Will INEC make hay with supplementary elections on April 15?

BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

On Saturday, April 15 two states, Adamawa and Kebbi will return to the polls for the supplementary election to conclude the March 18 governorship elections. The exercise was declared inconclusive in the two states by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

On the same day, supplementary elections would also be held into five senatorial districts, 31 federal and 58 state assembly constituencies. Owing to the competitive nature of the elections, especially for legislative seats, supplementary elections will be held in just a few polling units in some constituencies.

The 2023 general elections were for the most part, greeted with mixed reactions across the land. While some people felt it was an improvement on past electoral efforts, many people however, castigated the electoral umpire for what they called unpardonable display of ineptitude. They readily reference the February 25 presidential and national assembly elections as a case in point.

It is for this reason that political parties and politicians are skeptical about the Commission’s sincerity and competence to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible election in during the remaining elections following what they described as unwarranted pressure on the INEC that led to the inconclusive polls and the Commission having not been able to honour its pre-election promises to the country and the international communities.

As the two mega parties, APC and PDP lay claims to victory in the governorship elections in Adamawa and Kebbi States, chieftains of both parties want the Commission to up its performance in the forthcoming supplementary elections.

A People’s Democratic Party chieftain from Adamawa State, Johnson Sani Sule, told The Point that the INEC had no reason whatsoever declaring the Adamawa gubernatorial election inconclusive if there was no ulterior motive behind it.

“In the first place, what was their reason for declaring the Adamawa gubernatorial election inconclusive? Was it that they were unable to announce it after collation or that some interests from Abuja did not want it announced because their preferred candidate was losing?

Just tell me. We know how they conduct supplementary elections in this country. They will come to Adamawa with the federal might and impose unpopular choices on the people but it will not work. Our people have spoken and our mandate must be respected.

“You can see that even women have been on the streets protesting against the decision of INEC. They are demanding that INEC should announce our candidate, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, winner of the March 18 polls. That is to say, the people are ready to resist any attempt to rob them of their mandate. We saw it happen in Kano in the last election in 2019. When they want to rig elections for their chosen candidates they declare the process inconclusive but Adamawa will not be easy for them. We are awake.”

Speaking in the same vein, another member of the party, Christaugunus Igboanugo, claimed that the announced results on March 18 showed that the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Umar Fintiri, was the winner before the Returning Officer stopped the collation.

He said, “INEC has to prove to us that what happened in Kano State in 2019 does not happen on Saturday because it will batter the image of the commission the more. The Commission is already seen as a failure by Nigerians, so I hope it should use the supplementary elections to correct the wrongs. There’s no way they will turn around to announce another candidate as the winner of the Adamawa governorship election and want our party to accept it. The results are there. We still believe the INEC can do a good job, however, the PDP is not sleeping because we know the main reason APC is insisting on snatching the state from us.”

Countering the PDP’s claim, Senator Ishaka Abbo, representing Adamawa North senatorial district on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, said the incumbent governor who is also from the same senatorial district with him, did nothing that should warrant his reelection. He said those claiming that the PDP and its candidate were winning before the election was declared inconclusive were only speaking from the figment of their imagination.

“How can PDP claim that Governor Fintiri was winning the election before the collation was stopped? He is from the same senatorial district with me. I’m his senator. We have five local governments in our senatorial district. I won three out of the five, even when my party did not support my candidature, Fintiri and the PDP candidate could not win. The truth is that the governor did not perform in the first four years and the people want a change that is why they cast their votes for our candidate and colleague senator Aishatu Dahiru, who we popularly call Binani.”

Abbo, who is also a senator-elect having won the February 25 senatorial election, argued that the rejection of the incumbent governor by his senatorial district is enough signal that he cannot claim to be the winner of the March 18 governorship election.

“Our people rejected him because he did not give us any dividends of democracy as a governor from our district. We want to try Binani because she is really working as a senator and as a woman, she has endeared herself to the people of Adamawa. Let me tell you, the only tsunami that helped Fintiri to get the votes he got is our political father and elder, Atiku Abubakar.

Regardless of the party, whether we are in the same political party or not, every Adamawa son and daughter respects him because since 1993 he has been contesting for president and that has brought respect to us in the state. That’s the only thing Fintiri has hinged on but I am confident Binani is ending that on April 15.”

Ginika Tor, a Commissioner of the Federal Character Commission and APC chieftain, said the party has full confidence in the electoral umpire. She said contrary to what some Nigerians are saying about the just concluded elections, the INEC conducted the best polls in the history of Nigeria’s election and the results that produced a commercial motorcycle rider as member-elect of federal legislature, most sitting governors lost bid to be elected to the Senate, Presidential candidate lost his stronghold cannot be said to be an outcome of a sham election.

She argued that what happened in the Adamawa governorship election was a clear indication of how the male politicians treat the womenfolk.

“There was no reason for declaring the Adamawa governorship election inconclusive. It was awash in the social media that our candidate Senator Aishatu Dahiru Binani was leading but the next thing is the election was inconclusive. No matter what, she is in pole position to win and we are expecting to see her inaugurated as the first ever elected woman governor.”

Unlike the supplementary governorship election in Adamawa, much is not spoken about that of Kebbi State.

However, a political analyst, Johnson Agwai, is of the opinion that the two elections as well as others in the supplementary lists are very important to the candidates and their parties as such the INEC should try as much as it can to be in charge and redeem its image.

“Yes it’s true much more attention is being paid to the Adamawa governorship election than that of Kebbi State. The reason is simple. Adamawa is not only trying to produce a change of power from PDP to APC but also trying to produce the first ever elected female governor. You see when history making is involved, everyone’s focus will be there. Before the collation was stopped, some people had already sent congratulatory messages to Binani believing she had won. Some had started to celebrate her on social media. Remember Adamawa is the home state of the PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and if APC wins the governorship election in the state, then it will speak volume of the development of our democracy. Let’s see how it plays out on Saturday, April 15.

“There was no reason for declaring the Adamawa governorship election inconclusive. It was awash in the social media that our candidate Senator Aishatu Dahiru Binani was leading but the next thing is the election was inconclusive”

“But I still believe, and strongly too, that you cannot say it’s all over till INEC announces the results after the supplementary elections. Whatever the results are now does not really matter. What the political parties and their candidates should focus on is how to win the April 15 supplementary elections and not claiming they were leading or winning before the collations were stopped. What happened on March 18 can only complement the Saturday exercise. I think this is the truth of the matter because this election will be the decider not the March 18 polls.”

The Chairman of the Inter-party Advisory Committee and National Chairman of the Action Democratic Party Yabagi Sani, while speaking on a television programme on Friday said INEC did exactly the opposite of what its leaders promised. He said the electoral umpire promised to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections in both the presidential and governorship elections but failed to live up to expectation.

He said the Mahmood Yakubu-led commission talked tough as to how the elections were going to be the best organised but when the chips were down the promises and assurances disappeared probably because he was under pressure to please the people that appointed him and pay his salary.

“INEC is yet to tell Nigerians what went wrong with the BVAS and IReV they made us believe are the solutions to our too many electoral flaws in the past. But here we are witnessing INEC fall totally short of our expectations they created for us. All they promised failed yet they are not telling us anything and we are talking about supplementary elections.

“What magic will they do to gain back people’s confidence? The same INEC that said they have arrested inconclusive elections are the same INEC that are going to conduct supplementary elections on April 15 as a result of inconclusiveness from two governorship elections and several others and you want people to believe them again.”

The IPAC chairman, however, also exonerated the commission of the shortcomings in the electoral process insisting that the problem of INEC like all other government agencies is the right of the President to appoint those to serve and national assembly appropriate funds for them.

“How can everybody in INEC be appointed by the President who is an interested party, a member of a political party that wants his party to win and we expect INEC to serve the people. We were deceived by the promises of the chairman, who at every given opportunity when political parties met with him, he made us believe the Commission was well prepared to conduct free, fair, transparent and credible elections. That was why we went to sleep but with what we saw in the just concluded elections, INEC cannot deceive us again. We will be awake to the supplementary elections.

“I want to plead with Mahmood Yakubu and his staff to demonstrate what they promised Nigerians before the election with the supplementary elections, by this Nigerians will still believe that all hope of getting it right is not lost after all. I’m an optimist, I see the cup as half full not half empty and I still believe that we will certainly get there regardless of the picture painted by the conduct of the just concluded elections.”

Reacting to what led to the numerous inconclusive elections nationwide, political analyst, Asu Ekiye, described the just concluded elections unacceptable shortfall on the part of INEC.

He said, “The INEC and security agencies through the general election ridiculed Nigeria in the eyes of the entire globe. They saw the mess and laughable exercise they called election where people have become above the law and did whatever they liked and went away with it and yet they expect people to believe they can deliver.

“Governors kidnapped electoral officers, forced them to do their bidding and at the end INEC jumped and announced such doctored results and before you know it they will tell you to go to court. We are in a laughable situation.

“If these things were prevalent in the general election, what guarantee do we have that those in authority will not use the security agencies to manipulate the supplementary elections and favour their parties? We saw it happen in Kano, it can still happen in Adamawa and Kebbi states.”