The political rift between Kano State Governor, Umar Ganduje, and his predecessor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, is behind the now famous Kano underage voting saga which is also threatening the integrity of the 2019 general elections.
Though many Nigerians are aware of the infighting between the duo, but beyond the pictures of underage voters which emerged after the Kano local government elections lies one of the biggest intrigues, manipulation and blackmail which now threatens the 2019 election and the future of the nation’s democracy.
That there is no love lost between the two men is no hidden secret, but the February 10th local government election in the state, where the Kwankwaso camp feared the governor wanted to manipulate to aid his effort of taking control of the party structure in the state further magnified the differences in the Kwankwasiyya and Gandujiyya camps.
Some observers had argued that the LG election was an avenue for the two politicians to test their political strength in the polls, hence, would do everything possible to win the popularity war.
According to reports, trouble started when the Kano state governor decided to exclude supporters of the Kwankwaso camp from the election. Though both men belong to the ruling APC, but there were two sets of APC candidates for the Kano local government election. There were the APC Kwankwasiyya and APC Gandujiyya candidates.
The Kwankwasiyya-led faction of the APC had sued the KANSIEC and the Kano State Government over the rejection of the list of its candidates. But the governor waved them aside and in one occasion even mocked the Kwankwaso camp for hiring only “one lawyer that stammers” in his bid to stop the conduct of the LG polls.
Ganduje reportedly told candidates for the local government election, about 48 hours to the polls, “Do you see them as our friends? And now they want us to reconcile. Why should we reconcile? On what basis?”
On the issue of underage photos emerging, however, shortly after the election, photos of underage voters started emerging. The outburst that greeted some of the photos was so massive that the opposition PDP started expressing concerns over the 2019 General Elections.
However, the INEC, Kano State government and KANSIEC all denied any involvement in the underage voting scam. In one instance, Ganduje described it as “propaganda” while in another, KANSIEC’s chairman, Prof Garba Ibrahim Sheka, described it as “simply a set up”.
Although, as always politicians are desperate to manipulate the system to help them win elections, but investigation reveals that the electoral body has put in place modalities to ensure a credible election in 2019.
The leadership of INEC had long ago actually started the process of cleaning up the voters register. This was to ensure that names of those who may have died are removed, which Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has already declared an emergency.
While there might truly be existence of underage voters in Kano and in other states of the federation, the photos of underage voters released after the Kano LG polls were deliberately released just to create an impression that the elections were not only illegal but fraught with irregularities. Some sources confided in our reporter that those who released the videos are well known.
A source who claimed anonymity said, “If you recall, unlike in other states, the videos and photos supposedly from Kano were not sourced or captured by journalists or observers. It was just released by politicians. No media house can vow it has that recording of underage voting.”
Recall that prior to the LG polls, KANSIEC told the world that it would not use the modern technology brought by INEC in the conduct of the elections.
Reports from observers who monitored the polls reveals that KANSIEC did not use card readers throughout the conduct of that election. But in the video clip posted by those complaining that kids voted in the 2018 LG polls held in Kano State, it is easy to notice that they were using card readers.
A critical look at some of the photos trending online as photos from the Kano LG polls would expose some fallacies. In one of the photos trending on social media, it can be reported authoritatively that the photo was taken in Taraba state during the 2015 election.
A critical look at the photo will show the use of card reader. As stated earlier, there was no card reader deployed it used at the Kano LG election.
It was gathered that as part of the process to clean up the voters register, INEC had discovered an illegal registration centre in Offa LGA of Kwara State. The impostor is in Police hands. When the Electoral Officer Offa, a lady, heard the rumour she went to the centre and posed as a registrant and immediately reported the matter to the police who promptly arrested the man. The police is currently investigating the matter.
“All our offices and officials nationwide are on the red alert. I guess you are aware of a similar proactive step taken in Niger State,” the source said.
Recall also that the INEC few weeks ago reported some of its senior officials in Taraba State to security agencies for allegedly registering ineligible voters during the Continuous Voter Registration exercise.