Grappling With Oddities, Crudity Of Kogi, Bayelsa Governorship Elections

Yakubu

Yakubu

APART from having the elections spilling over to the same day, Saturday December 5, 2015; the Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls have thrown up certain incongruities in the nation’s polity. And coming barely weeks after the new helmsman at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakub, took over, the inconclusive nature of the poll outcomes raised fresh concerns for free, fair and credible elections in the country. In Kogi, as at the time the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Abubakar Audu, died, the vote tally showed a difference of 41, 353 votes between him and the closest rival, the incumbent Governor, Captain Idris Wada of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). But the election had to go into supplementation following the cancellation of the exercise in 91 polling units where the total number of registered voters was 49, 953. Consequently INEC declared the exercise inconclusive. However when the supplementary election in the 91 polling units held, the number of votes cast was a wide margin away from the 49, 953 votes envisaged. Furthermore, while the APC, which was leading the poll at the point of inconclusive return, scored 6, 885 votes to net a total of 247, 752 votes in the Kogi governorship election, its main challenger, PDP added 5, 363 votes to the 199, 514 it garnered at the November 21 initial poll, giving it a total of 204, 877 votes. One thing that became very clear after the Kogi supplementary election was that attaining 100 percent voter turnout at elections in the country was utopian. But as things stood, INEC preferred to err on the side of caution.
 
In the Bayelsa governorship poll, the number of registered voters in Southern Ijaw local government council, which was cancelled by INEC, was also more than the difference between the leading and the trailing candidates. The PDP governorship flag bearer and incumbent Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, scored 105, 748 votes to beat his closest rival, Timipre Sylva of APC, who got 71, 794 votes from the seven out of the eight local councils results declared before the election was declared inconclusive. In the Southern Ijaw local council, where a supplementary election is expected to be held on January 9, 2016, a total of 120,827 votes are at stake given that equal number of registered voters are domiciled there. Though the number of possible voters that may be disenfranchised had the election be declared conclusive exceeds the margin of difference between Dickson and Sylva, a pattern had been established. In the first place, should Sylva garner more votes from SILGA, the APC candidate could not have served the requirement for spread. Additionally going by the rate of voter turnout, if less than fifty percent of the so-called registered voters, not to talk of number that collected their Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs), votes during the makeup election, it would be impossible for the trailing candidate to overtake the winner, whose margin of victory stands at 33, 954. But the oddity in the election could play out if the two front-running candidates strike a tie. Has the INEC factored such a possibility into its pre-supplementary election planning? The electoral umpire’s decision of declaring the process inconclusive due to the outcome in SILGA seems to be justified. But like in Kogi, the number of actual voters on the day of supplementary election could as well fall far below the projected 120, 827 votes or even 50 percent of that number.

INEC, Security Agencies Hold The Balance

ATTEMPTS at resolving the constitutional and institutional logjam thrown up by Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls, may not be deep rooted unless the contributions of both INEC and security agencies are critically evaluated. If police and other law enforcement agencies could be given kudos for the near-level playing field that attended the Kogi election, the situation in Bayelsa raised more cause for concern. This is because while the election environment in Kogi suggested a win for the ruling APC, in Bayelsa the suspicion among the people remains that security was compromised following the winning streak seen around PDP. The Deputy Inspector General of Police, (DIG) Hashimu S. Argungu, failed to convince a lot of people that he was not taking sides different from impartiality envisaged by the law. The DIG helped to exacerbate tension when he issued a warning to groups planning to embark on stage-managed protests. No sooner had the DIG released the statement, which he personally signed than words started making the rounds in Yenagoa that the top cop was carrying out a script in the belief that the rigging at SILGA was perfected. It was based on the perceived partiality of the police officer that governorship aspirants from eleven registered political parties in Bayelsa State, under the aegis of United Governorship Forum for Credible Elections, demanded the immediate redeployment of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) Hashimu Argungun, State Commissioner of Police, Nasiru Oki and heads of other security operatives for their involvement in the electoral fraud in Southern Ijaw.
 
Chairman of the forum, Chief Inko Namatede, during a press conference in Yenagoa, disclosed that the Army, Police and some INEC staff, were protected by the officers in abetting the rigging, killings and maiming of innocent Bayelsans by leaders of the APC. Namatede therefore counseled that further participation by the officers in the proposed re-scheduled election would re-enact the ugly incident. “In the spirit of fairness and as a factor of the appalling situation we saw in Southern Ijaw in particular, we hereby call on the military high command in Abuja to completely withdraw all soldiers deployed to provide security in that local government because they allegedly aided the hijack of electoral materials by thugs.”
 
If security constituted the most critical factor in Bayelsa governorship, INEC and proper interpretation of both the Electoral Act 2010 as amended and the 1999 Constitution, as amended, would be central to resolving the Kogi logjam. Can a governor that never presented himself to the people during electioneering be voted into office by scoring a mere 6, 885 votes? And if the party’s votes were up for inheritance, should a governorship substitute rather than a governorship running mate, be the best heir? What way could Section 181 be constructively applied in the Kogi situation where a candidate died midway to declaration of results of an election he contested successfully? Section 181 states among other steps that, if a person duly elected as governor dies before taking and subscribing the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, the person elected with him as Deputy governor shall be sworn in as Governor and he shall nominate a new deputy-governor, who shall be appointed by the governor with the approval of a simple majority of the House of Assembly of the State. Secondly, the section notes that where the persons duly elected as governor and deputy governor of a state die or are for any reason unable to assume office before the inauguration of the House of Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall immediately conduct an election for a governor and deputy governor of the State.
  
Between the incongruity of religion and legalism, the APC would have a serious burden on its shoulders to explain to Nigerians that it was not out of bigotry that it sidetracked James Faleke to introduce a new captain into the race that was more than halfway won and lost. Moreover, did the window of opportunity opened by INEC for the party to substitute Audu presuppose that Bello was the best beneficiary of Audu’s unforeseen death than Faleke, with whom he toured the length and breadth of Kogi State in search of votes? It seems quite odd that political parties are taking too much liberty with the weather beaten Supreme Court ruling on Amaechi versus Omehia, to trample on the wishes of the people. Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections are waking up the ghosts of electoral interference by outsiders. If the pattern of voter turnout already established in Bayelsa election is altered in SILGA that could be enough evidence of incongruous intervention. INEC should take cognizance of demographic distribution of voters and PVC collection to analyse the situation in Bayelsa. The other crucial element is the level of voter apathy in the election which necessitated the two frontline parties to induce voters with various sums of money ranging from between N8, 000 and N10, 000, as motivation to come out and vote. If INEC does not get it right in Bayelsa and the Court fails to nip the constitutional crisis in Kogi, the nation’s electoral system would be the ultimate loser.
 



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