What Manner of Elections?

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Memories of the yet-to-be concluded 2019 elections are totally unpleasant, writes Olawale Olaleye

Today, in many parts of the country, the word on the streets particularly amongst the discerning is that this year’s general election is the worst in the history of the country. Not even the 1983 election, which culminated in the termination of the Second Republic, was this bad.

Talk about the 2007 election, which its biggest beneficiary, the late Umaru Yar’Adua admitted was flawed, it still did not come any close. And what makes this set of elections the more curious is that the electoral heist is being perpetrated on the watch of a man, whose leadership strength and selling point is integrity. Lest you forget, he promised to be remembered for the legacy of credible elections. He just missed it.

As Nigerians await the last batch of the current mess with very low spirit, which has already been slated for March 23, there is nothing exciting about the last set of polls except, perhaps, there is the need for prayers that Nigeria crosses this last phase without any backlash.

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), last week’s governorship elections ended in a stalemate in some parts of the country for reasons of not meeting the minimum requirements for a clean win. Therefore, elections in six states, to be precise, were declared inconclusive and supplementary polls ordered.
The affected states, unfortunately, are believed to be places where the opposition PDP seemed to be leading or is strong. They are Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau, Sokoto, Benue and Kano, while that of Rivers was suspended for reasons of violence.

The theory that inconclusive elections were declared only in places where the opposition parties were leading was however confirmed by the Ogun State situation. While APC’s Dapo Abiodun polled 241,670, APM’s Adekunle Akinlade scored 222,153. Thus, the margin of lead was 19,517, while the cancelled votes were 20,969, more than the margin of lead. So, what’s different here?

Pause for a moment and ponder the pattern in the six states declared inconclusive. In Adamawa, for instance, while PDP’s Umaru Fintiri polled 367,471, APC’s Jibrilla Bindow had 334,995. The margin was 32,476, while cancelled votes were 40,988, more than the margin of difference.
In Bauchi State, PDP’s Bala Mohammed had 469,512, while Mohammed Abubakar of APC scored 465,453. The margin was 4,059 and cancelled votes 45,312.
Benue State was also not far-fetched. Samuel Ortom of PDP had 410,576, while Emmanuel Jime of APC had 329,022. The margin was 81,554, while the cancelled votes were 121,019.

The Kano State situation has generated more interest than any other state and for strategic reasons. PDP’s Abba Yusuf polled 1,014,474 to lead incumbent Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC, who scored 987,819. But the margin between them was 26,655, less than the cancelled votes of 128,572.

In North Central Plateau State, incumbent Governor Simon Lalong of APC maintains a fragile lead with 583,255 votes while Senator Jerry Useni of the PDP trails him with 538,326. But their margin is 44,929, less than the cancelled votes of 49,377.

Sokoto is another state of peculiar interest. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP already has in the kitty some 489,558 votes to lead Aliyu Ahmed of APC with 486,145. But again, the margin between them was 3,413, far less than the cancelled votes of 75,403.

This scenario has naturally created tension, exacerbated by mutual distrust between the two leading parties in the country. What however makes this year’s election even more disturbing is the level of violence perpetrated in many of the states, with Rivers permanently unrivalled.

From Rivers to Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Delta, Akwa Ibom and many others, majorly the Southern states, the desperation for power was palpable yet incomprehensible given the number of killings that was witnessed.

Such depressing situation was further compounded by the military’s alleged interference in the electoral process, which was believed to have made brazen rigging and other electoral malpractices possible. To think that the hijack of electoral materials was reported to have been facilitated by men in uniform, cast a major stain on the credibility of the exercise. The international observers recognised this fact.

Then, the overall sin in this election is not located in the number of underage voters paraded, but the level the electoral menace was taken without the authorities batting an eyelid. It was so bad that infants were taken out to vote, obviously deploying to use some of the uncollected Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).

Even more heartbreaking is President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘sinful silence’ about all these, which unfortunately, isn’t golden. Not only has he feigned ignorance of these clandestine operations that were capable of undermining democracy, he has yet to utter a word since some of the developments were brought to his attention, largely because he is a major beneficiary of this monumental sleaze.

At the very best, he has only held meetings with some members of his party with a view to perfecting the mess already made of the first ballot of the governorship elections and determined to improve their strategy during the second ballot slated for this week.

In the end, however, it all boils down to the incompetence of the INEC leadership led by Professor Mahmood Yakubu, which has failed all tests of trust, competence, capacity and patriotism. It is therefore pertinent to put on the record that what Yakubu has delivered so far not only fell short of expectations, but a wake-up call for a future-yet-to-be-seen!