•Buhari to governor: seek legal redress •Kano elders warn against crisis •Row in Bauchi over INEC’s stand
THERE is anxiety in Kano, Benue and Bauchi states over the “inconclusive” governorship elections.
Collation of results is to resume today in the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State, seven days after the election was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The electoral umpire has scheduled a supplementary poll for the Nasarawa Local Government Area of Kano State to decide who takes charge at the Government House from May 29.
Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar was at the State House yesterday to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on the twist introduced into the electoral process by the INEC. He was encouraged by the President to seek legal redress.
INEC’s decision to resume collation of the outstanding results today triggered criticisms among groups in Buachi State yesterday.
In Kano, an elders’ forum said it will not fold its arms and watch desperate politicians plunge the state into a crisis.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) were trading words in Benue State.
After his private session with President Buhari, Abubakar accused the electoral umpire of introducing an “unknown procedure” to the laws of the land during the March 9 governorship and state Assembly elections.
He told State House reporters: “I briefed him on the issues surrounding the inconclusive elections. The Returning Officer for Bauchi State, at the end of collation, rejected the result of Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and then 36 other units spread across 15 local government areas of the state and ordered a rerun.
“Surprisingly, we woke up one morning and the independent electoral commission came up with a procedure that is not known to law.
“Because, where a Returning Officer has declared the result, only an election petition tribunal can reverse the result. But INEC is attempting to reverse itself in the case of Bauchi. And when one juxtaposes that of Bauchi and other states with inconclusive elections, one wonders why that is happening only in Bauchi State.
“So, for that reason, there is a need for me to come and brief Mr. President because that has the potential of touching on the security of the state and it is paramount we …”
“Of course, it is definitely extra illegal. It is a straight forward matter. The returning officer is the final arbiter even with respect to scores and declaration of result.
“And once he makes a declaration, no power can reverse that declaration, except duly constituted court of the land.”
On what he expects the President to do over the matter knowing that INEC is independent, the governor said: “No, no, no… I said I came to brief Mr. President. I am not seeking any action of Mr. President. We all know Mr. President. He’s a stickler for procedure.
“What I pointedly told him was that I am not here to seek for you to intervene on our behalf sir, but to brief you on what is happening and what actions I have taken.”
On the actions so far taken, Abubakar said: “I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle. I briefed him and he emphasised on that legal angle – that it is the best way to go.”
On security, Abubakar said: “We are on top of the situation, thank God. We have since ordered the ban on procession in the metropolis and things are very calm.”
He said that his visit to President Buhari yesterday was not because a similar visit he made to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo last week was unfruitful.
”There are procedures in these matters and levels of authority. I am a stickler for procedure, I started at the right place and I have also ended up at the right place,” the governor said.
The Kano Concerned Citizens Initiative (KCCI) yesterday said that the group of elders would not fold their arms and allow anybody to push the state into chaos in a bid to lead the people.
The group’s Chairman, Alhaji Bashir Tofa, with other eminent members, bared their minds on the unfolding political developments in the state.
They said that the elders will do everything possible to protect Kano and never allow the state to burn on account of “inordinate” ambition of an individual.
Tofa, a former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), said: “The KCCI is disturbed, anxious, concerned and troubled by the seeming discord and agitated impatience manifesting in Kano since the collation of the March 9 election results which culminated in INEC declaring the process inconclusive.”
He called on political leaders to refrain from unguarded utterances capable of inflaming passion, which could trigger violence.
Tofa said: “It is incumbent upon political leaders to strictly obey the rules of engagement and the law by admonishing their members, operatives and followers to be mindful of the full wrath of the law this time around.”
Open monitory and other unlawful inducements must never be condoned during the rerun elections.”
Tofa urged security operatives to be on the alert from now until the declaration of the results and after.
He also advised that sufficient personnel be posted to each of the polling units scattered over the 88 registration areas (wards) in the 30 affected local government areas.
He said: “Security operatives must be seen to be upright and above board and completely non-partisan. They have done well during the previous elections but the rerun exercise may yet prove to be more arduous and daunting.
“It also becomes imperative to take such security measures as would prevent people from neighbouring states, who are non-residents of the state, from coming in to partake in the March 23re rerun elections to forestall unnecessary tension or violence.
“The youths need to wake up to the reality that it is their future the KCCI and every well-meaning person in Kano is trying to nurture and secure. Thus, they should eschew and stay away from violence in cahoots with anybody as we cannot afford to let the polity overheat.
“We call on every segment of Kano society to do everything in our power to avoid heating the polity. This is the time for us to turn to Allah in prayers, because we must realise that political chaos will lead to violence, thuggery, mayhem and unnecessary loss of lives and property. Peace is the only recipe to healthy and positive development.”
INEC’s decision on Bauchi sparks row
The Body of Bauchi Lawyers of Conscience (BOBOLAC) hailed the decision.
It members said: “We consider INEC’s decision as the best and most proper thing to do under the prevailing circumstances.”
The convener of the group, Shipi Rabo, said INEC acted in accordance with the dictates of the law and in the greater interest of all.
Shipi called on all political actors to demonstrate the understanding necessary for INEC to successfully conclude the process and formally announce the winner so that the waiting game characterised by tension and rumours would be over.
But the Concerned Citizens of Tafawa Balewa kicked against INEC’s decision, saying: “It is ultra vires and contrary to law and therefore illegal with no regards to the provision of Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and INEC guidelines for 2019 general elections.”
According to the group, the INEC has no power to reverse any decision taken by a Returning Officer concerning election results from the collation centre.
Its Caretaker Chairman, Salihu Barau, said the law provides that such a decision can only be reversed by a court of law or a tribunal and not the Commission for whatever reason.
Barau said: “There is no certainty on the genuineness of the allegedly generated results. Thus, we have lost confidence in INEC as it is apparent there would be no justice in the whole exercise.”
A fact-finding panel was raised by the INEC to investigate the circumstances that led to the cancellation of results for the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area and following the findings of the committee, INEC had approved the resumption and conclusion of the collation of results for Tafawa Balewa.
The commission also directed that the error in total number of cancelled votes in four polling units in Ningi Local Government Area, which was recorded as 25,330, in form EC40G (i) be corrected to 2,533.
INEC would not join issues over Bauchi
INEC said that it would not join issues with Abubakar over the commission’s decision to resume collation of election results.
The commission said it would rather wait for the judicial process to take its full course.
INEC National Commissioner in charge of Voter Education, Festus Okoye, said it would be better not to comment on the issue.
Okoye said: “Since the matter is already in court, it is better to allow the judicial process run it’s full course.”
“I would not want to say anything that would amount to pre-empt the court,” he added.
He also noted that it would not be the best to discuss the issue on the pages of newspapers.
Benue APC, PDP clash
In Makurdi, the PDP clashed with the rival APC over which party is best positioned to win Saturday’s supplementary poll.
Reacting to a comment by the PDP that the rival party lacked what it takes to win the makeup election, the APC fired back that the PDP erred by assuming it can decide who will win.
At a news conference yesterday, PDP chairman in Benue, Chief John Ngbede said that the results of the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly Elections showed the PDP as the leading party in the Northcentral state.
According to Ngbede, the PDP won the Presidential vote by 10, 000 votes, won all the three Senatorial seats and six out of the nine House of Representatives seats so far declared out of the total of eleven federal constituencies, adding that the APC only won one.
But the APC fired back through its Publicity Secretary James Ornguga. He said the PDP was not qualified to decide who will win the rescheduled election.
Ornguga reminded that PDP to stop heating up the polity ahead of the poll.
Ngbede also took exception to comments credited to APC leader in the state Senator George Akume, saying such remarks could undermine the process.
The PDP chair alleged that Akume has assured APC leaders that the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime would be declared winner.
He said that Senator Akume told the APC leaders that he had the support of the Presidency and national leadership of the ruling party to influence Jime’s victory.
Senator Akume, however, described the PDP claim as untrue.
He accused the ruling party of preparing the ground to scuttle the rescheduled poll so that the INEC would be forced to fall back on the election earlier discussed as inconclusive.
Akume said: “They (PDP) don’t want a rerun. They are doing everything to frustrate the process. They want to cause confusion, believing that in the event of confusion, the PDP will be declared winner.”
According to the senator, the ruling party manipulated the February 23 and March 9 elections.
“They (PDP) rigged the Presidential and governiorship elections in the state”, he said.
Also reacting, APC Administrative Secretary Mark Hanmation described the PDP allegations as baseless, saying that the APC has its eye set on victory on Saturday.
Hanmation said: “The APC will win the rescheduled election on Saturday and would not want to be drag into unnecessary media war.”
Lalong at the Villa
Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong was also at the Villa yesterday – to brief the President on the political developments in his state.
Lalong is preparing for a supplementary election on Saturday, following the declaration of the February 9 poll as inconclusive.
His Bauchi State counterpart is heading for the court to challenge INEC’s decision to resume collation of results from the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, after its initial decision to conduct a supplementary election.
Lalong boasted that the supplementary election will be a walkover for him and the APC.
Speaking with reporters after meeting with President Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Lalong said that the renewed insecurity in the state was politically motivated.
He also said that workers were interested in his victory to guarantee the prompt payment of their salaries.
On his mission to the Villa, Lalong said: “My meeting with the President is the usual briefing. I call it usual because of my passion for peace in the state. It is not about the election; it is about the peace, to ensure we have a very peaceful election.
“So far so good; we have had very good and peaceful elections. We are coming back for a supplementary election. I will like INEC to conduct a peaceful election and so we will like the security apparatus to be on ground in the state. That was my briefing to Mr. President.”
He said that he was not in panic ahead of the election on Saturday.
“How can I be when all the votes that were cancelled were my votes?” he queried.
The governor went on: “These were areas that I won. There was no need for cancellation but then, as a lawyer, I still want to comply with the rules. I don’t want to be talking about infringing on the rules when the election, result is very clear.
“They said the registered voters were 49,000 but that the votes were not up to 20,000 but people were still saying we need 49,000 and I was already on top with 45,000 votes. So, we are going to get the 49,000. How can you imagine that a sitting governor cannot get 3,000 votes out of 39,000 in an area that I have well dominated for a very long time?
“So, for me, election is as good as concluded in Plateau State. I see it as an opportunity for people whose votes were cancelled, for them to vote. People came and said their votes were cancelled; it is for them to go back and vote and ensure their vote counts this time around.
“That is why I support that we go back and conduct the elections. If they (INEC) like, let them conduct the elections more than once, we will soon win.”
The most recent attack on the Plateau, the said: “That was why I said I was concerned about security. Usually, it starts like that, they start rustling and killing cattle and the next thing you will hear is that it is farmers/herders crisis. I know that I have addressed that issue for a very long time and the police is handling the security.
“So, I informed Mr. President that we are on top of the situation because we wouldn’t want that to escalate into farmers, herdsmen crisis. It is not farmers, herdsmen crisis; it is criminals trying to foment trouble after losing elections.”
Asked if he suspected any political undertone in the crisis, Lalong said: “Very well. I always say it has political undertone, why is it happening immediately after elections? It usually happens immediately before or after elections, why is it like that? It has some political connotation.”
The governor said that people in the state were happy with his administration because there will be completion of projects and initiation of new projects.
He said: “The civil servants have been crying that if I lose the election, that means they will be owed salaries again.
“So, we want to continue with payment of salaries, gratuities, completion of projects that were started before I came and the ones I have initiated. That is the next level in Plateau State.”
Dalok advises Plateau electorate
The running mate to Plateau PDP Governorship candidate, Dr James Dalok, yesterday advised the people of Plateau to come out en-masse to exercise their mandate.
Dalok gave the advice in an interview with the the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos.
“Next Saturday’s supplementary election by INEC is an ample opportunity for the indigenes of Plateau to reclaim their mandate from the APC government in the last Governorship Election.
“We all know that there were some shenanigans that attributed to the APC taking the lead during the governorship polls, we all have to rise and resist it as electorate and stakeholders in the state.
“PDP is known for its rescue mission on the Plateau but the enemies of the state seemed bent on pulling us down the more and that we must vehemently resist.
“It’s left for all patriotic Plateau indigenes to come out and vote PDP in the various polling units where supplementary elections will hold across the state,’’ he said.
Dalok, a former Assistant Director at the Industrial Training Fund, described the heavy presence of security operatives in some polling units across the state during the general elections as a “grand design’’ to rob PDP of victory.
According to him, “this is the more reason why as Plateau people, we must make a statement that no one can force him or her-self on us.’’
He specifically called on the people of Shendam, Langtang South, Mangu, Barkin Ladi and Jos North Local Government Areas to vote and protect their votes during Saturday’s supplementary elections.