Thursday, May 13, 2021

On INEC’s shambolic supplementary polls in Kano, by Prof. Abba Gumel

Headline

tiamin rice

March 23, 2019 will go down as one of the darkest days in the history of the great state of Kano. It was the day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shocked the people of the state by conducting, undoubtedly, the most shameful, shambolic and utterly-disgraceful election in the state’s history.

It was a day of brazen daylight robbery. A day when the express wishes of the voters had been disregarded or disrespected.

A day when election officials and security agents were decidedly unable and/or unwilling to protect voters (particular those supporting candidates of opposing political parties) from the horrific intimidation, violence, suppression by thugs and mercenaries reportedly sympathetic to the state’s governing political party.

A day when hired thugs unleashed their culture of abuse and intimidation with absolute impunity.

Okay, some basic background is warranted. The great people of Kano State went to the polls on March 11, 2019 to vote for the State’s Chief Executive. This particular election was seen by many, including by respected international observers, to have been conducted largely smoothly. This is due, in no small part, to the exemplary leadership, professionalism, patriotism, courage, and incorruptibility of the state Police Commissioner, Mohammed Wakil, who did all within his powers to ensure that the election was conducted smoothly without any form of voter suppression or intimidation or attack on INEC staff.

Everything seemed to be on track. In fact, INEC was able to collate and announce the results from 43 of the state’s 44 local governments, declaring that the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led the incumbent Governor, of the All Progressive Congress (APC), by nearly 27,000 votes. The declaration by INEC that the candidate of the PDP was ahead by such a sizable margin (and with votes from only one local government left to count) triggered a spontaneous crescendo of jubilant celebration across the state, particularly in the Great City of Dabo.

This was expected, since the PDP candidate, Abba Kabiru Yusuf (popularly known as “Abba Gida-Gida”, to emphasize his unprecedented widespread popularity across households in the state), was the most favoured of all the candidates.

Unfortunately, however, when some government officials realized they were about to lose the election, they reportedly run to the collation centre of the remaining undeclared polling station and allegedly destroyed INEC’s election materials and score sheets.

Although the officials were duly apprehended by security agents, it was reported that hoodlums and thugs seized the opportunity and attacked the collation centre and disrupted the entire collation process.

It was within the backdrop of this massive hysteria, pandemonium and mayhem that somehow INEC emerged and announced to the world that the overall state gubernatorial election was “inconclusive” (invoking a clause in the Electoral Act which says a supplementary/rerun is needed when the margin between the two leading candidates does not exceed the total number of voided ballots).

There was total disbelief across the state, since, clearly, the vast majority of the people thought their chosen candidate (Abba Yusuf) was going to outrightly be declared the winner. The people were in total shock and disbelief.

The timely wise intervention of community leaders, notably His Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, who urged the people to remain calm and abide by the law, averted what could potentially have been a catastrophic disaster.

A date for the supplementary gubernatorial election was subsequently scheduled by INEC, to conduct fresh elections in some affected local government areas (with significant number of voided ballots). The ill-fated March 23, 2019.

The first sign that all may not be well during the supplementary election was that the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the incorruptible Police Commissioner Wakil was to be sidelined during the rerun.

No one has given any valid reason why such a drastic and utterly-condemnable action was necessary. The ill-motive was clear.

It was later alleged that some state government officials went to Abuja and secured the services of a Deputy Inspector General of Police (in the person of DIG Michael Anthony Ogbizi) to take complete charge of policing during the supplementary election.

The fears of the people were realized a day before the ill-fated March 23 schedule, when it was reported that well-armed thugs and mercenaries from neighbouring states (and, allegedly, even from neighbouring countries) were seen in most parts of the state where voting was to take place.

It was further reported that, on the rerun day, these thugs and mercenaries unleashed their thuggish violence against the supporters of candidates of rival political parties.

Credible international observer organizations, such as The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), have confirmed this in their reports.

For instance, in Nasarawa Local Government Area (which represents one-third of all registered voters for the supplementary election), EU observers reported widespread intimidation of voters, characterized by armed youths intimidating voters.

Indeed, there were also gory pictures and videos of humans severed and butchered all over social media, a terribly horrific sight.

This level of violence, intimidation, voter suppression, alleged official misconduct by election officials and law enforcement agents was never before seen in the history of Kano State.

That was why it was remarkably surprising that, despite this horrific action of the thugs and mercenaries, coupled with the clear fact that there never was election as we know it (where voters cast their ballots freely without any form of intimidation, coercion, suppression or violence), INEC decided to “collate” the results of this shamefully-shambolic exercise called “election”.

It really is hard to imagine any self-respecting agency tasked with the conduct of free, fair and credible elections that will remotely give an iota of credence to this joke of an election. A self-respecting agency would have wasted no moment in nullifying that discredited joke of an election.

In any case, INEC’s conduct is manifestly unacceptable to any discerning and objective democratic mind. The conduct of free, fair and credible elections is hugely vital to the principles of democracy and the rule of law.

This is absolutely paramount in a fragile polity such as ours. We, simply, cannot move forward, as a State or a nation, if our elections are not free, fair and credible.

The people of Kano State deserve the right to be governed by a government of their expressed choice.

While we greatly echo the royal clarion call for the people to dutifully and decidedly remain calm and law-abiding, we hope that the Election Tribunal and the Judiciary will right this colossal wrong meted on Kanorians.

May peace, harmony, unity, progress, and prosperity continue to reign in Kano. May justice ultimately prevail in Kano.

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