Undercurrents that swing Kogi’s inconclusive poll
IF the application of a provision in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) election manual which was apparently inserted to prevent desperate politicians from promoting violence in their opponents’ strongholds had made last weekend’s governorship election in Kogi State unique, being the first time it was applied to a governorship election, the sudden death of the leading candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has made the exercise unprecedented because of the constitutional problem it created.
When the Returning Officer, Professor Emmanuel Kucha of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, declared the exercise inconclusive and called for a rerun in 91 units where elections were cancelled and where the 49,553 number of registered voters exceeded the 41,353 votes with which Audu was leading his closest rival, incumbent governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the close of final compilation, politicians were already planning to maximize whatever benefits the development could provide for them.
With Audu’s death however, the game has shifted to lawyers and experts in legal interpretation, many of whom have dusted their books to provide an understanding of the situation and proffer a legal solution to a logjam that the Nigerian Constitution and electoral law seemed to have overlooked.
For the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Kogi victory would also open more doors of success particularly in Bayelsa where it hoped to get a foothold in the South-South geo-political zone as a prelude to clear the remaining influence of the PDP which is just learning the ropes to play opposition politics. There is also the believe that the leadership of the APC in the South-West considered the election as crucial to extending its influence beyond the zone especially with the presentation of Abiodun Faleke, a Lagos-based politician and member of the House of Representatives as “the Lagos Ambassador” in the mould of Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State.
The Constitution provided in Section 181 (1) 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.”
Sub-section (2) states 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.”
These constitutional provisions recognize the oneness of the governorship ticket and in the absence of the governor, the deputy should carry on. But what is yet un-explained and which may need the interference of the Supreme Court in order to prevent a constitutional crisis, is what happens when the election is declared inconclusive.
To the PDP which lost political power after 16 years in the saddle and which is battling to retain the three states of Rivers, Taraba and Akwa-Ibom where it got unfavourable tribunal judgments, the Kogi election was an opportunity to show its preparedness to hold itself together to stage a successful comeback in 2019. The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who also chaired the panel to reinvigorate the PDP, while expressing the importance of the election to the party during the last round of campaigns few hours to the exercise, described it as “a war.”
Describing the situation as a hybrid between the Constitution and the provision of Section 33 of the Electoral Act, Lagos lawyer, Festus Keyamo said as was the case when Boni Haruna took over the mandate of Adamawa governorship when Atiku Abubakar was made the Vice-President in 1999, Audu’s running mate should automatically step into his shoes.
However, the duo of Professor Itse Sagay and Olisa Agbakoba, both Senior Advocate of Nigeria, disagreed with the Keyamo position which the APC is expected to rely on, and argued that since the election was declared inconclusive, a fresh exercise should be ordered by INEC with the APC providing a substitute for the deceased flag-bearer.
Undercurrents of the election
BEING the first major contest between the PDP and the APC after the May 29 reversal of roles by Nigeria’s two dominant political platforms and the first exercise to be conducted by the new leadership of the national electoral body, the stakes were quite high for the stakeholders.
To the PDP which lost political power after 16 years in the saddle and which is battling to retain the three states of Rivers, Taraba and Akwa-Ibom where it got un-favourable tribunal judgments, the Kogi election was an opportunity to show its preparedness to hold itself together to stage a successful comeback in 2019.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu who also chaired the panel to reinvigorate the PDP, while expressing the importance of the election to the party during the last round of campaigns few hours to the exercise, described it as “a war.”
As he addressed PDP political office holders two days before the polls, he urged them not to repeat the mistake that led to the party’s loss of power saying, “We had presidential election last March. The ministers thought they were not involved, ambassadors far away in Japan, Australia and America thought they were not involved but on May 29, (2015) when the APC took over all of them were sent out. If Wada is defeated on Saturday, all of you are gone. It is a very serious matter. But for us as PDP it is a litmus test because by 2019 we are going back to Aso Rock.”
The APC which has all the Senate seats, six out of nine members of the House of Representatives and eleven in the 25-member House of Assembly, viewed the election as a chance to consolidate and expand its influence in the country’s political space.
For the party, the victory in Kogi would also open more doors of success particularly in Bayelsa where it hoped to get a foothold in the South-South geo-political zone as a prelude to clearing the remaining influence of the PDP which is just learning the ropes to play opposition politics.
There is also the belief that the leadership of the APC in the South-West considered the election as crucial to extending its influence beyond the zone especially with the presentation of Abiodun Faleke, a Lagos-based politician and member of the House of Representatives as “the Lagos Ambassador” in the mould of Rauf Aregbesola in Osun State.
An election well conducted
TO ensure that the first election to be conducted under the Muhammadu Buhari administration is flawless, 13,000 ad-hoc staff including 4,000 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) were deployed by INEC to manage 1, 351, 313 registered voters spread over 3018 polling units in the state’s 21 local councils.
The election was also managed by three National Commissioners of INEC, one to oversee a Senatorial District while 11 Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs) were also deployed to handle specific aspects of the election and to supervise an unspecified number of other personnel drawn from the commission’s offices across the country.
On hand to provide security were 21 units of anti-riot and 6,000 regular policemen who manned the polling units, supported by a large contingent of armed soldiers and other personnel drawn from other security outfits like the Department of State Security, Customs and Immigration Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
There were also scores of local and international observers comprising several poll monitors from civil society groups and the European Union (EU) who traversed the state and compile their own independent reports.
Although there were reports of anomalies like ballot-box snatching, violence and over-voting in some polling units and were promptly cancelled by electoral officers in accordance with INEC guidelines, leading to the declaration of the election as inconclusive, the exercise was adjudged to be generally free, fair and peacefully conducted.
According to the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG), a body of election observers assembled from across borders to monitor the exercise, INEC officials arrived promptly at 75 percent of the polling units, accreditation commenced as scheduled at 92 percent of the units while there was adequate security presence at 94 percent.
In the same vein, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room described the weekend exercise as an improvement on the last election. The convener, Clement Nwankwo, said based on aggregated reports from the field across state, the election officials turned up and carried out their responsibilities in most polling units visited.
According to him, “Situation Room observed that despite the slight delays encountered in setting up across polling stations, the time of arrival of polling officials and materials across the state was largely satisfactory.”
Why Wada didn’t win
IT was obvious to discerning observers on the eve of the election when politicians across the divides were still strategizing to influence the swing of the pendulum, that Prince Audu, looked good to win the polls.
Signs that incumbent governor had lost the race even before the blast of the whistle were seen when politicians that were supposed to be his close allies, started exhibiting traits that showed that they were not really committed to the party’s course.
As it played out during the preparation for the last General Elections when five PDP governors left the party for the opposition leading to its eventual loss of power, many party big wigs abandoned the party to work against the second term interest of the governor albeit surreptitiously.
Wada, who many residents said is not an expert in the politics of survival, was said to have lost favour with the PDP powerhouse in Abuja following allegations that he provided underground support for the victory of Buhari over Jonathan last March.
Before he eventually picked the party’s ticket through a landslide victory at the Confluence Stadium, Lokoja last August, many analysts had actually written Wada off because of the array of big names that were line up against his candidacy.
His closest rival in the primary election, Jubril Isah Ochocho, who had earlier promised to work with the governor, promptly decamped to the APC with his supporters while many leaders who still stayed within the party, did not show enough commitment, each holding on to one grouse or the other.
A two-term senator who could not secure a third term in the last election and who was said to have put the blame of his loss on the governor, did not come to his usually bustling country home in Ijumu local council even though he had directed that a cow be slaughtered and food prepared in anticipation of his arrival on the eve of the election.
As at Friday evening, there were more cooks inside the modest bungalow located adjacent to the town’s police station than party supporters some of who declared openly that APC would win as they were going to take their revenge on the governor.
Last week, most of the former Senator’s associates decamped to the APC but he kept on assuring the PDP leadership that those who defected were on their own and that the development was not going to affect the governor’s ambition.
The absence of the politician, a former unionist who is believed to have a near-total control of the Yoruba section of his Kogi West Senatorial District, was said to be responsible for the very low turnout of voters in the area because he was not on hand to help in mobilising voters to the polling units.
Why Audu ‘won’
AUDU, the flamboyant “veteran governor” who was looking for a “third term” having been elected during the diarchy of the aborted Third Republic between 1991-1993 and at the first segment of the present democratic dispensation between 1999-2003 was the most experienced among all the politicians in the state. He had participated in all the governorship elections conducted in the state since its creation in 1991.
Despite his vast experience, Audu was said to have lost his bid to return to the Lugard House, Lokoja seat of government in 2003 and 2007 because of certain character traits that had allegedly cost him not a few of his associates.
But Audu, this time around, was said to have made amends and embarked on personal visitations to most of his former associates and even known adversaries in the PDP to seek support for his fresh ambition.
A story is told of how he visited the home of a former acquaintance in the middle of the night on his way from a political meeting and insisted that the man, whom he has not spoken to for ten years, should tell his wife to prepare dinner for him since he has not had a meal the whole day.
Of course, the flabbergasted man, a PDP chieftain who was going to host an anti-Audu meeting the following day, made a public announcement that he has mended fence with his former boss and decamped to the APC.
Another PDP chieftain and Director-General of a Federal Government agency who hails from Omala local council was also said to have declared his support for Audu like many others across the state who either have a score to settle with the governor or have been swayed to the side of the APC candidate.
Analysts however attributed the clean sweep of the exercise where Audu led in 16 out of the state’s 21 local councils and even defeated Wada in his own, more to Buhari’s popularity which got the APC almost all the seats at the National Assembly during the last General Election.
Incidentally, as Audu benefitted from Buhari’s popularity by sharing the same political platform with the President even though the latter was said to have been so averse to his emergence as the party’s flag-bearer that he allegedly refused to personally attend any of the campaign rallies, Wada was said to have been ostracized by PDP for allegedly supporting the President whom he (Wada) once told The Guardian he shared a lot of character traits with.
Audu’s death may have however created a new direction for the politics of the state for if the legal imbroglio is resolved to benefit Faleke, the APC candidate’s running mate, it would be the first time that governorship is being taken away from the highly populous and politically contiguous Kogi East Senatorial District to Kogi West, populated by mainly Yoruba-speaking minorities who have found it difficult depending on their numbers to get the top job.
A re-run of the 91 units where the election has been cancelled is also likely to produce the same result because if the 40 percent voters participation that was recorded in the exercise is repeated, only about 13,000 voters would turn up for the second balloting and even if they all voted for Wada, the 41,353 votes that Audu was already leading with cannot be upturned.
But a fresh election would almost certainly return the incumbent governor because Kogi East which was divided between Audu and Wada, both indigenes, would unite to vote for the PDP candidate.