Today the people of Kebbi State go to the polls to elect a new governor, following the cancellation of the election of former governor Sa'idu Dankingari of the Peoples Democratic Party PDP. Before now the election promised to be a fierce battle between PDP and CPC, however recent developments in the state indicate that the election may be a walk over, AUWAL S. MU'AZU in this piece examines the issues.
In the build up to tomorrow's gubernatorial bye election in Kebbi State, political observers were of the view that, the leading opposition party in the State, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC led by the former governor, Senator Adamu Aliero was ready to give the ruling party (PDP) a run for its money.
However as the saying goes 'it is not over until it is over', this can be a better description of what turned out to be going by the precarious situation that the CPC found itself as a result of high-wire politics and scheming by top echelon of the PDP which led to the mass exodus of the members of the CPC to the ruling party and other intrigues that were seen as a deliberate move to upstage the CPC which hitherto has a promising political and electoral fortune.
The CPC's first entry into an election in the state was during the 2011 general elections in which the party virtually had a landslide victory at the polls. This is instructive going by judgments that were delivered by various courts in the election petitions instituted by the CPC including the governorship election.
However, soon after the nullification of the governorship election by the Supreme Court and the subsequent order by the apex court for the conduct of a rerun election to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the stage was set for the leading gladiators former Governor Dakin Gari and CPC Candidate, Gari Malam to once again throw their hat into the ring.
However, as spectators await the promising contest, news filtered in that some top ranking members of the PDP and some prominent northern elements were wooing the CPC leader in the state to return to the PDP on the condition that he would be made the party's Vice Presidential candidate in 2015, this speculation came to pass when Senator Aliero formally denounced his membership of the CPC and declared for the PDP during the party's flag off rally for the governorship electioneering campaign.
However in a reaction to the said agreement between Senator Aliero and PDP, media aide to the former CPC leader Malam Abdullahi Zuru said that their return to PDP was "unconditional". And further stated that "this is a baseless rumour.
But he confirmed that their return to the PDP was as a result of the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan, former President Obasanjo and some prominent northerners.
According to Zuru, the PDP was quick to realise that wooing Aliero was a sure way to the party's victory, adding that "CPC's performance in the 2011 election was a testimony to our electoral strength owing to the mass followership of the party which any serious minded party can strive to have."
Responding to a question on whether Aliero's return to the PDP cannot be seen as political treachery against the CPC on whose platform they contested the 2011 elections having lost out to governor Dakin Gari who forced them to defect to the CPC, Zuru went through memory lane and argued that while they were in PDP "some faceless mischief makers and political fraudsters made sure that they came between Aliero and Dakin Gari to the extent that they created disagreements and enimosity within the party which made Aliero to defect to the CPC"
It is instructive to know that since the defection of Aliero and his supporters to PDP, tongues were wagging as to the future and faith of the CPC because he was seen as the pillar of the party.
As the controversy rages on, the CPC national secretariat convened a press conference last Thursday and announced that the party will not to participate in today's rerun election.
Addressing the media, acting national Chairman of the CPC who announced the boycott, said "… the party is constrained to call on its members, teeming supporters and well wishers in Kebbi State to boycott the election since it is very clear that INEC is not willing and ready to be an unbiased umpire, contrary to the law establishing the commission."
He went further and announced another decision of the party to institute a case to challenge what he called "deliberate, unlawful and predetermined exclusion from the election."
According to the Chairman, the CPC arrived at these decisions after a careful review of communications that were exchanged between the party and INEC, the only option left for them is to boycott the exercise as according to him they were not treated fairly by INEC.
A review of correspondences between the CPC and INEC indicates that CPC was the first to write INEC seeking for an extension of time for the conduct of the rerun elections, according to the party, the request became necessary so as to enable it choose another flag bearer based on the fact that the 2011 governorship candidate of the party has defected to PDP.
According to CPC Chairman, "The application was delivered and acknowledged by INEC on the 22nd March, 2012. The Commission's reply dated 22nd march, 2012 rejected our party's harmless request"
He quoted the INEC reply to the CPC letter as saying that" … The commission has given due consideration to this request and regrets to inform you that it is unable to accede to it. Elections are not conducted at the convenience of parties, but in accordance with schedules lawfully set by the Commission. Besides, the electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) does not permit withdrawal of candidates for an election less than 45 days to the date of election……"
The party concluded that by this action of INEC they were denied the opportunity to replace their candidate despite the fact that the Supreme court judgment that directed for the fresh conduct of the Kebbi governorship election allots ninety (90) days to INEC within which to conduct the rerun.
Therefore by INEC insistence to conduct the polls within 37 days after the court judgment means there were "53 idle days" left by INEC which ordinarily should have been the period that CPC will utilise in choosing replacement for the party's governorship flag bearer.
However, when LEADERSHIP contacted INEC, the Commission's Director of public Affairs, Mr Emmanuel Umenger said that their action was guided by the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. According to him, section 35 of the Act which allows for the replacement of candidates stipulates 45 days to the date of election for suvh a replacement to be effected.
He added that according to a Supreme Court ruling in the same matter of candidate replacement involving Labour Party, the apex court ruled that there is no difference between a rerun election and a fresh one, saying that "it is just a matter of semantics." Therefore by the law, the 45 days allowed for the CPC to make a replacement in the instant case has expired since April 2011.
Similarly Mr Umenger noted that CPC was wrong to have said that they were shut out, because CPC did not as required by the rules send a copy of the letter indicating that their candidate has withdrew from the race.
"In fact after they send their letter informing us of the development in their party, they promised to forward a copy of letter from the aspirant that indicates his withdrawal from the race as required by law, but as I m talking to you they have not done that."
Meanwhile, despite the position of CPC and INEC in Abuja, in Kebbi State, arrangements are on top gear for the conduct of tomorrow's rerun election in the state. Reports from the state indicate that while INEC and other participating parties continue to prepare for the election, electorates have shown little or no concern about the election.