by Jide Ajani
What makes a President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces believe that relating with the law the way he wishes is the best pathway to democratic governance?
Now, the consequence of President Muhammad Buhari’s seeming lack of appreciation of due electoral process, or his decided indifference to the imperatives of engaging the full complements of the composition of a board for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, or both, is the controversial outcome of the Kogi State governorship election held penultimate Saturday.
In what is turning out to be a grand conspiracy fuelled by dishonesty and made worse by sheer incompetence, the decision of INEC to declare the election inconclusive is not only a rape on the electoral process but also dangerous to Nigeria’s democracy.
From the pronouncement of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, to the belated but choreographed acquiescence of INEC and the consequential declaration by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Chief John Oyegun, on the issue of substitution, and the curious and the unintelligent push by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, that Governor Idris Wada should be declared winner, it is, thus, appearing that critical provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act, as amended, can be trumped at will by a government that benefited immensely from the modest but important strides in the journey to enthroning democracy in the country. This report will show why President Buhari, Attorney-General Malami, INEC, APC and PDP are all engaged in a gratuitous comedy of errors. It will also show why INEC should swallow its wounded pride and follow the provisions of the 1999 Constitution.
KOGI BY THE NUMBERS … DONT LIE
- Total number of registered voters = 1,350,883
- Total number of votes cast – 479,157
- Audu Abubakar of AP’s score’s – 240,867
- Idris Wada of PDP’s score – 199,514
- Margin of victory between Audu and Wada
- Registered voters in canceled 91PUs – 49,000
- Total number of PVCs available in affected area
– 35, 785
- Number of those who were accredited in the 91PUs – 19,178
WHAT IS KNOWN
The issues arising from the figures listed above can be further interrogated by identifying whether 35,785 can ever be more than 41,000. If, by sheer common sense and arithmetic deductions, 35,785 is less than 41,000, INEC would have to explain to Nigerians the logic behind its declaration of an election inconclusive. This would be so because the All Progressives Congress, APC, candidate, Abubakar Audu, had 41,000 votes more than his closest rival, Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In addition, Audu scored the constitutionally required 25% in, at least, two thirds of the local government areas of Kogi State. The state has 21 LGAs and Audu met the constitutional provision in 16 LGAs, thereby making him the undeclared winner – he satisfied the provisions of Section 179 of the Constitution and Section 69 of the Electoral Act, EA. And the number of accredited voters in the 91 Polling Units where elections are to be held is even less than the number of PVCs available.
Section 179 – 1 and 2 – says a person shall be deemed to have been elected if he scores the highest number of votes and has, at least, 25% of votes cast in, at least, two thirds of the state.
Section 1(3) talks about the supremacy of the 1999 Constitution.
Section 189 says a person deemed to have been elected, if he dies or cannot be sworn in, the person with whom he jointly went in as a ticket shall take over.
But the Returning Officer went ahead to latch unto one election guideline of 2015, that INEC has the power to make under Sections 73 and 153 of the EA which is a subsidiary instrument to the provisions of the 1999 Constitution and the EA.
His reason was that the margin of votes between Audu and Wada was not in excess of the number of registered voters
Meanwhile, registered voters don’t determine elections.
Those who do are voters who have their PVCs and have been accredited and have also gone ahead to vote.
You can be registered and not have your PVC; you can have your PVC and not go out to participate in election; and you can go out, participate in accreditation and refuse to go and vote. So, on that score, INEC was wrong. The APC has already fielded one Yahaya Bello to replace Audu.
Another factor that is being overlooked here is that it just so happened that Audu is the one that died.
The 1999 Constitution and the EA provide Sections that deal with death of a candidate before and after election, not during.
But there is no anticipation of a candidate dying in the middle of an election.
WHAT IS NOT KNOWN
Whereas Audu is dead, what would the APC be doing by now had Audu been alive and INEC still went ahead to declare that the election is inconclusive.
Meanwhile, there have been many versions of the exact time Audu died. There are allegations that the late Audu governorship candidate died much earlier but INEC delayed the announcement of the results. It is not known whether this is true.
Also, did the Returning Officer for the election, Professor Kucha, consult with the INEC headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, before making his declaration? Did he consult with the National Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmud Yakubu, before making his declaration? It would be strange if he did not.
What sort of communication took place between Dr. Amina Zakare, the co-ordinating National Commissioner for INEC who was on ground in Kogi State during the election, and the INEC headquarters?
Did the leadership of APC discuss anything with INEC officials to the effect that the election should be declared inconclusive – since, it would be recalled, President Buhari held a private meeting with the leadership of INEC just about a week before the election?
Whereas the Igalas have always dominated the polity in Kogi, was the inconclusive declaration of INEC meant to stop James Faleke, Audu’s running mate, from becoming governor since a declaration that the election was conclusive would have automatically handed Faleke the governorship?
The statement by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Malami, SAN, has generated a life of its own and has been insinuated into the realm of partisanship. Is it true, as is being alleged, that the statement from Malami, INEC and APC, in quick succession, is the outcome of a choreographed political agenda?
Exactly nine months after winning the presidential election and seven months after being sworn-in, President Buhari continues to prevaricate on properly setting up the electoral management structures as required by the Constitution. What does it take and how long will it take to appoint a 13-man Board of a sensitive body like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is a pillar of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy as well as 18 Resident Electoral Commissioners as required by the Constitution that President Buhari swore to uphold and defend? This is one question amongst many more on the lips of bewildered Nigerians who had thought that this regime, would certainly not trivialize INEC, given President Buhari‘s experiences since 2003,when he began contesting elections to the presidency.
This regime is the first, since 1999, to convene a Council of State meeting to ratify the appointment of only six members, less than half the required Board for INEC, in order to meet the public outcry for a full Board of the electoral body, In this half-hearted approach, government came up with a shocking self- indicting argument that it wants to stagger the appointment of the INEC Board members. In doing this, it dispensed with the fact that to execute such a piecemeal approach, it must first amend the Constitution so that the Board members’ tenure would not end at the same time. This constitutional violation is one amongst many that Nigerians have kept quiet over, despite the fact that the appointment of six members with one existing Commissioner, which INEC currently has, is not a quorum for a full Board of 13 the Constitution prescribes. As it is currently constituted, the board of INEC is legally defective, being only a part of the full Board constitutionally provided for, a part cannot represent the whole and a quorum cannot be formed in lieu of a Board that has not been fully constituted .
Therefore, as thing stand today, INEC does not have a full Board, being made up of less than 13 members. The idea of appointing five members to represent a minimum quorum of the constitutional requirement is misconceived and misinterpreted and patently wrong. You must have a Board of 13 members first before determining a minimum quorum of five members for any meeting. The way things are, at the moment in INEC, the lingering question is, is it a Board of six members, or a quorum of a full Board of 13 members that is not in existence? These questions have legal implications for the legality of the elections in Kogi and the one to be conducted in Bayelsa under the current Board.
Even as at today, some 18 states do not have their Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, leaving Abuja in the dark about what is going on at the state offices.
INEC, INCOMPETENCE ON STEROIDS AND ILLOGICAL LOGIC
The Returning Officer for the Kogi election, using INEC’s election guidelines, declared that the total number of registered voters in the 91PUs is more than the difference of 41,000 between Audu’s votes and Wada’s votes, and, therefore, renders the outcome inconclusive. That is indeed true, very true.
But if we are to goby the jaundiced view of the Returning Officer, the total number of votes cast in the Kogi election, which is less than half of the total number of registered voters in the state, should automatically render the entire election inconclusive.
The logic of the Returning Officer is that 49,000 is more than 41,000.
By the same token, with a total number of registered voters in Kogi standing at 1,350,883, the number of votes that would have been cast in Kogi election, were we to even add the 49,000 the Returning Officer talked about, would still be just about 500,000, while the remainder of registered voters would be 871,726.
This over 800,000 being much more than the total number of those who voted, should, automatically, in the estimation of the Returning Officer, void the entire election.
That is the new logic of INEC.
Going by INEC’s warped logic, the 2015 presidential election, which brought Buhari as President, should also be voided because the number of Nigerians who were registered but who did not vote last March are in excess – far in excess – of the margin between the votes cast for Goodluck Jonathan and those for President Buhari.
WHAT TO DO?
From the foregoing, it is very clear that INEC erred.
The very reason election petition tribunals are set up is because errors are, sometimes, be made and INEC has just made one.
Had the error of declaring the election inconclusive not been made, Audu’s ticket should have been declared the winner.
That done, one James Faleke, Audu’s running mate, would have, by now, been the rightful beneficiary of the victory and there would have been no need for the controversy that INEC’s incompetence has plunged Nigeria into.
Worse still, this is nothing more than a throw back to the annulment of the June 12, 1993, presidential election where Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola was as good as winning the election but the same mentality that allegedly fuelled that situation appears to have fuelled the delay in the announcement of Audu, the insidious and incommodious pronouncement by INEC.
The Igalas have not helped matters by insisting that it is their turn or nobody else.
Members of the Kogi State House of Assembly have thrown caution to the wind by actually asking for the hereditable, threatening that it is either Audu’s son benefits from the votes already cast or they would impeach whoever becomes governor from this voyage in wastefulness that INEC and APC leaders have embarked on.
Should Faleke be bold enough, as was Atiku Abubakar who relied on the courts to properly interpret the 1999 Constitution when Olusegun Obasanjo chose to act like a locomotive engine with a failed brake system, he would achieve a number of things.
One, he would further strengthen Nigeria’s jurisprudence.
Two, whatever the outcome, it would set an amendment on what happens during an election when a candidate, who is as good as winning, dies.
Three, should Faleke win, as he would, it would serve to redesign the political architecture of Kogi.
If the system allows an endorsement of the rascality of the Igalas and their threat, or tolerate the seeming irresponsibility of members of the Kogi House of Assembly, then the state, like Nigeria, would be a mere microcosmic representation of the macrocosm that is Nigeria.
APC has already nominated Yahaya Bello as Audu’s replacement.
The question to ask the APC leaders in Kogi and Aso Rock Presidential Villa is: Were (God forbid) the situation that happened to Audu had happened to his closest competitor, what would be their position? Funny enough, rather than call for fresh election, the PDP is pushing that Wada be declared winner. What a joke!
Culled from Vanguard