Alhaji Mohammed Musa Soba
John Shiklam writes on the recent local government election in Kaduna State, concluding that the ruling PDP has perfected its firm grip on the state come 2015
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party in Kaduna State maintained its grip on power, winning in 22 of the 23 local governments in the state at the last council polls held on December 1. The main opposition party in the state, the Congress for Progressive Change, won in one local government – Kaduna North – which hosts the seat of the state government.
Governor Patrick Yakowa promptly swore in the elected council chairmen 24 hours after the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission declared the results.
But opposition parties have widely condemned the results of the election, alleging that SIECOM and the security agencies manipulated the poll in favour of PDP. They claimed that election did not take place in many of the 23 councils where results were declared.
As Yakowa was swearing in the chairmen penultimate Monday, hundreds of CPC supporters from Zaria, Sabon Gari, Giwa and Igabi local government areas converged on Zaria where they staged a peaceful protest against the conduct of the election. The aggrieved CPC supporters, led by the director of Buhari Organisation in Zaria zone, Alhaji Abubakar Maiwada, marched to the palace of the emir of Zazzau (Zaria), Alhaji Shehu Idris, to protest the result of the council polls. The protesters told the emir that they had come to lodge their complaint about what they described as the injustice the ruling PDP committed by announcing results of inconclusive elections and appealed to the royal father to intervene in the matter so that justice could be done.
The emir commended the protester for conducting themselves peacefully, but he urged them to follow due process and channel their complaints to the appropriate authorities.
Kaduna State chairman of CPC, Alhaji Ahmadu Yaro, told THISDAY that his party was not happy with the conduct of the election because due process was not followed. He also alleged that the police and other security agents were used to intimidate people.
The CPC chairman said, “We are not happy with the outcome of the elections because due process was not followed in the conducted of the elections. There was no where the elections were conducted according to the law, apart from Kaduna North and Kaduna South local governments.
“We are not satisfied with the results from the other 21 local governments because there was rigging in those local governments.
“The police and other security agencies were used to rig the election. Ballot boxes were missing, people beaten; some were detained by the security agents. The results were not declared at the polling units. Most of the results were declared at the police stations. The elections were not declared at SIECOM as directed. We feel this is not proper and we have written a letter of complaint. We will go to the election petition tribunal to challenge the results.”
National Chairman of Peoples Redemption Party and former governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, also described the conduct of the election disgraceful.
Musa alleged that the police and the Army actively participated in rigging the election in favour of PDP, stressing that the polls were not free and fair in more than half of the councils.
Musa said, “The local government elections in Kaduna State were a disgrace because there was really no election but selection. Most unfortunately, the security services, particularly the police and the Army, participated actively in the rigging. This is unfortunate. Even at the local government level, the police and the Army will participate.
“There is no local government in Kaduna State where free and fair election took place. In more than half of the local governments, no election took place, but results were turned out. Because of the conspiracy, the government immediately swore in the local government chairmen in spite of the fact that they knew elections did not take place in some areas. For example, in Rigachikun ward of Igabi local government, no election took place, but the election result was announced and the selected chairman was sworn in.”
The PRP leader, however, ruled out the possibility of his party challenging the result of the election at the tribunal, saying it is a waste of time “because the judiciary is no better.”
Besides, he said a lot of money is involved, as it will cost at least N5 million in legal fees to pursue a councillorship election petition.
“I doubt if there is any need going to election tribunals in Nigeria, it is just another game of chance, just like the election itself.” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, the Kaduna State chairman of Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Mohammed Soba, declared that the council poll was a sham and could not be said to be an election.
According to Soba, “Even though we won five councillorships, the election was never free and fair. What happened that Saturday was not an election. I will give you an example of my local government, Soba, where we all gathered and decided that the election must be cancelled because all the result sheets were stolen by the PDP members in collaboration with SIECOM officials. So we decided that the election could not progress. “Unfortunately, the next day they declared the result. So we wonder where they manufacture such result. That was the practice all over the state. So you cannot really call it an election. It was a sham and a shame to those who presided over the election.
“We will look at the possibility of going to court. But our fear is that even if we go to the election tribunal, nothing much will come out from there because it is the government that will constitute the election petition tribunal.”
However, the chairman of PDP in the state, Ambassador Nuhu Bajoga, denied the opposition allegations. He accused the opposition parties of always giving a false alarm when they lose elections.
“Why didn’t we rig in Kaduna North, which is the biggest local government and the seat of the government? If we actually rigged, that is where we would have started rigging. They are always crying foul when they lose election and that describes the character of the CPC and other opposition parties,” Bajoga alleged.
“If they win elections, they didn’t rig; they have never accepted that they can be beaten in an election. How can CPC even beat us even in Kaduna North if the election was rigged? We have the government, we have the machinery and everything, so if the elections were rigged, and CPC couldn’t have won in Kaduna North, which is the heart of the state capital.
“We have more money than them and we campaign more than them. How can we go and rig election when we know we have the support of people at the grassroots. It is their habit of crying foul when they lose an election. They have never learned to accept defeat in an election.
“I am telling you, Kaduna in its own character and with the challenges of insecurity, if we had rigged this election; Kaduna would have been on fire as I am talking to you. The election was free and fair. They didn’t do their homework and they have failed this time around.”
SIECOM Denies Accusations
SIECOM also dismissed allegation levelled against it by the opposition parties. Chairman of SIECOM, Mrs. Hanatu Binniyat, said as far as the commission is concerned, the council election was free, fair and credible.
“We are confident that we have conducted free, fair and credible local government elections. We are confident that we provided a level-playing ground for all the candidates and the political parties to campaign and contest the election,” she said.
But election observers who monitored the elections in some parts of the state noted that there was voter apathy and late arrival of electoral materials from SIECOM.
National Coordinator of the Independent Election Monitoring Group (IEMG), Mr. Festus Okoye, said there were lapses in some areas he visited during the election. Okoye, who said he visited polling units in Kaduna north, Kaduna South and in Chikun local governments, noted that he did not see a single place where electoral materials and electoral officers arrived in time. He said the state electoral body had no excuse for the lapses witnessed at the poll.
“As a civil society activist and as somebody who has monitored elections in different jurisdictions both within and outside the country, I am very unhappy with this. What this means is that no matter what is done, whoever losses the election will not believe that he/she lost in a free, fair and transparent manner,” Okoye said.
Prior to the election, the opposition parties had their internal squabbles, which might have contributed to their ill fate at the council poll. CPC was embroiled in crisis over alleged imposition of candidates by the leadership of the party, leading to protests by some supporters of the party against the leadership. ACN also had its own troubles, as one of its factions led by Alhaji Lawal Isah Gote went to court to challenge SIECOM for recognising the Soba faction of the party. Many political observers are of the opinion that what the opposition parties suffered at the Kaduna State local government election was the ill effects from their own internal squabbles
Positioned for 2015
With the outcome of the council poll, PDP has, undoubtedly, established itself in a comfortable place ahead of the 2015 general elections. Barring any upsets, Yakowa has created solid machinery for his second term, although he has not declared his bid.
Interestingly, the Kaduna State House of Assembly has slashed the tenure of the council chairmen and councillors from three years to two. The tenure of the present council officials will, therefore, terminate in November 2014, paving the way for their dissolution and likely appointment of caretaker committees before the general elections in 2015. Pundits calculate that faithful supporters of the governor would be appointed as council caretaker committee members until after the 2015 elections.