Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

Once again, kindly permit me this week to step down my series on “Accord Concordiale: the continuous search for Nigeria’s elusive unity”. This is to enable me treat more urgent national issues as regards the last heavily manipulated and rigged elections. First, was the presidential elections where INEC with a simple kneel jerk postponed the elections less than 5 hours to same.

Many Nigerians who had travelled to their places of registration were thereby denied their right to exercise their franchise as they could not travel back the second time, having returned to their bases upon the cancellation. I believe this was a deliberate ploy and strategy by ruling party APC in cahoot with INEC to dampen the energy and spirit of most Nigerians who were desirous of voting them out. The “logistics” excuse given by INEC is not one of the grounds recognized by Section 26 of the Electoral Act for postponement of elections. The section envisages likely serious breach of the peace, or the result of natural disasters or other emergencies. Logistical challenges was not one of them. There was brazen militarization, thuggerisation and bastardisation of the electoral process to prevent Atiku Abubakar from winning.

When president Buhari declared that ballot snatching will attract execution, I immediately condemned the statement as giving a licence to the military to take over the electoral process, maim and kill. I was proven right when the Chief of Army Staff came out smoking and declared, “ if Commander-In-Chief has given order to the Nigerian Army to that effect, be rest assured that order will be totally and effectively obeyed without any ifs or buts”.

I had argued then that sections 129 (4) and 131 of the Electoral Act, respectively prescribe 24 months imprisonment and # 1 million or 3 years imprisonment for ballot box snatching or violence by any person. No death sentence was imposed by the Act.

Thus, while the Nigerian electorate was preparing for elections, the ruling party was preparing for a military operation. Video footages across Nigeria showed Soldiers turning Nigeria into a war, zone, overruling homes, citizens, kitchens and bedrooms, with courageous men, women and youth chanting, protesting against military occupation of voting and collation sites. Some INEC officials confessed openly how they were besieged by the Police and Army seized electoral materials, snatched ballot boxes, etc. The force and coersion were so palpable in Rivers state, a state in which APC did not even have a candidate based on Supreme Court’s judgment. based on Supreme Court’s judgment. Guess what was president Buhari’s reply to this judgment of the final court of the land: “however, as we remain resolute in our effort to win the 2019 general election, I assure you that justice will be done”; despite the ruling of the Supreme Court would ensure that the Rivers state chapter of the APC gets justice despite the ruling of the Supreme Court.

Was militarization and seize on Rivers to abort an election already conclusively declared at polling units, wards and LGA’s the “justice” PMB talked about?

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the March 9 governorship and State House of Assembly elections inconclusive in at least seven states. These states are Plateau, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Sokoto, Kano and Rivers states.

In a bid to justify their unpopular decisions to abort the will of the people who exercised their freewill by voting candidates of their choice, the respective returning officers have given various reasons for declaring the elections inconclusive.

 “INCONCLUSIVENESS”: A NEW POLITICAL WORD

The word “inconclusive” has today become the hottest word in our political lexicon. It has been invented by Prof Mahmood Yakubu’s INEC.

Let us take a sampling of the states declared inconclusive;

In Bauchi, Prof. Mohammed Kyari, the Returning Officer, said that apart from the cancellation of the result from entire Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area because of irregularities, the exercise in some other polling units also suffered the same fate. In the said Bauchi state, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Senator Bala Mohammed, got 469,512 votes against his closest rival, the incumbent Governor Mohammed Abubakar of the APC, who got 465,453 votes.  According to the returning officer, the margin of lead between the two candidates was 4,059 votes after cancelling the votes of Tafawa Balewa LGA which had 139,240 accredited voters. He added that the number of cancelled votes in the elections even without that of Tafawa Balewa LGA was 45,312 and therefore declared the governorship election in the state inconclusive.

In Sokoto state, where Tambuwal of the PDP was leading with a slim margin of 3,413 votes, the election was declared inconclusive. Aminu Tambuwal of PDP scored a total of 489,558 votes while his opponent, Aliyu Ahmed of APC scored a total of 486,145 votes. However, instead of declaring Tambuwal as the winner in the election, INEC declared the election inconclusive, alleging that 75,403 votes were cancelled.

The Same Verdict Was Passed In Benue State. The Benue State Collation/Returning Officer, Prof. Sabastine Maimaiko, during the collation and announcement of the results in Makurdi, the Benue State capital, said the candidate of the PDP, sitting Governor Samuel Ortom, polled 410,576, votes while his closest rival, the APC candidate, Emmanuel Jime, scored 329,022 votes.

He stated that Ortom led Jime with 81,554 votes. He, however, said that total number of registered voters/areas where elections were not held or were cancelled and properly documented in Form EC40G, was 121,019.He clarified that the margin of lead (81,554 votes) was less than 121, 019 registered voters/areas where elections were not held or cancelled.

In Jos, the Plateau State capital, Professor Richard Kimbir announced that the margin of a lead of 44,929 between the APC and the PDP candidates is less than 49,377 cancelled votes. Simon Lalong of APC polled a total of 583,255 votes, while Jerry Useni of PDP scored 538,326.

NOW THIS

The elections in Kano have also been curiously adjudged inconclusive. The electoral body suspended the collation of the results, due to alleged security challenges at the Nasarawa Local Government collation centre. In Kano state, Abba Yusuf of PDP scored 1,014,474 votes, while Abdullahi Ganduje of the APC scored, 987, 819 votes. The PDP candidate won with a margin of 26,655 votes, but the election was declared inconclusive on the ground that there were 128,572 cancelled votes.

INEC also suspended all electoral processes in Rivers state until further notice. In a statement, the Commission explained that they took the decision, due to widespread violence in the state during the March 9 governorship and State Assembly polls. The Commission also claimed some of its staff were held hostage and materials including results sheets were destroyed.

AND THIS INEC IS ACTING A SCRIPT

It is clear to me that INEC is carefully acting a script already written. Mrs Zakari never recused herself from the sensitive ICC collation centre inspte of the cries of most Nigerians. She is related to PBM whether by consanguinity or by marriage interplay.

It is quite appalling that for the first time since 1999 that the nation embraced democracy, INEC declared governorship poll in seven states inconclusive. Can INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, attest before the almighty God, holding the Holy Quran, that he is not playing the script of the ruling All Progressives Congress by declaring governorship elections in these states inconclusive?

Quite worrisome is the fact that INEC carried out the action mostly in states where the PDP was in clear lead. The unexplainable stoppage and delays in the announcement of already collated results in states where the PDP was also clearly leading portends a danger to our already weakened democracy (To be continued next week).

LAST LINE

Hope The President and Nigerians are reading, digesting and awaiting the next explosive discourse of Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., LL.D.

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