The failed electoral coup d’etat orchestrated by the Adamawa state suspended Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Ari and the swiftness in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) acted to safe the day brought the just concluded 2023 general poll into focus again, Adedayo Akinwale reports
he 2023 general election is done and dusted, but there was some mild drama that characterized the just concluded poll that will remain fresh in the memories of Nigerians many years to come. One of the major highlights of the 2023 election was the failed coup d’etat orchestrated by the Adamawa state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Ari.
Interestingly, for the first time in a long time, PresidentMuhammaduBuhari in a swift move approved the immediate suspension of Ari pending the completion of investigation by the Inspector General of Police on the Resident Electoral Commissioner’s conduct/actions during the aupplementary election in Adamawa State.
The President also directed the immediate investigation and prosecution, if found liable of Ari, by the Inspector General of Police.
Buhari in a statement by Director of Information, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Willie Bassey, further directed investigation by the Inspector General of Police, Director-General of the Department of State Services, and the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, of the role of their officers in aiding and abetting the conduct/actions of Ari and if found culpable, appropriate disciplinary actions, to be meted out to them.
Ari created an atmosphere of confusion, uncertainty and chaos when last Monday he declared the Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa state, Senator Aisha DahiruBinani, as the winner of the supplementary governorship election while collation of ressult was far from being concluded.
In a swift reaction, however, INEC National Commissioner, and Chairman, Information and Voter Education, Festus Okoye, in a statement, described the action of the Resident Electoral Commissioner as usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer.
Subsequently, the commission suspended the collation of results of the supplementary election in the state and also maintained that the declaration of Binani as the winner of the election was null, void and of no effect.
In addition, the commission directed Ari to stay away from the commission’s office in the state. The Secretary to the Commission, Mrs. Rose Oriran-Anthony, gave the directive in a letter titled, ‘Commission’s Directive to Stay Away From INEC, Adamawa State’ dated April 17, 2023 and addressed to Ari.
Furthermore, the commission followed up the action by writing to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Baba, demanding investigation and prosecution of Ari.
At the end of the melodrama, the official results of Adamawa State Governorship poll released by INEC showed that AhmaduFintiri of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scored 430,861 votes to beat Binani who polled 398,788 votes.
Nevertheless, Fintiri, while speaking with journalists after collecting his certificate of return alleged that there was external manipulation from Abuja. The governor admitted that the external influence made the just concluded election the toughest of his political career
To him, the election should have been done with since the 18th of March, but for the attitude of some individuals “among us that dragged the election more than necessary”.
He said: “But thank God, INEC with very wonderful and excellent personnel has redeemed the whole process. They redeemed the image battered by so-called REC and today, Nigerians have cause to celebrate democracy. Going forward, we should learn from the lessons that we went through in the last one week so that we can continue to build on the process and on our democracy as stakeholders.
“One apology I have to make is what happened to the two excellent commissioners in my state. I take the blame, and I apologize. Sorry for what the hoodlums did for the mistaken identity.”
Fintiri also admitted: “Yes it was my toughest election because of the external manipulation that was coming from Abuja. They were interested in seeing that they strangle democracy. And you can see to your dismay that even the security agencies that are supposed to protect our democracy were involved in strangling the democracy in Nigeria. Unfortunately, the military had to get involved to save the democracy in Adamawa. It is quite unfortunate.
“The REC from the beginning has been manipulating the election to give it to the APC but unfortunately because of the quantum of voting, he became confused and had to declare the election inconclusive believing that if he is given the second opportunity, he will be able to manipulate but God did not allow him.
“We won the inconclusive election again squarely and he had to do what he did disgracefully. I think INEC has taken steps and they are going to prosecute him, but I think the right place to prosecute him is in Adamawa because he committed the offence in my land and I am going to instruct the Ministry of Justice to ensure that he is prosecuted and taken to jail.”
The governor stressed that he has become a veteran of inconclusive elections, adding that he has learnt a lot, saying, “I know that I won the election on 18 March, 2023 squarely from the beginning.”
After thwarting the electoral coup, the electoral body had to deny allegations of partisanship in the recently conducted Adamawa Supplementary Elections.
Okoye in a statement issued said there was no discreet nocturnal meeting between its officials and any governorship candidate.
The clarification became imperative after some media reports accused Binani of offering the whooping sum of N2 billion as bribe to an official to be declared winner of the election.
Consequently, the National Commissioner stressed that ordinarily, the Commission does not join issues with partisan actors, particularly where no evidence has been provided, but stated categorically that there was no such meeting
He said: “The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a press statement by a candidate in the recently concluded Adamawa State Governorship election in which officials deployed for legitimate duty in the State were alleged to have undermined the electoral process after a discreet “nocturnal” visit to the Government House and ostensibly met with one of the candidates in the election who gave them a list of “collation and returning officers” deployed for the election.”
“To set the record straight, no such visit or meeting took place let alone the compilation of any purported list of collation and returning officers. Such a meeting would have been contrary to the oath of neutrality that we all swore to.”
Okoye noted that every conscientious observer would have noticed that the Commission appointed and retained only one Returning Officer for the Governorship election who also doubled as the State Collation Officer for the Presidential Election (SCOPE).
He explained that like all Returning Officers nationwide, he was issued with a letter of appointment by the Commission and the REC in Adamawa State was duly informed.
Okoye added that the list of Collation Officers was also forwarded to the State with every page of the list personally endorsed by the Chairman of the Commission well ahead of the arrival of the National Commissioners.
He emphasised that the same press statement created the impression that the national headquarters of the Commission specifically targeted Adamawa State in its deployment of National Commissioners and other officials with the sole intention of influencing the outcome of the supplementary election held on Saturday 18th April, 2023 and sidelining the REC, saying nothing could be further from the truth.
Okoye said for the record, it has been the standard policy and practice of the Commission to deploy National Commissioners, RECs and other staff from the headquarters or neighbouring States for supplementary or off-cycle elections where doing so was considered necessary.
He pointed out that in the case of Adamawa State where supplementary governorship election was held in 69 polling units, two National Commissioners were deployed, while for Kebbi State involving 142 polling units, three National Commissioners were deployed.
Similarly, the electoral body said one National Commissioner each was deployed to Sokoto, Zamfara, Imo, Rivers, Ekiti and Ogun States. This has been the standard practice of the Commission of which all RECs are informed in advance.
Therefore, Okoye pointed out that Adamawa State was not specifically targeted, adding that in all other States, the RECs worked cooperatively with the National Commissioners except in Adamawa State for reasons that are now obvious to all.
The Commission advised those behind the mischief to desist forthwith as such fabrications have endangered the lives of its officials – both ad hoc and regular – engaged in legitimate election duties. He said its expected of well-meaning citizens to act within the bounds of propriety and decency.
To the surprise of many, the electoral umpire last week disclosed that it has no information on the whereabouts of Ari.
Okoye, who spoke on a live television programme said Ari had not reported to the headquarters of the Commission in Abuja, several days after the electoral umpire summoned him.
“We don’t know where he is because, after this particular incident, the Commission wrote to him and also called him on the phone. He never returned any of the calls, he never answered any of the calls.We wrote to the Inspector General of Police and Secretary to the Government of the Federation. We have received a response from the Inspector General of Police and they have already commenced an investigation.
“My understanding is that the moment the Inspector General of Police concludes the investigation regarding the REC and every other individual who is involved and a prima facie case is established against the REC the file will be made available to the commission and the commission will begin prosecution of the REC,” he had said.
After all said and done, the prompt decision taken by the commission ensured that Adamawa state did not go up in flames due to the rash decision of Ari. Even though he has gone to hiding, he should be fished out and prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.