate of the PDP got 538,326 votes. Lalong was leading in 11 local government areas and Useni was ahead of other candidates in six local government areas.
But Richard Kimbir, the INEC returning officer for the governorship poll, on Monday, March 11, declared the election inconclusive, saying the 44,929 margin of lead was less than 49,377, being the total number of cancelled votes.
Thus, the supplementary poll will hold in 20 polling units that cut across nine local government areas of the state including Barki Ladi, Mangu, Jos North, Bokkos, Pankshin, Shendam and Bassa.
To ensure victory for Useni, Yiljap Abraham, the chairman of the PDP Media and Publicity State Campaign Council, said in Jos, on Tuesday, that the party would not leave anything to chance to emerge victorious. Yiljap said the party would re-strategise to get victory. He did not give details. In the same vein, Bashir Sati, the state APC secretary, said there was no room for anxiety over the PDP strategies to win the state. He said: “As far as we are concerned, we have already won the election. Plateau people have spoken through their votes which gave the APC victory against the PDP. We are not asking any party to go into alliance with the APC to enable us to win the supplementary governorship poll but our doors are open for anyone who wishes to join us in the party.”
However, Zulaiha Aliyu, the state chairman of the National Unity Party, while speaking with The Punch said it would be wrong for the APC and the PDP to think that they could win the governorship poll alone without going into an alliance with other political parties in the state.
Indeed, both the PDP and the APC have been holding a series of meetings ahead of the run-off in Benue State. It was learnt in the state that the PDP had been reaching out to other candidates to form an alliance ahead of the run-off.
James Orguga, the acting state publicity secretary of the APC, said the party was very much comfortable with the declaration of the governorship election inconclusive. He expressed confidence that a lot of things that went wrong with the election on Saturday, March 9, would have corrected ahead of the March 23, rerun. Orguga said: “For now, we are not thinking of an alliance with any political party yet, but if there is the need for it, we will certainly call for one. So, for now, we are looking at the issue that surrounded the conduct of the election and we are still of the opinion that if it is a free and fair election, the APC would always win.”
On his part, John Ngbede, the state PDP chairman, said everything possible would be done by his party to win the supplementary election. He refused to speak on a possible alliance with other parties.
The PDP in Adamawa State believed that Ahmadu Fintiri, its candidate, had won the governorship poll and that the INEC is being unfair by declaring the election inconclusive. It, therefore, urged the electoral body to reverse its action by declaring Fintiri winner of the election in the state.
Fintiri polled 367,471 votes and established a margin win of 32,476 over Mohammed Jibrilla Bindow, the incumbent governor and APC candidate, who got 334,995 votes to finish in the second position. But the INEC declared the polls inconclusive, stating that the margin of victory was lower than votes cancelled.
But at a press conference in Yola on Tuesday, Boni Haruna, a former governor in the state, said that the INEC erred by claiming that the election was inconclusive. Haruna argued that the number of persons with PVCs and who were eligible to take part in the rerun in 44 polling units are actually 31,027, although the entire total registered voters in the areas are 40,988.
He urged the INEC to recognise Fintiri as governor-elect instead of declaring the polls as inconceivable because the margin of win (32,476) established by the PDP’s candidate was higher than the 31,027 people with PVCs.
But the state APC rejected the outcome of the polls, saying they were marred by serious irregularities. Salihu Mustapha, the APC’s national vice-chairman, North-East, called for an outright cancellation of results in those councils which it said had been heavily compromised. He alleged: “The election process was compromised in favour of the opposition evidently. There’s no way you will receive a result without querying the card readers. What we are asking for from INEC, is to use card readers in querying the results. The polling units cancelled represent less than one percent of those areas where we complained…
“We are asking for a full inquiry of these electoral materials of these local governments. You will find out that elections did not take place in these local governments. People just sat somewhere and wrote the results.”
In Bauchi State, the PDP said the declaration of the governorship poll inconclusive had thrown the state into “unprecedented confusion, tension and anger.”
Addressing a press conference at the NUJ Secretariat on Monday, Hamza Akuyam, the PDP chairman, who was flanked by Yakubu Dogara, the speaker of the House of Representatives and other leaders of the party in the state, said the INEC’s decision was a deliberate plan by the government to “steal our victory.”
Akuyam lamented that Mohammed Kyari, the state returning officer, “without any prompting, complaint or request whatsoever” abruptly terminated the collation of the results even Dominion Anosike, as the Tafawa Balewa Local Government returning officer, “had confirmed on tape that the elections had been peaceful, free and fair.”
Perhaps, fearing the consequence of the tension building up ahead of the supplementary elections, Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano, on Tuesday, March 12, appealed for calm. Sanusi made the appeal at a media briefing in his Palace, in Kano, on Tuesday, urged residents and citizens of the state especially politicians to avoid unguided statements capable of causing a breach of the peace.
He said: “The law empowers only INEC to announce results of election and that should be respected; therefore, those sharing results not released by the electoral body should stop it.
“INEC is the only body accorded the power under the law to announce election results and it has done that announcing the election as inconclusive, hence, there will be re-run.
“Politicians should not see elections as war but rather a contest that should be conducted in friendly atmosphere.”
That notwithstanding, the Nigeria Intervention Movement, NIM, on Tuesday, March 12, expressed concerns over the decision of INEC to declare governorship elections in some states inconclusive. It described the development as “brazen corruption of our electoral system.”
Consequently, the NIM in a statement signed by Debo Adeniyi, its director, Media and Publicity Bureau, has fixed a nationwide protest against the INEC for April 3.
Adeniyi said: “We wish to alert the entire country that, we of the third force, are already exhausted by these disingenuous antics of INEC officials and have decided to resist this with everything at our disposal as it is brazen corruption of our electoral system by INEC in collusion with parties in power.”
On its part, the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, expressed concern about declaration by the INEC that the outcome of the elections in some states as inconclusive. Auwal Ibrahim Musa, the executive director, CISLAC, in a statement, called on the INEC “to uphold uniformity, equity and justice in the announcements to ensure free, fair and credible outcomes that will be acceptable to all.”
The association also demanded immediate arrest and prosecution of any person or group of persons threatening violence or instigating crisis of any form during and after the general elections.
– Mar. 15, 2019 @ 16:25 GMT |