LAGOS – For the first time since 1999 when Nigeria embraced democracy, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared governorship elections in six states inconclusive. The states are Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Adamawa and Plateau.
In most of the states declared inconclusive, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was reportedly leading the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, the case of Kano has continued to attract attention among stakeholders.
The Kano State governorship election was declared inconclusive by Prof B. B. Shehu, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, the State Returning Officer.
Abba Kabir Yusuf, the PDP candidate was leading his APC counterpart, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, when the decision to declare the election inconclusive was announced. Yusuf had more votes than Ganduje, the incumbent governor of the state, with a slim margin of 26,655 votes. Yusuf polled 1,014,474 votes, while Ganduje got 987,810.
Already, the PDP has accused Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC Chairman, of playing the APC script by declaring governorship election in Kano and the other states inconclusive. It claimed that the commission carried out the action in states where it (the PDP) was in clear lead.
Although the APC won in 28 out of the 44 local government areas in Kano, the number of votes scored was not enough to counter that of the PDP which won in the remaining 16 decisive local government areas.
The returning officer for the Kano State governorship election, Prof. B.B Shehu, while giving a breakdown of the figures said, “The total number of registered voters is 5,426, 989, accredited voters, 2,211,528, out of this number, the ruling APC scored 987,819, while the main opposition PDP scored 1,014,474. The margin of victory is 26,655, this makes it impossible to make a return and declare a winner.”
He referred to provisions of Section 22 of the Electoral Act, which he said was clear on what should be done.
Corroborating what the returning officer said, the Kano State INEC REC, Prof. Riskuwa Arab-Shehu said, “Section 26 of the Electoral Act stipulates that if the margin of cancelled votes is higher than the margin of victory, you cannot make a return. We will hold re-run elections in areas where votes were cancelled and add it to what we have and a winner will be declared.”
However, INEC said that it was commitment to conducting free, fair and credible Governorship supplementary poll on March 23 in Kano State.
INEC, which gave the reassurance through Prof. Arab-Shehu, the Resident Electoral Commission (REC) in Kano State, disclosed this in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the supplementary election would determine the winner of state governorship election, which was declared inconclusive on Monday. He reiterated INEC’s commitment towards a conduct of free, fair and credible election in the state, saying the cancellation of results in some units located within some Local Government Areas (LGAs) was due to violence and over voting.
However, the PDP insisted that INEC had become overtly partisan, surrendered its independence to the APC and carried on as “a compromised umpire with obnoxious impunity, thereby sending signals of being heavily bribed by the APC to alter results for its candidates.”
Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP National Publicity Secretary, in a chat, insisted that the party was in possession of intelligence reports that INEC was being remotely controlled by the Presidency, hence the agency refused to declare the full outcome of the governorship elections in some states.
He said: “The PDP has full intelligence of how INEC is acting on instructions from the Buhari Presidency and the APC in orchestrating unwholesome situations and declaring already concluded governorship elections in Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau as well as other states as inconclusive, immediately it became obvious that the PDP was set to win.”
The Kano election had become significant as that was where APC got the largest number of votes in 2015, as it was believed to be one of President Buhari’s major strongholds, and as such, must be in its kitty, even in the governorship election.
It is against this backdrop that the Kano State APC chairman, Abdullahi Abbas, described the forthcoming supplementary election in the state as “do-or-die contest.”
Abbas, who spoke through a short video that went viral on Wednesday, the party was ready to provide the maximum protection to its supporters and agents as they work towards the success of the APC during the supplementary election scheduled to hold on March 23.
Surrounded by party supporters at a residential building, Abbas told them not to entertain any fear. According to him, “There is every possibility that you can be arrested (by the police). But, let me tell you, before you get to the police station, we will make sure you are released and the police that arrested you will likely lose his job.
“We are going to give you every protection that is required. This election is a matter of do-or-die for us. We must win this election.”
But, Abbas’ comment, which observers termed as a sign of desperation by the APC, drew a lot criticisms from politicians. One of such came from Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former Minister of Transport and a PDP chieftain. He cautioned the INEC against manipulating the rerun elections in states where last Saturday’s governorship elections were declared inconclusive.
Babatope particularly warned the electoral body against manipulating the election in Kano State, which he described as a ‘political tinderbox’.
The veteran politician maintained that rigging election in Kano might be dangerous for Nigeria’s peace and stability, adding that any negative occurrence in the country would also affect Africa and the rest of the world.
Babatope said: “I pray that INEC does not rig the rerun elections, especially in Kano State. If they do, they will be endangering the peace, unity and cohesion of Nigeria.
“There are many issues intertwined in the Kano election that requires caution. From all said and done, Nigeria is still our country and definitely, a United Nigeria is good for Nigerians, Africa and the world.
“Kano is a political tinderbox and if they tamper with it, then they would have murdered peace in Nigeria and that will be very dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Abba Kabir Yusuf, the PDP governorship candidate in Kano State, has urged his supporters to be hopeful as the state gears up for a rerun of the governorship election.
Yusuf, who spoke through a statement issued by Sanusi Bature Dawakin-Tofa, his spokesperson, called on his supporters to remain calm ahead of the new date fixed by INEC for the rerun.
He said: “We call on all supporters to remain calm. We are known to be peace lovers and so we shall remain, as we are very sure of victory during the rerun.
“Our supporters should not forget that PDP is already leading in the last count of the election and interestingly, the bye election would take place in the strongest areas of our party.”
He appealed to all voters in the affected areas to come out and vote massively for PDP and rescue Kano from “corrupt leaders and agents of distractions.”
Ganduje, the incumbent governor, on his own, vowed to give the PDP a shocker during the supplementary governorship election.
Ganduje, who spoke through Malam Muhammad Garba, the Commissioner for Information, Youth and Culture and Chairman, Publicity 2019 Election, declared that his victory was guaranteed against PDP candidate.
The governor maintained that the local government areas where the rerun would take place remained the APC stronghold.
Garba stressed: “Ganduje is unperturbed by the wishful thinking and slapdash deportment of the PDP candidate considering what happened in the inconclusive election widely characterised by alleged vote buying and voter intimidation by the party.
“The All Progressives Congress and its candidate remain upbeat and sure of victory as Kano remained an APC state. The governor assured he remained committed to the conduct of free and fair election, stating all loopholes that led to rigging, vote buying and intimidation of voters have been blocked.
‘’APC as a party has also re-strategised and very confident of victory because the local government areas where the rerun will take place remain the APC stronghold and the electorate in these areas have made up their mind to vote massively for the governor they trust.”