Supplementing Failure, By Dele Agekameh
This Saturday, one then wonders whether it is real electorate-driven elections that are coming, or we are expecting supplementary disruptions and failure afterall. In an electoral system that seems to be sliding back into much darker times, there is no telling what to expect.
The conduct of supplementary elections into governorship positions in six states in Nigeria are now only three days away. In total, across the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared over 40 elections of all categories inconclusive. INEC followed the “margin of lead principle”, which, according to the Commission, is supported by the Electoral Act and mandates that no winner can be declared where the difference in votes between the two leading contenders is less than the number of cancelled votes. Votes are deemed ‘cancelled’ where voting is hindered by violence, inavailability of election materials and/or officials or where votes are voided due to over-voting (when casted ballots exceed the number of accredited voters).
In Benue State, INEC declared that as many as 121,011 would-be voters in the gubernatorial election were not able to vote. Although the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) claimed a lead of about 81,000 votes, going by the announcement of results by the state returning officer, the All Progressives Congress (APC) disputed the results with claims of subterfuge and massive rigging against Samuel Ortom, the incumbent governor and PDP candidate. In any case, the 81,000 lead was exceeded by the 121,011 votes that were deemed cancelled, hence the declaration of results as inconclusive.
In Sokoto, there were 75,403 cancelled votes across 136 polling units in 22 local government areas of the State. The battle between Aminu Tambuwal of the PDP and his erstwhile deputy, Ahmed Aliyu of the APC, appeared to be very closely contested, as Tambuwal edged out his opponent with a difference of only 3,143 votes in the count so far. Similarly, in Bauchi, the difference between the PDP candidate Bala Mohammed, who is in the lead, and Mohammed Abubakar, the APC incumbent governor, is a mere 4,059 votes compared to the 45,312 votes deemed cancelled in the State. For Adamawa, the margin between the two leading candidates was much wider, but the votes deemed cancelled were however higher than the difference between the leading contenders. As it stands in the State, Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP is leading Jibrila Bindow of the APC by 32,576 votes.
For Plateau, the only State of the six where the APC candidate is in the lead currently, Governor Simon Lalong is ahead of PDP’s Jeremiah Useni with 44,929 votes, but this still falls short of the total number of votes cancelled. The reasons for cancelled votes in the State, according to the state returning electoral officer, were over-voting, manual voting and violence. As such, fresh elections will be conducted in 14 out of the 17 local governments in the State.
In Kano State, Abba Yusuf of the PDP is currently in the lead against the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC by 26,655 votes. However, with the number of cancelled votes across 22 local governments more than five times that number, the Kano state gubernatorial election results were also declared inconclusive. Further elections for some seats in state assemblies across the country, like in Ekiti, and 32 seats for Senate and Federal House of Representatives across the country will also be held.
The activities of politicians in Rivers and other places where disruptions have been rife continues to pull the nation back into the abyss of do-or-die politics that we have laboriously tried to climb out of in recent years.
With the unprecedented cases of inconclusive results, INEC and the multiple security agencies that were supposed to lend support to its operations have failed. The police, military, National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), customs and about every other para-military agency employed by the State had a role to play. However, the loss of lives and free-flowing violence in many places portrayed gross incompetence, or worse still, connivance of these security and official actors in the elections. Rivers State and most of the South-South, for instance, had the highest deployment of security operatives, with one US-based civil society organisation reportedly describing scenes there as a war zone. Yet, most of the violence occurred there, leading to the suspension of collation in Rivers State, even under the heavily militarised atmosphere.
Although the military has denied the involvement of its men in the election fracas that was caught on tape in some cases, it has set-up a panel to investigate the role of its men in the violence that ensued. INEC has also placed a number of its officials under arrest in some places. The Rivers State situation necessitated an official inquiry by INEC, but the report produced, apart from passing a seeming indictment on security agencies deployed in the State, has not led to any tangible result that can calm frayed nerves and encourage participation in areas where further violence may be expected.
In Kano, reports of the deputy governor allegedly leading an attack on a collation centre in the fiercely contested Gama ward in the State, have been largely ignored by all government agents, including INEC. The incumbent governor of that State, Abdullahi Ganduje, appears to be in a fight for political survival, even after President Buhari won Kano in the presidential polls. Perhaps, the governor is still in the public eye over the compromising videos of him that surfaced online recently. In an absurd turn of events, the state government is said to have embarked on a last-minute dash to implement projects, including road construction, in the possibly decisive Gama ward, a few days to the supplementary election in the State.
All of these may be hurting the ruling APC’s popularity, especially in relation to the integrity campaign of the president. On one hand, many are lauding the richness of the contest in many parts of the North, including the areas where results have been declared inconclusive. On the other hand, the praise is punctured by what appears to be a disingenuous attempt by some, like Ganduje and his men, to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate, in an atmosphere where accusations have been made about interference and disruptions allegedly engineered to influence the raft of inconclusive results.
The seeming employment of legal instruments to supplement the other nefarious activities in this elections is another dimension in the politics of violence that spells grave danger for the future of elections in Nigeria. The “margin of lead principle”, for instance, sends a wrong message to future unruly candidates and their parties that by successfully scuttling voting in enough areas, they can score a re-match, where ludicrous desperate projects, or worse, can be hastily carried out.
The imperfection of our world has been shoved in our faces during these elections and amplified by the inadequacies of INEC, and the laws (and law enforcers) that govern our elections.
The activities of politicians in Rivers and other places where disruptions have been rife continues to pull the nation back into the abyss of do-or-die politics that we have laboriously tried to climb out of in recent years. Where security agents and sitting government officials are not free from the smear of actual involvement in the disruption that defaces the electoral process, then the country has a long way to go yet.
In a perfect world, by now, issues surrounding the conduct of Nigeria’s 2019 elections would have begun to recede further and further away from the front pages of the dailies. In that imaginary world, the first phase of the election would have taken place on February 16, as planned. But we are certainly not in a perfect world. The imperfection of our world has been shoved in our faces during these elections and amplified by the inadequacies of INEC, and the laws (and law enforcers) that govern our elections.
Not only did INEC fail to stick to its schedule, it also failed to supervise and conduct a seamless exercise, despite the initial postponement. Multiple disruptions and irregularities have now led to the declaration of inconclusive results in the gubernatorial election in six states and protracted suspension of collation in one notoriously volatile state. Additionally, the failure of the process in many parts of the country has opened a justifiable avenue for insinuation of partisan interference by politicians in some places. By and large, the conduct of the last elections was a failure in many respects, but in politics, success and failure are astoundingly relative terms.
This Saturday, one then wonders whether it is real electorate-driven elections that are coming, or we are expecting supplementary disruptions and failure afterall. In an electoral system that seems to be sliding back into much darker times, there is no telling what to expect. With many failed promises already, expectations are not very high.
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