Of INEC And Inconclusive Elections

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A scene at the National Collation Centre

Following the conduct of the 2019 governorship elections in 29 states, 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, except Plateau, the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was reportedly leading the All Progressives Congress (APC). Following the declaration, supplementary elections will now be held in the affected states on March 23, 2019.

The development has sparked debate across the country, especially as the opposition PDP recorded higher number of votes in five of the six states. The ruling APC led in Plateau State.

But, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the decision to declare the elections inconclusive was in line with the country’s law that no winner shall be declared if the margin of victory between two parties with the highest numbers of votes is less than the number of cancelled votes.

According to INEC, the decision was in compliance with the ‘Margin of Lead Principle’ derived from Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act (as amended) and Paragraph 41(e) and 43(b) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines.

Violence, over-voting, hijack of electoral materials are the main reasons elections were problematic in many places in Nigeria, thereby raising a chance of supplementary election should the number of cancelled votes exceeds margin of win upon final collation.

Cancelled votes usually arise when registered voters are unable to vote for reasons such as violence, or absence of materials and officials. It can also arise if the numbers of ballots are higher than the number of accredited voters.

Cancelled votes are different from rejected votes which basically mean invalid votes. For instance, a vote may be invalid or rejected because the voter thumb-printed across columns for different parties or picked more than one party.

Kano’s Case

Kano State is a typical example of where INEC declared the governorship election as inconclusive,  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.

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.

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.

Thus, 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.”

Ologbondiyan, PDP Spokesman, Speaks

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.”

Abbas, Kano State APC chairman, Opens Up

Abdullahi Abbas, the Kano State APC chairman, allegedly described the forthcoming supplementary election in the state as “do-or-die contest.”

Abbas, who allegedly spoke through a short video that went viral, said 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.

Babatope’s Warning on the Kano Re-run

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.”

Yusuf, PDP Governorship Candidate In Kano Hopeful

Abba Kabir Yusuf, the PDP governorship candidate in Kano State, in response to the inconclusive election declared by INEC, urged his supporters to be hopeful as the state gears up for a rerun.

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 by-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 Promises To Shock PDP

Ganduje, the incumbent governor of Kano Sttae, on his own, vowed to give the PDP a shocker during the supplementary governorship election.

Ganduje, who spoke through Mallam 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.”

Benue experience

There was palpable tension in Benue State before, during and after the governorship election. INEC, however declared the election inconclusive, almost at the tail end of collation.

Before the declaration, tension was well heightened, especially among supporters of both Governor Samuel Ortom the flag bearer of the PDP and those of Emmanuel Jime, the candidate of APC.

That was understandable as the PDP now controls the reins of power in the state, while APC in Benue is backed by the federal might.

While results of the election trickled in and unconfirmed sources gave indications of that Gov. Ortom had taken early lead, a graveyard silence took over Makurdi and major towns of Nigeria’s food basket state.

This was because with the backlog of salaries and pensions, the civil servants, who make up the bulk of Benue workers, reportedly threw their weight behind Jime, while the grassroots politicians, under the control of the Local Government Chairmen, had been supporting Ortom, who they had pledged allegiance to.

A chat with a cross section of Makurdi residents reveals that people were apprehensive of the future under Governor Ortom who they claim his four-year tenure as governor was believed to have exposed the Benue people to hardship and underdevelopment. Thus, people hoped his tenure would end with a change of government through the ballot box.

A total of 32 candidates vied for the governorship position of Benue State with that of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Emmanuel Jime as Ortom’s closest rival. Thus, because the two parties were the most popular and deeply rooted in the state, the governorship position was rightly adjudged to be between the duo.

Early results from unofficial sources showed that Ortom had more votes than Jime in many of the 23 local government areas of the state before INEC declared the exercise inconclusive.

Thus, there was high-wired tension in the state when the result published on social media showed that Ortom was coasting home to victory and could secure a re-election that would make him stay in office for another four years.

A pensioner who pleaded anonymity and claimed that survival had been difficult with arrears of pension under the incumbent governor, asked: “How can we survive another four years under Governor Ortom?”

Another commentator, a civil servant, maintained that Ortom had no regard for workers and did not care about workers’ welfare.

He disclosed that workers in the state were still owed five months salary by the Ortom administration, while local government workers were owed salary for 10 months.

A trader in the Makurdi Modern Market of Igbo background said that the salary crisis in the state crippled business and many traders were forced on relocation to other places.

He disclosed that the re-election of Ortom as governor did not have the support of traders and civil servants because of his antecedent and said that a new government was the expectation of all.

Ode, MBTC Boss Speaks

Chief Ochi Emmanuel Ode, Chairman, Middle Belt Traditional Council (MBTC) and the Oji Kpururu 1 of Ibilla, a powerful voice in the Benue State and politics in the North Central geo-political zone, maintained that whatever people do, they would be subjected to the judgment of posterity.

According to him, “The inconclusiveness of Benue governorship election could not have happened if President Muhammadu Buhari had kept his promise of conducting credible general elections in 2019. He could have called his part men and INEC to order and ask them to release the complete results.

“If it was the APC that was leading, the Benue governorship election would not have been declared inconclusive. Buhari should not pretend that he does not know what is happening.

“But, I call Benue people to remain calm till the run-off election is held. They should keep their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and come out on the election day and speak with their PVCs.”

Reps Urge INEC Not To Subvert Nigerians Will

The House of Representatives, in reacting to trend of inconclusive elections, urged the INEC not to subvert the will of Nigerians through the declaration of elections as inconclusive.

The House made the call while adopting a Motion of Urgent National Importance brought before it by Sunday Karimi (PDP Kogi) at its plenary.

While adopting the motion, the lawmakers urged the commission to adhere to the Nigerian constitution by allowing aggrieved parties to proceed to relevant tribunals in order to ensure peace, security and promote the credibility of the process.

Karimi, while moving the motion, said prior to the 2015 governorship election in Kogi, there were very few cases of inconclusive elections and re-runs.

He said the frequent cases of inconclusive elections in the last four years had made some Nigerians refer to the electoral umpire as “Inconclusive National Electoral Commission.”

Karimi said that though the constitution empowers INEC to come up with guidelines, some sections of the electoral guidelines were causing apprehension.

He said that the governorship election was declared inconclusive in the six states in spite of the fact that the leading candidates met the provisions of the constitution in Section 179(2).

Contributing to the debate, Aliyu Madaki (Kano, PDP) accused Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State governor and APC National Leader, of trying to meddle in the political affairs of Kano.

Madaki, the leader of the “Kwankwasiya Caucus” in the House, accused President Muhammadu Buhari of not acting in the face of “irregularities” carried out by INEC.

“If he (Buhari) has any integrity, it should be questioned seriously. We will not take it; we will not allow it. It will not happen.”

He said while his party (the PDP) will not rig elections or support electoral violence, “nobody will rig us out” in Kano.

“Nobody will come to Kano and say this must be done. Kano is not Lagos,” he added.

Also contributing, Muhammad Soba from Kaduna State, said INEC has no powers to declare elections inconclusive after results have been collated at the poll.

“Regarding any result announced at the polling unit, nobody has the power to cancel such results. Once the result has been declared at the polling unit, no one can interfere at even the ward level let alone the state collation centre,” he said.

Femi Gbajabiamila, majority leader of the house, however, suggested an electoral amendment to address the issue.

He said: “Inconclusiveness should be something of the past. But, how do we get there? Amending the electoral law to limit the powers of INEC.”

“The Supreme Court already ruled on this and said INEC has such powers. So, the only way to change the Supreme Court ruling is to amend our law.” The House resolved to set up a committee to advise it on the next line of action.

Declaring Elections Inconclusive Will Kill Voters’ Confidence In INEC —Don

Prof. Aloysius Okolie, a political scientist,  has expressed concerns over INEC’s declaration of governorship elections in some states as inconclusive.

Okolie, who is of the Department of Political Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said it was unfortunate that the electoral body had taken some steps backward, rather than improve on the gains of the 2015 general elections.

According to him, “I don’t think there was any inconclusive election in any state in the 2015 general elections, whereas in the just-concluded governorship election, INEC has declared elections in six states inconclusive.”

He said if the issue of ‘inconclusive election’ was not adequately resolved in affected states, it might result in more voter apathy in future as well as loss of confidence in INEC.

He stressed: “If Mr. A voted for a political party that scored the highest votes when the election is declared inconclusive and when the election is concluded another political party wins, Mr. A will not be happy.

“He will suspect foul play and may decide not to vote in future elections because he will believe that his vote did not count, thereby losing confidence in the electoral umpire.”

He, therefore, urged INEC to avoid declaring elections inconclusive, considering that it could heighten political tension and anxiety in affected states.

INEC Is No Longer Independent, Teleguided By Ruling Party – Lecturer

Dr. Isaac Imodanefe Edela, a Benin-based Political Science lecturer, said: “With that singular act of declaring elections inclonsive, it is very obvious that INEC is no longer independent. It is being teleguided by the ruling party and Nigerians have lost confidence in its performance and existence.

“In fact, INEC has proved its monumental failure and as such should be dissolved without delay by the sitting National Assembly

“INEC has no reason to declare Kano, Sokoto, Benue, Rivers, Bauchi and Plateau states elections inconclusive. And let me say this, INEC should be held responsible for any incidence of breakdown of law and order in the cause of the rescheduled election in these states”

Why INEC Can declare Elections inconclusive – DA Scribe

Chief Ihearu Iwenta Njoku, Secretary, Democratic Alternative (DA), Nkwerre Council Area of Imo State, said: “If any election falls below relevant constitutional provisions and is marred by malpractices, violence and thuggery, INEC has the right to declare it inconclusive. Or, do you want the commission to muddle through in the face of outstanding constitutional breach?

“Are you saying that a candidate who does not secure the required number of votes as stipulated in the constitution should be declared winner?

“In 2011 and 2015, we had inconclusive governorship elections in this state and a supplementary election was organised before we had it right.”

If it Is Inevitable, INEC Can Declare Elections Inconclusive – AGA Stalwart

Desmond Obidimkpa Igwe Chairman, All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), Owerri North, Imo State, stated: “To organise elections in country like Nigeria is no mean fit because no matter the efforts you make, some people will like to frustrate you.

“Again, you know that everything is based on what the constitution says. I do not mean to hold brief for INEC. But, whereby it becomes inevitable for them to declare elections inconclusive, there is nothing wrong with it.”

The Law On Inconclusive Election Is Ambiguous, Needs Review – Activist

Sunday Ojutalayo, a social critic and human rights activist, has observed that declaration of governorship election inconclusive by INEC is normal since the nation’s electoral law provided for it.

Ojutalayo, who was reacting to the declaration of governorship election in some states inconclusive by INEC, said if there is no law that provided for it in the electoral guidelines that guide elections and it was introduced, such an exercise can be declared as fraud and illegal.

He said the only problem is that the law that guarantees inconclusiveness in an election is ambiguous and needed to be reviewed. In the past, Ojutalayo noted you needed simple majority to be declared winners but the 1979 experience in which we have 12 2/3 during NPN and UPN necessitated for inconclusiveness in our electoral law.

According to him, “With inconclusiveness, funny things can still happen. For instance, the case of Osun where parties sought for fresh alliances at the middle of the game, such arrangement should not be allowed, though we still have freedom of association in our constitution.

“Secondly, the sitting government in such respective states may use security agencies to assist a particular party to win by looking the other way while attempts to manipulate things during voting or assist to chase or arrest some known notable members of a particular party on trump up charges only later after election to be released.

“INEC is therefore advised to be careful in the conduct of re-run election in such affected states so that it will not set the country on fire.  The security agencies must also need to be neutral and impartial in the exercise and give all parties level play ground and allow voters determine their preferred choice of candidate.”

Inconclusive Elections Are Waste Of Resources – Rights Advocate

Dr Tunde Elebute, human rights advocate and public affairs commentator, said: “This shows that this INEC is not independent it should he called DNEC (Dependent National Electoral Commission). Look at what happened in Benue. Governor Samuel Ortom was comfortably leading. We can understand that of Plateau. The difference between two of them was not much.

“What will Ortom’s opponent do to score more of the remaining votes? All the parties will still share from the 120,000 votes. That of Sokoto is also bad. Governor Tambuwal was leading comfortably. That of Rivers should have been completely cancelled and INEC should have fixed a fresh election there without military involvement.

“INEC should stop these inconclusive elections. It is a waste of resources. INEC should use its discretion when someone is leading and has got two-thirds of the state. In sports, people win by seconds. INEC should reduce inconclusive elections to the barest minimum. The National Assembly should review the section of the Electoral Act or the Constitution that deals with inconclusive elections. We ought to have forgotten everything about elections by now.

“In Osun State, because of inconclusive election, someone who was leading suddenly became a loser. How many people will now travel to their home states or where they registered because of the re-run elections?

“ In fact, before the next general elections, there should be substantial amendment of the Electoral Act. People should vote from where they are. There should be electronic voting. Even those who live abroad should be allowed to vote wherever they live.”

Source: independent.ng