THE REIGN OF INCONCLUSIVE ELECTIONS

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Joe Adiorho writes that the spate of inconclusive elections is troubling

There is rumbling in the seat of the Caliphate in Sokoto State. On Tuesday hundreds of women were on the streets on peaceful demonstration. Their grouse? They said INEC’s declaration of the governorship election of March 9 as “inconclusive” was unacceptable. The state governor, Mallam Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, a lawyer and former Speaker of the House of Representatives is also spoiling for a big legal war. Tambuwal has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately declare him the winner of the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state. According to him, “We have met the stipulated condition to be declared the winner. We got the highest number of votes. We also got 25 per cent in virtually all the 23 local government councils. So,

what is left is for INEC to come back and uphold the prevision of the constitution.”

But INEC will not hear such as it has declared the election in the state inconclusive since the sum total of the cancelled and voided votes from the polling centres and the number of the electorate disfranchised by such action is higher than the differential between him (Tambuwal) and the first runner- up in governorship election.

However, Tambuwal contends that the word inconclusive is neither known to the Nigeria Constitution nor the Electoral Act as amended: “The constitution is very clear especially section 179 (2) which states how to conduct governorship election and what to expect. Even in the Electoral Act, there is no provision for inconclusive election, so we don’t know where they drew this guideline from,” he said. Tambuwal, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate polled 489,558 votes to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Ahmed Aliyu who garnered 482,146 votes.

Five states of Bauchi, Adamawa, Benue, Kano and Plateau are yet to have governors-elect on account of inconclusive elections as declared by the electoral body. In five of the declared “inconclusive” elections the margin of the win has been smaller than the number of the disqualified votes.

In Bauchi State, after all the votes were collated, PDP which polled 469512 led the next highest candidate of APC who polled a total of 465,456 to create a difference of 4059 that is less than the number of rejected votes that stand at 21,419.

In Adamawa, the home state of the Presidential candidate of PDP, the votes recorded were 367,471 for PDP and 334,996 for APC with differential margin of 32476 which is less than the 40,988 cancelled votes. Andrew Haruna, the state returning officer said that votes were cancelled in 44 polling units across the state. In Kano, Abba Kabir Yusuf of PDP polled 1,014,474 votes to beat the incumbent Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of APC’s 987,819 to create a margin of 26,655 which is also less than 141,694 cancelled votes from the 22 local government councils.

And in Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom of PDP garnered a total of 410,576 to trounce Emmanuel Jime of APC who scored 329,022 to create a difference of 81,500. Funny enough, Sebastian Maimako, the INEC returning office in the state said the decision to declare the election inconclusive was expedient as a result of the observation that large numbers of the electorate were either not able to cast their votes or election did not hold in their communities. Maimako, however, did not adduce reasons why substantial numbers of people could not vote. A blanket cover of that nature could be infuriating. Ortom himself could hardly understand the reason for such vague decision. He simply smiled and said that whatever was the reason that could cancel out a differential of 81,500 is hard to understand. “We note the decision and agree to abide by it. We are here and we cannot see how somebody will come from somewhere and garner sufficient vote to erase a difference of 81,500 and goes ahead to beat me.”

Plateau is the only example of where APC was on the lead in the inconclusive election saga. Governor Simon Lalong of APC who scored 583,255 was leading PDP’s Jeremiah Useni who scored 538,326. When the suspension of the electoral activities in Rivers State is added to all these, we will have seven states where elections are inconclusive. This is the first in the electoral annals of Nigeria.

A close look at the list of the inconclusive elections establishes a pattern. It throws up the fact that they were states that were originally won and administered by the APC governors after the 2015 election. One can also observe that besides Plateau, all the remaining states are led by the PDP candidates. Is the Osun State treatment being reenacted?

For now, INEC will find it hard to exonerate itself from the spate of inconclusive elections. It is a lingo mostly introduced in Prof. Mahmood Yakubu’s tenure as chairman of the commission and which is unfortunate. Yakubu is a brilliant scholar who had delivered in most national assignments he was saddled with. But since he took over as INEC chairman, there had never been any meaningful election that he had superintended without issues. It will be understatement to say that he is under intense pressure, but he must be mindful of history.