The controversies trailing non-conclusion of governorship elections in some states will be resolved today at a crucial meeting summoned by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Top INEC sources confirmed to LEADERSHIP yesterday that the electoral umpire would meet today to take decisions on the yet-to-be-concluded elections and possibly fix dates for rerun polls, especially in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Sokoto, Rivers, Plateau and other states where the processes were stalemated.
The commission has 21 days to complete elections in areas or states where the processes have been declared inconclusive.
The states were among the 29 states in the country where the governorship elections were held on Saturday, March 9 but the final results were either not announced or the leading candidate did not have a convincing margin of votes.
In other cases, the number of voided votes and the figure required for a winner to be declared was below the cancelled votes thereby warranting a rerun.
However, the governorship elections did not hold in Anamabra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo, and Osun States because the tenures of the incumbent governors have not elapsed.
And after a long wait, INEC last night declared the outcome of Saturday’s governorship election in Kano State as inconclusive.
The announcement was made yesterday evening by the state’s returning officer, Prof. Bello Shehu.
Shehu said that the election was inconclusive because the number of cancelled votes was higher than the difference in votes scored between the two leading candidates: Abba Yusuf of PDP and incumbent governor Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC.
Announcing the results, Shehu said that while the PDP candidate polled 1,014,474 votes, Ganduje scored 987,819 votes leaving a difference of 26,655 votes.
He also said the total number of votes cancelled in 22 local government areas including Gama ward of Nasarawa councils was 141,694 votes.
INEC national commissioner and chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, confirmed to LEADERSHIP yesterday, that the commission would today take a stand on the states where elections have been declared inconclusive.
Okoye said: “As at now, collation is still ongoing in some states. We are still monitoring the situation. We are also in contact with the resident electoral commissioners (REC) where the elections were declared inconclusive. By tomorrow (today) we will take a stand on when the supplementary elections will hold in these states.”
In Benue State, for instance, the INEC returning officer, Prof. Sabastine Maimako, did not declare Governor Samuel Ortom, the winner of the governorship election because the total number of votes cancelled outnumbered the margin of win by Ortom, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate.
Ortom got the highest votes of 410,576 while the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, came second with 329,022 votes.
Maimako explained that the difference of margin of lead by Ortom was 81,554 while the cancelled votes stood at 121,019.
He, therefore, urged INEC to conduct a fresh election in the affected areas within 21 days.
LEADERSHIP gathered that of the 23 local governments in the state, Ortom won in 12 councils.
Also yesterday, Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, asked INEC to declare him as the winner of the governorship election having met all the Electoral Act and constitutional requirements such as scoring the highest number of votes cast.
Tambuwal told a press conference at the Sokoto Government House that INEC chairman, Prof Mahmud Yakubu and all other officials of the commission should not forget that they have their integrity to uphold the truth before Nigerians.
While appreciating the people of the state for their trust and confidence in him, the governor said that the outcome of the vote was a confirmation of their trust in his leadership.
He “You cannot underrate God’s factor in whatever you do. I, therefore, wish to thank the people of the state for coming out en mass to cast their votes for us. Their action at the polling on Saturday, 9th March, 2019 was a confirmation of their trust and belief in our leadership style.”
Tambuwal, who insisted that the provision of the constitution and Electoral Act should be judiciously followed by INEC to declare him the winner of the poll, added that “we are still waiting for INEC on the purported declaration of inconclusive election in Sokoto.”
He said that his party would not boycott any rerun election in the state because the will of the people would certainly prevail.
Ihedioha Wins Imo Gov’ship Race
At exactly 11.57 pm yesterday, INEC declared former deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP as the governor-elect of Imo State.
Iheadioha coasted to victory with 273,404 votes while his closest rival, Mr. Uche Nwosu of the Action Alliance (AA) and son-in-law of the incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha, scored 190, 364 votes. Senator Ifeanyi Ararume of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) came third with 114, 676 votes.
INEC said that apart from scoring the highest votes, Ihedioha met the constitutional requirements and therefore returned him elected.
PDP Plans Mass Protest
And shocked by the gales of the inconclusive election syndrome in the states where its governorship candidates are leading, the opposition PDP has directed its leaders and members in such states to immediately embark on protest marches to INEC offices and use all legitimate means to protect their votes.
The party’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who gave the order at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday accused INEC of surrendering its independence to the ruling APC by declaring election in states where PDP was leading as inconclusive.
The party also lamented the violence that trailed the governorship elections and alleged that information at its disposal revealed that 58 persons were killed during the polls.
Ologbondiyan explained that the PDP’s call for the protest was not a call to anarchy but for the defence of its candidates’ mandates within the ambits of the law.
He said: “Today, the majority of Nigerians and the global democratic institutions are questioning the state of our democracy and electoral processes, which have been under siege under the supervision of President Buhari and Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
“In the light of these INEC’s manipulative tendencies, the PDP, therefore, charges our leaders, teeming members and lovers of democracy in the affected states to immediately commence a march to INEC offices and use all legitimate means to protect our mandate as freely given by the people at the polling units across the nation,” he said.
According to him, “our party has also been informed of how INEC is now seeking for ways to use the situation to aid the APC to alter the results and announce APC candidates as winners in the elections clearly led by the PDP just as it did in the 2018 Osun State governorship election.
“In some of the states like Rivers, the PDP has information of plots by APC to leverage on the declaration by INEC to unleash more violence in the state and push for an isolated election where they can bring in more security forces to concentrate on forcefully taking over the state.
“Already, in Rivers State, INEC is under heavy pressure from the director-general of the Buhari Campaign Organisation and minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, to post out and replace the state resident electoral commissioner (REC) as well as the administrative secretary,” Ologbondiyan said.
I Want To Live A Legacy Of Free, Fair Elections In Nigeria – PMB
Amid these controversies, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that he would want to be remembered as the Nigerian leader who kept his word that elections in the country must be free, fair and credible.
Receiving Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State in Daura yesterday, the president described last Saturday’s governorship and state assemblies’ elections across the country as largely successful.
Masari had visited Buhari to inform him of his victory in the governorship poll.
Buhari, in a statement issued by his spokesman, Garba Shehu, commended Nigerians who heeded to his pre-election appeals to cast their votes peacefully.
He said: ‘‘I have maintained a position that elections must be free and fair and people have the right to make their choices and vote their consciences. I am happy they understood the message and did just that.
‘‘Power is a public trust that belongs to the people. Power is not by strength or wisdom but by Providence. Elected persons must be fair and just. This is the legacy I want to leave behind. A leader must be fair and just. All leaders should strive to do that,’’ Buhari said
Governor Masari, who was accompanied by officials of the APC in the state, thanked the president and the party for their support which led to his decisive victory.
In another development, ahead of the inauguration of the 9th National Assembly, President Buhari has said that he was looking forward to a mutual and effective working relationship with the federal legislature toward improving the budgetary process and restoring the country to the January-December fiscal cycle.
Receiving his old school mates, who came to congratulate him on his re-election for a second term, the president recounted how the delay in the passage of budgets hindered the timely execution of projects across the country.
With the victory of the APC at the presidential election and having majority seats in the two chambers of the National Assembly, President Buhari expressed the confidence that more work would be done to improve the efficiency of the budgetary process.
The president told his classmates in the 1953 set of Katsina Middle School, Daura, led by Senator Abba Ali, that it was on record that the 2018 budget submitted to the National Assembly on November 7, 2017, was passed after seven months.
Notwithstanding the challenges, President Buhari assured them that the Executive arm of government under his watch would strive towards the effective implementation of national budgets while promoting transparency and accountability.
He thanked his old school colleagues for the “reunion” and commended their interest and useful suggestions on advancing Nigeria’s prosperity and stability.
In his remarks, Senator Ali, who congratulated the president on his re-election, said that majority of Nigerians believed in his purposeful leadership and therefore resoundingly renewed his mandate.
Army Denies Interfering With Electoral Process
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Army yesterday rose in defence of its roles in the electoral process and denied allegations of interference in the exercise.
The acting director Army Public Relations, Col. Sagir Musa, who reacted to a report of alleged interference in Rivers State’s elections, which was credited to the United Kingdom (UK), admonished foreign nations to always verify claims against the military whose only objective is to protect the country’s territorial integrity.
Col. Musa said: “The Nigerian Army has made it clear that its only interest and role in the entire electioneering processes is purely to assist civil authorities and the Nigeria police to have secure and peaceful conduct of the elections.
“Foreign interests are therefore enjoined to be mindful of interfering in our internal affairs especially when there is no credible evidence. Any allegation against the Nigerian Army must be confirmed from appropriate quarters before jumping to conclusions,” he said
Musa described the claims as baseless and untrue aimed at misleading the public
He continued: “The Nigerian Army wishes to state that the statement is totally baseless, untrue and therefore capable of misleading unsuspecting members of the public, especially when there is no credible record of such involvement anywhere in Nigeria before, during and after the 2019 elections.
“The Army as a responsible organisation, wishes to debunk such misrepresentation in order to set the record straight. Similarly, it is on record that the Nigerian Army has been globally applauded by many individuals, foreign and local elections observers for its sacrifices/roles in creating an enabling environment for secure, transparent and peaceful conduct of the elections.
“The Nigerian Army, for the umpteenth time, reiterates that it will remain apolitical, neutral and professional in the conduct of the 2019 general elections and in all its assigned roles across the nation in line with the directive of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai,” he said.