The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will this Saturday conduct supplementary elections in five states of the federation. The states include Sokoto, Adamawa, Benue, Kano and Plateau states. That of Bauchi State has been cancelled. The elections come after governorship elections results in 22 of the 29 states’ in the March 9 elections were released. According to INEC, the results in the five states were inconclusive, owing mainly to either the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or the All Progressives Congress (APC) leading with margins considered to be below cancelled figures from troubled areas.
INEC had, in a statement by its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Mr. Festus Okoye, said after a meeting of the senior management team of the electoral body, that the supplementary elections would hold March 23. He said that elections would also hold in polling units in all states where state Houses of Assembly polls were declared inconclusive and winners could not be declared. The result of the seventh state, Rivers, has not been released at all. With the elections scheduled in the five states this Saturday, both PDP and APC have been talking tough, laying claims to victories or expected victories in the elections.
In Benue, Kano, Adamawa and Sokoto states, PDP maintains some margin of lead, while in Plateau, APC’s candidate, Governor Simon Lalong, is leading the PDP candidate, Gen. Jeremiah Useni, by some margins. The elections on Saturday hold different propositions for the two main political parties for different reasons. That is why the supplementary elections are as crucial as the main elections that were declared inconclusive. In Sokoto, for instance, it is a battle between Governor Aminu Tambuwal, who defected from APC in 2018 and his godfather and former governor of the state, Aliyu Wamakko.
While Tambuwal wants to prove that he has come of age politically, Wamakko wants to show that he is in charge of the state. Ditto for Kano, where the state governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is battling his former boss, Senator Musa Kwankwaso for supremacy. After the bruise suffered by PDP in Kano during the presidential election, Kwankwaso wants to prove to Ganduje that he is the real deal in the state. The PDP governorship candidate, Abba Yusuf, had polled 1,014,474 while Ganduje had 987,819.
In Benue, Governor Samuel Ortom also wants to prove to his mentor, Senator George Akume, that he is now the new kid on the block. Akume also wants to show that even though he lost the senatorial ticket to PDP, he was still relevant to the politics of the state. In Plateau State, Lalong scored 583,255 votes while Useni got 538,326 votes. The 44,929 margin of lead by Lalong is less than the cancelled votes of 49,377. The battle for Adamawa is between Governor Jibrila Bindow of APC and Umaru Fintiri of PDP. Fintiri scored 367,471 votes, leading with a margin of 32,476 over Jibrilla who had 334,995 votes. In Bauchi State, Governor Muhammed Abubakar is battling for his life.
He is in court challenging the decision of INEC accepting the result of the Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of the state. The court on Tuesday granted him interim injunction stopping the collation and announcement of the result. As it is, the governor has an uphill task to beat a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Muhammed. We have no doubt that the elections this Saturday would be keenly contested. We also have no doubt about the abilities of INEC to see out the elections and announce winners. But we are worried that judging from previous experience in the gubernatorial rerun in Osun State in 2018, there might be some intimidation of voters in some of the states, to ensure that a particular party triumphs over the other.
We are also worried that the military and security agencies have, in this dispensation, played spoilers to the democratic journey. The recent experience in River State is a pointer. We call on the security agencies to provide a conducive environment for peaceful conduct of the supplementary elections.
They should remain non-partisan and deal with any attempt to subvert the will of the people. We believe that INEC should acquit itself properly by allowing the will of the people to prevail. It is a democratic contest, where the people go out every four years to elect their leaders. Nigeria’s history is replete with incumbents that have been defeated or did not get a second term. In Lagos State, for instance, the governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, did not even win the primaries of his party. We do not believe therefore that any external influence outside the people should intervene in the elections. It is between the people, their governors and new candidates.
That is why we advise both PDP and APC to be circumspect on the supplementary elections. At the end of the day, only one person would be elected by the people as their governor in those states. From the national level to the states, the parties should conduct themselves like democrats, knowing that the major decision has been made on March 9 by the people. We urge caution on the part of all those involved so that a closure could be achieved for the 2019 elections, while the nation prepares for the next general polls in 2023.