Lalong : A Victory Delayed, Not Denied

Simon Bako Lalong

By Yakubu Dati

It is a trite principle law that when judgment is passed on a matter, it must not only be fair to one party but just to the overall interest of the society.

If this principle had been applied in the case of the Plateau State governorship election, which was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Simon Bako Lalong should have been declared winner of the election having polled the highest number of votes in the elections and having met the constitutional requirement of scoring two-thirds in two-thirds of the 17 local government areas of the state. But the INEC had to play by the rules.

The March 23 scheduled supplementary election is needless because unlike other states where elections were declared inconclusive, in the case of Plateau, a winner had already emerged and he is no other person than the incumbent governor, Simon Bako Lalong.

Governor Lalong, who is the APC candidate scored 583,255 votes in the election while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Jeremiah Useni polled 538,326 votes. This places the margin of votes between the two leading candidates at 44,929. The number of voters in the areas affected however stand at 49,377.

INEC in its explanation said it acted on the basis that the total margin of votes between the APC and PDP candidates is lower than the 49,000 registered voters in the affected areas hence cannot make a conclusive pronouncement.

But even a casual observer would see why conducting supplementary election is out rightly unnecessary.

As it is, Governor Lalong is in clear lead. He is leading. unlike in other states with few number of votes, he is leading with a clear 44,929 votes.

In saner climes, the ability of the candidate to exert such a significant lead ahead of his opponent would be saluted and the opponent would long have conceded victory, but even with the reality staring the populace in the face, a guise of a contest is being scheduled.

But even for the sake of going into another round of election, the point must be emphasised that the odds weigh heavily to the point of impossibility against the PDP candidate, for him to defeat the APC candidate.

As things stand, all that is required for Lalong to put Gen. Useni in his proper place is to get 5,000 votes of the 49,000 outstanding.

While this seems like a walk in the park for the APC candidate, the same cannot be said of the PDP’s.

This is because the PDP candidate on the other hand must get at least 46,000 out of the over 49,000 votes outstanding. Not only that, he must make sure that Lalong does not get a single vote in the supplementary elections for him to win.

This is impossibility, as Lalong is a toast in all the affected local governments including Langtang South, which gave the APC candidate a higher number of votes in last Saturday’s election.

The people in the affected local governments have good stories of projects and policies to tell about the current administration that they will definitely want a continuity of the current administration.

Similarly, the cancelled votes spread across 17 Registration Areas, 20 polling units in nine different local government areas of the state.

A further breakdown of the affected votes would reveal that in Barkin Ladi LG, only one polling unit with 570 voters was affected; Bokkos, five polling units were affected with a cumulative voter prospect of 5,314. Bassa, two polling units with 3,078; Langtang South, six, with 7,595; Pankshin, one polling unit with 397; Kanam, two units with 2,627;. Jos North, one with 4,157; Mangu eight units with 25,035; Shendam, one PU with 851 prospective voters.

But while the margin between the two leading political parties is 44,929, the total PVCs collected in the 41 polling units, 20 RAs, nine LGAs is less than 40,000.

This is where the needlessness of the exercise is stressed. If the number of PVCs collected out of the 49,377 registered voters in the affected areas is a mere 40,000 then how can any rational mind expect an alteration in the current lead by the APC candidate?

The state government had cause to issue a statement some days back calling on the people of Plateau State to remain calm following INEC’s declaration of the election result as inconclusive.

As it stands, the PDP candidate is at the threshold of history to play the elder statesman by putting that phone call to Governor Lalong.

This singular call will not only project him as a father of the state, but will forestall needless expenses that comes with elections.

To conduct supplementary elections, the INEC would need to deploy men and materials for the exercise. This would include its staff, additional ad hoc staff, security personnel and others while fresh logistics arrangements would have to be made alongside fresh ballot papers and other sensitive materials that would have to be issued.

All these require funding and considering the economic state of the nation, a thought should have been spared on how to save it from further unnecessary expenses.

This is not to talk of the psychological effect on the citizenry who would have to endure another round of anxiety laden with suspense for the next three weeks or so for a formal declaration to be made on who won the election.

Added to all these, the measures that come with elections like restriction on movement, suspension of economic and social activities, disruption of school programmes and the needlessness of the supplementary elections would be emphasized.

To men of goodwill, ‘Baba mai tuwo’ should place that call and write his name in gold.

*Dati is the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Plateau State.