By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Umar Yusuf, Peter Duru,
Marie-Therese Nanlong and Abdulmumin Murtala
Ahead of Saturday’s make or mar supplementary governorship elections in five states, tension has gripped political actors in the affected states as they work towards getting the advantage over one another.
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the All Progressives Congress, APC are the two parties in the reckoning for the governorship election that is to be determined in Adamawa, Kano, Benue, Sokoto, and Plateau this weekend.
The declaration of the results of the March 9 governorship election that was held as inchoate in Bauchi and Rivers State are also to be respectively moved forward today and tomorrow.
While gladiators in Benue and Plateau were yesterday engaged in sharp words over alleged plots to undermine the process, stakeholders in Kano including the police were, on the other hand, working to calm frayed nerves ahead of the polls.
The PDP in Benue State yesterday accused Senator George Akume, the leader of the APC in the state of boasting that the March 26 governorship rerun election would be declared in favour of the party’s candidate, Mr. Emmanuel Jime, irrespective of the votes of the people.
State Chairman of PDP, Mr. John Ngbede who made the assertion at a press briefing in Makurdi said Akume had in several meetings with APC stalwarts boasted that the party would collaborate with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, security personnel and recruited militia to execute the plot.
The claim was immediately countered by the APC which accused the PDP of convulsing at Akume’s shadow as it accused the PDP of fretting because of what it claimed was the loss that was about to befall the party.
Ngbede who claimed that the PDP had already petitioned the Inspector General of Police over the matter said, “in one of those meetings, Akume particularly assured his followers that the national leadership of the APC with the backing of the Presidency has already infiltrated INEC and Emmanuel Jime will be announced as Governor of the state without the supplementary election holding.
“He assured that this would be achieved through already doctored results which will be compiled by INEC Returning Officers and staff who are already being posted to the affected polling units.
Governor Ortom of the PDP had polled 410,576 votes ahead of his closest rival Emmanuel Jime of the APC who scored 329,022 votes. The poll was declared inconclusive on the claim that the margin between the two candidates which was 81,554 votes was less than the number of cancelled votes.
Speaking further, the PDP chairman cautioned that the plot by the APC was capable of throwing the state into deep crisis stressing that “Benue has had enough of deaths and crisis, as such, it should be the desire of all well-meaning people in the state to avoid a repeat of crisis at the coming election.”
Reacting, the State Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr James Ornguga said “PDP is fond of raising the alarm where it is not necessary. It has become a tradition to accuse Senator Akume of anything they want.
“Since the first election was conducted Senator Akume issued a statement just once so I don’t know where they are getting the information from but the position of APC concerning that election is that since INEC guideline stated that the Card Reader, CR, must be used for election and PDP deliberately failed to use the CR, all votes cast in favour of PDP without use of the CR be removed.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of INEC in Benue State, Andyer Terkaa, said, “all that they say is mere speculation, INEC is guided by the guidelines of an election, it cannot go outside the ambits of an existing law that guides its operation to do anything.
“So people are making insinuations that lack any substantive fact. They make these statements based on what they feel should be. We all know that INEC is an independent umpire and we are not supposed to be seen to connive with any political party.”
On the claim by APC that INEC had set up a committee to look into some of the already declared results contrary to the law, Terkaa said, “that is what we heard, but our Commissioner is not around when he comes back from Abuja if that is the situation in Benue it will be made public.
“INEC is guided by law, and we cannot do anything outside what the law has stated,” he added.
While the two major parties on the plateau, PDP and APC canvass for support ahead of this weekend’s supplementary election, a group of observers who monitored the initial exercise have asked for the replacement of the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Haliru Pai.
The group alleged that INEC allowed the use 300,000 unclaimed Permanent Voters Cards, PVCs for secret accreditation in the first exercise.
Plateau has 2,480,455 registered voters out of which 2,095,409 voters collected their PVCs, leaving INEC with 385,046 unclaimed cards and the commission had said it deposited all the unclaimed PVCs at the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN for safe keep.
Not satisfied with the explanation, a local observer group, Plateau Peace Movement International (PPMI) led by Mr Joseph Bot said the unclaimed cards were used to carry out “secret accreditation at various corners” in the State.
Bot also alleged that INEC there was no fairness in the initial exercise as INEC hired card-carrying members of the APC as Returning Officers and they “imported figures to suit their party” during the polls.
He said, “It was gathered that Qua’an Pan, Shendam collation centres were trans-located to somewhere in Government House, Rayfield, Jos, INEC changed result sheets and cancelled genuine votes in some polling units without ‘tangible’ reasons.”
The group, therefore, called for the cancellation of the entire elections in Jos North, Shendam, Wase, Kanam, Qua’an Pan, Langtang South, and Mikang Local Government Areas as well as the resignation of the Plateau State Resident Electoral Commissioner of INEC, Mr Halilu Pai.
But a chieftain of the APC, Stephen Sariki described the observer group as “Daydreamers, partisan observers,” adding, “They avoided places where massive rigging took place (Jos South, Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Langtang North and some parts of Bassa) because the Party which sponsored them won there. We know where you came from and those behind you.”
It would be recalled that the inconclusive election was as a result of the cancellation of 49,377 votes while the margin between APC and PDP is 44,929. Already, the APC polled 583,255 votes, and PDP polled 538,326.
The rerun is expected to take place in 41 polling units in nine local government areas in the State. Though both parties claim the affected areas are their strongholds, but they are not leaving anything to chance.
Political actors and key stakeholders in Kano were yesterday working to calm tension ahead of the crucial Saturday poll.
Leading the charge was the commissioner for police, Muhammad Wakil, the emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II as well as the leader of the Kwankwasiyya Movement, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.
They all made public calls for peace, and good conduct as the public awaits the rerun.
The CP told newsmen in an interview that he will not compromise his apolitical stance in the election adding that the law will take its course on whosoever engages in acts that will breach the conduct of the election no matter his position in the state.
Members of the PDP have staged daily peaceful processions in different parts of the state and have also engaged in public prayer sessions and sacrifices.
The widespread rumour has meanwhile aggravated the tension in the state that the APC was planning to import some of its bigwigs from, especially Lagos to help it overturn the lead of the PDP.
A member House of Representatives representing Dala, Rep. Aliyu Madawakin Gini speaking in a radio programme alleged plans by a leading APC chieftain from Lagos to influence the poll.
Kwankwaso has vowed to resist the plot saying that whosoever does that will be left at the mercy of Kano youths and patriots.
More so, police have arrested some individuals that were accused of buying PVCs from members of the public.
Also, a video clip allegedly showing a prominent official of the APC vowing to win the election at all costs has also raised tension in the state.
Just about a few days to the rerun election, the APC led government has embarked on a road construction project at the disputed Gama ward of the Nasarawa LGA along with water boreholes for the community.
With the decision on whether to hold the supplementary election in Adamawa State still under judicial consideration, political actors in the state have continued to plan subtle strategies to position themselves to an advantage whatever way the courts pronounce.
Yesterday, it was realised that many political actors had taken their plans underground.
When Vanguard visited the APC and PDP secretariats yesterday, only some few supporting staff of the secretariats were seen loitering without officials to comment on their next line of action.
Some of the officials spoken to on their mobile phones said necessary arrangements were on for the election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission INEC on its side said necessary arrangements are equally being finalized for the supplementary poll.
A top INEC official told Vanguard that the media would be adequately informed when sensitive materials for the election arrived.
The situation in Sokoto is no less tense with political gladiators in the state who until not too long ago in the same camp squared against one another.
The PDP candidate, Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal was leading his APC rival with 3,145 votes before the election was declared inconclusive.
Tambuwal and the PDP, however, claim that the figures were rigged in order to declare the election inconclusive.