To complete process in Rivers as AAC protests
APC berates electoral body over comment on military
Olawale Olaleye in Lagos, Shola Oyeyipo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The current state of play in five states of the North Central, North East and North West with respect to the governorship election, which was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has not only left much to be desired but would ultimately account for the balance of power when the full results finally come in.
Although originally six states with Bauchi, which was later taken out of the equation in the top league, the decision by INEC to declare the elections in those states inconclusive has raised genuine concerns about plausible ulterior motives, which some of the election observers also alluded to in their reports, since they are states where the opposition seemed to be in lead except for Plateau.
Such insinuations are what have combined to exacerbate the riveting tension in the run-up to the supplementary polls, already slated for Saturday, March 23, as both parties have aggressively charged up and determined to ensure the states do not slip off their grips.
What this means is that whichever of the two leading parties – the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) – that is able to clinch victory might be well positioned for whatever challenge that the 2023 elections eventually throw at them.
There is no debating the fact that the opposition PDP appears a bit more comfortable in at least four of the five states due for supplementary elections next weekend and this is because of the current pictures that the state of play cuts, not only in terms of the chances they stand at the end of the day but more because of the votes they have locked up in their vaults since the last encounter.
In Adamawa, for example, while PDP’s Umaru Fintiri polled 367,471, APC’s Jibrilla Bindow had 334,995. The margin of lead was 32,476, while cancelled votes were 40,988, more than the margin of lead. But juxtaposed with the presidential results, Adamawa may never go away from the PDP except the unthinkable happens, meaning if the elections were conducted time and time again, the PDP still holds the ace in the state.
The situation in Benue State is a rather sensitive one, given some of the issues that shaped and defined both the presidential and governorship campaigns and how they cut deeply on religion and ethnicity – two critical divisive fault lines.
But as at the last election, Governor Samuel Ortom of PDP had secured 410,576, while Emmanuel Jime of APC had 329,022. Unfortunately, the margin was 81,554, while the cancelled votes stood at 121,019, the very reason INEC ordered a supplementary poll. It would not be surprising if at the end of the day, Benue still went the way of the PDP.
There is presently a disturbing calm in Kano State, a situation occasioned by the insinuations that there was a move to subvert the will of the people hence the level of interests it has generated more than any other states and for strategic political reasons.
Although Kano gave President Muhammadu Buhari its highest bulk votes during the presidential poll, the tide changed dramatically during the governorship election as PDP’s Abba Yusuf polled 1,014,474 to lead incumbent Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, who scored 987,819. The margin between them was 26,655, less than the cancelled votes of 128,572, therefore necessitating the call for a supplementary election even as many question how such a huge number of votes could have been cancelled.
There is no doubting the fact that both the PDP and the APC understand the importance of Kano, a critical North West state and as such have continued to taunt each other, leaving nothing to chance in the expectation that they would cancel out each other.
Kano is however looking more like a zero-sum game between the two major parties and this is because Governor Ganduje is actually not running against Yusuf, his real challenger is his estranged boss and friend, former governor and Senator, Rabiu Kwankwaso, whose kwankwasiyya movement is ‘another religion’ in the North Western state.
North Central’s Plateau State is about the only state where the ruling APC is slightly comfortable, albeit with a fragile lead. Here, incumbent Governor Simon Lalong of APC maintains a tenuous lead with 583,255 votes while Senator Jerry Useni of the PDP trails closely behind with 538,326. Their margin was 44,929, less than the cancelled votes of 49,377.
Although nothing is given yet in Plateau, the APC still relishes in the understanding that in spite of its delicate lead, Plateau is its own for the taking, an assumption PDP has also dismissed with a wave of the hand.
The last but not the least of the pack of five is Sokoto, another state of peculiar interests to the two parties. First, it is for its strategic location (North West) and two, for its political relevance in the quest by the two parties to swell their ranks and buckle up ahead of 2023.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP already has in the kitty some 489,558 votes to lead Aliyu Ahmed of APC with 486,145. Again, the margin between them was 3,413, far less than the cancelled votes of 75,403, which observers considered way too high.
The final battle for Sokoto would be very tough, however, and for two reasons. The first is that Tambuwal is running against his former deputy, Ahmed, who fell out with him and second, is the political score he might have to settle with his estranged ally, Aliyu Wamakko.
Overall, while four out of the five states look good for the PDP, nothing is yet cast in stone or can be taken for granted, the very reason that the emerging state of play is not defined by how the parties stand now, but how they hope to stand at the end of the day, when the battle for 2023 takes the centre stage and at the fullness of time.
INEC Cancels Supplementary Election in Bauchi, Resumes Results Collation
In a dramatic turnaround, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday announced the cancellation of the proposed supplementary governorship election in Bauchi State. INEC also approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of the state, where the process had been stalemated, leading to the declaration of the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections in the state as inconclusive.
In a similar vein, after a week of silence, INEC expressed displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in the last general elections in Rivers State. The commission said the collation process had been disrupted by persons who attempted to subvert the will of the people. It, thus, resolved to complete the process, saying it is committed to expeditiously completing the collation process in areas where results had so far been announced.
But African Action Congress (AAC) said it was unhappy with INEC’s decisions regarding the conclusion of the March 9 governorship and state assembly elections in Rivers State. AAC alleged conspiracy between the commission and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
In a related development, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State berated INEC over claims that the electoral processes in the state was disrupted by thugs and the military. APC also opposed the plans by the commission to complete the results collation process.
INEC had scheduled supplementary elections to hold on March 23 in Bauchi State.
But announcing the changes in a statement late Friday, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, Mr. Festus Okoye, said the electoral body on March 12 considered a report submitted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Bauchi State on the disruption of the collation process at the Tafawa Balewa Collation Centre, which led to the cancelation of results for the entire local government.
Okoye recalled that the governorship and state assembly elections were held on March 9 in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and the votes scored by candidates were announced at the Polling Units and collated at the 11 Registration Areas of the local government. He stressed that the findings of the committee set up by the commission revealed that halfway into the local government collation, armed gangs attacked the collation centre and destroyed the Local Government Result Sheet (EC8C) and some collated results from the Registration Areas.
Okoye added that the results of seven out of the 11 Registration Areas for governorship and six out of 11 for state assembly elections were affected. He noted that INEC guidelines provided that where violent disruption affected collation in this manner, results should be regenerated from duplicate copies on a replacement result sheet.
According to him, “The Collation Officer, under pressure from Party Agents who could not wait for the arrival of a replacement result sheet, decided to collate the result on an available RA result sheet instead of the replacement LGA result sheet.
“When the result was presented at the State Governorship Collation Centre, the Returning Officer rejected the regenerated result, because it was on a wrong result sheet. The Investigation Committee established that the result in Polling Units and Registration Areas are available and in safe custody.
“The Investigation Committee also established that the number of cancelled votes for the four Polling Units in Ningi Local Government Area, which was recorded as 25,330 in form EC40G (1), was incorrect.
“The actual figure is 2,533. Consequently, the Commission has taken the following decisions: approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area in relation to the governorship election as the duplicate and original Registration Area results are available; approved the resumption, conclusion and announcement of the result of the Tafawa Balewa State Constituency.”
He said the electoral body also approved “The appointment of a new Collation/Returning Officer for Tafawa Balewa Local Government to continue and conclude the collation process in place of the original Collation Officer, who withdrew from the exercise citing threats to her life and those of her family members.
“The Collation process for Tafawa Balewa Local Government will resume on Tuesday, 19th March 2019. The Commission directed that the error in the total number of cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area should be corrected from 25,330 to 2,533.”
To Complete Process in Rivers as AAC Protests
On Rivers elections, Okoye noted that the commission met on March 15 and considered the report of its committee. The commission had on March 10 suspended all electoral processes in Rivers State, having determined that there was widespread disruption of collation of results for the elections conducted on March 9. Subsequently, the commission set up a fact-finding committee to assess the situation and report back within 48 hours.
The committee, however, established that the governorship and state assembly elections took place in most of the polling units and results were announced, adding that the results from 17 out of the 23 local governments of the state were available and were in the commission’s custody.
Okoye stated that the declaration and returns for 21 State Constituencies out of 32 were made prior to the suspension.
The committee equally established that collation centres were invaded by some soldiers and armed gangs, resulting in the intimidation and unlawful arrest of election officials.
According to Okoye, “INEC expresses its displeasure with the role played by some soldiers and armed gangs in Rivers State disrupting the collation process and attempting to subvert the will of the people. INEC is committed to expeditious completion of the collation process, where results of the elections have been announced.”
The National Commissioner assured that the commission would engage the security agencies at the national level and the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee at the state level to demand neutrality and professionalism of security personnel in order to secure a peaceful environment for the completion of the elections. He stressed that the commission would also engage key stakeholders in Rivers State with a view to ensuring a smooth and peaceful completion of the process, noting that INEC would issue detailed timelines and activities for the completion of the election on Wednesday, March 20.
But protesting the development, AAC’s Publicity Secretary in the state, Felix William, said his party considered the signal coming from INEC as unacceptable.
William stated, “The African Action Congress in Rivers State condemns in its entirety the memo released into media space by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by midnight purporting that governorship and state assembly elections results were available for seventeen (17) LGAs.
“Sadly, we are curiously surprised and disappointed that INEC deliberately refused to name the 17 local government areas. As far as this information is concerned, it is manifestly false and the attempt to shroud the LGAs claimed to have results in secrecy is a serious step by INEC to sway the outcome of the process in favour of Governor Nyesom Wike, its preferred candidate.”
AAC, which served as alternative platform for the leadership of the APC after it failed to present candidates for elections in the state following multiple court rulings, expressed fears that the electoral umpire was working to favour Wike.
AAC stated, “We suspect that INEC might be working to surreptitiously bring in cooked up results credited to Obio/Akpor to skew the balance of reality of things in favour of Wike. We vehemently reject this and will resist it with every pint of blood in us.
“It is now clear to all that INEC has become deaf and blind to the fact that Governor Nyesom Wike invaded the Obio/Akpor collation centre and ordered his security men to shoot an Army Captain and another soldier providing perimeter security to the collation centre. The Captain and his colleague are still in hospital after undergoing serious surgery.
“We ask: is it so difficult for INEC to name the 17 LGAs? If INEC has agreed and accepted that four collation officers are card-carrying members of PDP and INEC have now sanctioned them, what happens to the results they collated having not been qualified to do so ab initio?
“The AAC calls on INEC to stop its collaboration with Governor Nyesom Wike and the PDP. It must declare Engr. Biokpomabo Awara, our governorship candidate winner of the March 9 governorship election as it was glaring that he was winning until INEC stepped in to halt the process apparently to save Wike from an earth-shaking defeat.”
William dismissed claims that the AAC and its candidate were not popular enough to win the Rivers State governorship election, arguing that those pushing that position are being clever by half. “Can the governor and his ilk also say that APC that threw its weight behind us, for obvious reasons, are not popular and on ground in Rivers State?” he asked.
Similarly, Director, Strategic Communications of the Tonye Cole Campaign Organisation, Tonye Princewill, faulted INEC for pointing fingers at the military, saying without their intervention elections couldn’t have held in the oil-rich Rivers State.
Princewill said, “We’ve seen the statement issued by INEC and I stand by my earlier comment that even if they tried, INEC can’t save Wike. Apart from spelling mistakes, the vague statement reveals a lot of things about an umpire that doesn’t pay attention to finer details, refuses to take any responsibility for its failures and yet goes on to equate moral equivalence between the Nigerian Army and common thugs.
“That ludicrous position is where they reveal their true colours. The statement could easily have been drafted in collaboration with Rivers State Government House. Let me reiterate again that without the Army, Rivers State would have been a bloodbath. Just like with INEC, we too have more to reveal in the days to come.
“Let’s not say too much. There is an old African proverb that says if the mouth goes to war too early, when the leg arrives, the enemy will grab it.”