In this piece, ISAIAH BENJAMIN captures the scenarios and controversies leading to the winning and the calls for cancellation of Kaduna State governorship poll among other salient issues
Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai’s reelection was almost like an impossible task but it became an acommplished mission, this perhaps shows that Malam el-Rufai is certainly worth his onions and knows how to get what he wants. The governor in his ongoing first term introduced policies some of which was seen as not favourable to some while to others it are seen as steps in the right direction. His education reform policy in the state which led to the sack of teachers perceived to be unqualified was greeted with lots of controversies, the sack of redundant civil servants and removal of ghost workers in the state pay roll was equally greeted with mix feelings. The governor also felt that the numbers of traditional rulers was more than required and laid off a substantial number of them.
Again that also unsettled the state particularly the chiefdoms affected. When all of these issues was dying down, then the governor came with what looks like a shocker when he did not only pick a woman as his running mate but decided to fly a Muslim- Muslim ticket which is the first in the state since the return to democracy in 1999. To many, all these factors and perhaps many more where going to work against the governor getting reelected but alas, the governor got re-elected rightly or wrongly, he was declared the winner of the 9th March, 2019 Governorship election in the state haven polled the highest votes cast of 1,045, 427 to defeat his closest opponent Isa Ashiru Kudan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who polled 814,168 votes.
Although Governor el- Rufai was declared winner, the results was rejected by not only the main opposition party, PDP and her candidate, it was also rejected by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in the state, for various reasons bordering on election irregularities, malfunction or non usage of the Smart Card Readers (SCR) in some areas among other reasons. The main opposition party candidate, Ashiru reacting to the announcement at his Kaduna residence said, “I wish to state without any fear of contradiction that reports obtained by our party from across the State indicate that the elections were marred by a lot of irregularities.
“It is on the basis of these established irregularities that our party in a petition to the State Resident Electoral Commissioner of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, rejected the results and called for its outright cancellation.
“Our dear members of the Media, it is important for you to note that available reports have shown that Smart Card Readers were not used during the elections in a lot of polling units in Giwa, Birnin Gwari, Kaduna North, Igabi, Zaria, Lere and Ikara Local Government Areas.
“It is our firm believe that the non-usage of the Card Readers which is a violation of the electoral guidelines have rendered the results from these areas invalid and should have been cancelled.
“Another issue of concern to our party was the clear militarization of the electoral process in various part of the State,as military personnel were used to intimidate voters particularly in the areas where our party has an overwhelming strength and support”.
According to the guber hopeful, the use of military in Birnin Gwari and Kauru local government areas, soldiers were also used to alter the result of our House of Assembly Candidate to be in Makera Constituency of Kaduna South local government area.
“I am sure a lot of People in Kaduna State will consider it unbelievable the disparity between the numbers of votes obtained in the Presidential elections and the Governorship elections. How could the people of Kaduna State be convinced the APC could get more votes during the governorship elections than it got in the last Presidential elections?
“Based on this and other irregularities, I hereby stand by the position of my party to challenge the concocted results at the election tribunal to get back our stolen mandate.
“On this note, I therefore call on our supporters and citizens of Kaduna State to remain calm and be law abiding” he emphasized.
For the Coalition Of United Political Parties, Kaduna State chapter an umbrella of 41 political parties and 18 governorship candidates, they are equally rejecting the outcome of the gubernatorial elections in Kaduna State. According to the Chairman CUPP, Hon. Umar Farouk Mairaqumi. the rejection of the elections is based on the fact that the elections in some local government areas was marred with lots of irregularities. But CUPP in their reaction also said, “the Smart Card Readers (SCR) were not used in some parts of the state namely: Igabi, Kaduna South, Kaduna North. Giwa, Lere, Birnin Gwari and Soba local government areas respectively.
“ Over 650 polling units with over 400,000 votes were cancelled and our agents reported at various collation centres but INEC decided to ignore our complains and went ahead to announce the results.
“It is in the light of the above that we the 37 political parties and 18 governorship candidates that participated in the gubernatorial election in Kaduna State hereby reject the result in its totality and we shall pursue all lawful means to ensure justice is done to the people of Kaduna State and their stolen mandate restored”.
Also, Comrade Danjuma Sarki, the deputy director general Media of the Kaduna PDP campaign council described the election as a broad day robbery and rejected the results particularly from Kaduna South, Igabi, Birnin gwari and some other local government areas where he said results where manipulated in favour of the APC, saying the PDP would not accept results of the gubernatorial and state assembly elections in some local government area of Kaduna state due to what he referred to as doctored results and result writing by government. In same vein, the PDP Chairman of Kaduna state, Hon. Felix Hassan Hyet had earlier while the collation was still ongoing alleged that the elections in Kaduna state was marred by intimidation from security agencies, vote buying, ballot box snatching, ballot box stuffing and laying siege on Kagarko and Sanga local government area by security agencies to favour the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Hyet said, “I want to commend the voters for conducting themselves in civil manner despite unnecessary interference by security agencies. There was public vote buying in Zaria local government by government officials, snatching of ballot boxes in Chikun local government area.
“The worst case was in Birnin Gwari where there was no voting, ballot boxes were snatched and returned the next day stuffed with results. Kagarko and Sanga local government areas are currently under siege by security agencies in an effort to change the results in favour of the ruling party.
“Results were forcibly changed in Rigasa, Igabi local government area. The EO (Electoral Officers) are summoned to government house to present the results to the Governor for him to see and approve before authorising it. We have our results with our agents.
“Based on all these irregularities, we would not accept any doctored results that is announced by INEC because we have the original results from our agents on ground. INEC should be the umpire that everybody expect them to be. The will of the people have been pushed to the background by the activities of security agencies.
“Our people should remain calm, we would not accept any adulterated result from INEC. If anything comes out contrary to the mandate of the people we would not take it,” the PDP chairman added.
Commenting on the apathy witnessed by the elections, the former aviation minister said it was due to what happened during the presidential and National Assembly elections. “There was deployment of military and security personnel in a civil situation to intimidate and harass the people.”
The governorship election may have been won and lost, the pattern of winning and loosing is what calls for concern by well meaning individuals in the state. Prior to the election, tension was high, this is sequel to the fact that the campaigns alignment and realignment took religious dimension. While the PDP was being seen as Christian party, the APC was equally seen as a Muslim party particularly that the winner’s running mate was also a Muslim woman, albeit from Southern Kaduna. Efforts however was made by groups and organizations to douse the tension, many thanks to the Kaduna State Peace Commission under the able leadership of Most Rev. Josiah Idowu Fearon and other Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Civil Society organizations (CSOs) who engaged in proactive sensitization for peaceful and violence free polls.
The results of the election is yet another worrisome matter particularly that the reelected governor of the APC won only in Muslim dominated local governments and lost in Christian dominated local governments. This in all fairness should not be considering the volatility of the state, more so that the state has been divided on religion lines with Christians in the Southern part and Muslims in the Northern region. This narrative certainly needs to be changed, we must see each other as brothers and sisters regardless of our faith, ethnic and party affiliation.
From results collated at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) headquarters in Kaduna, Governor El-Rufai won in fourteen local government areas of Makarfi, Soba, Kudan, Ikara, Kauru, Kubau, Giwa, Igabi, Lere, Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Zaria, Sabon Gari and Birnin Gwari.
While the opposition candidate, Hon. Ashiru of the PDP won in Nine local government areas of Kachia, Kaura, Jaba Kajuru, Zangon Kataf, Jema’a, Kagarko, Sanga and Chikun local government areas.
Inspite of the controversies sorrounding the election, Malam el-Rufai in his acceptance speech shortly after he was declared winner called on the good people of the state to join hands with him to build a better Kaduna State. According to him to the good people of the state “as you did in 2015, you have again decided to entrust in me the responsibility to lead Kaduna State for another four years. I accept my reelection with gratitude and humility. I thank the people of Kaduna State most profoundly for this vote of confidence in our stewardship.
“My fellow citizens, with your votes Kaduna State has made history by electing a woman as Deputy Governor, the first elected in the far north of our country. It is absolutely necessary to put on record my immense appreciation to you for this. You have defied those who do not wish to allow our women to use their talents in all spheres. You have taken a bold step forward to create a much-needed role model for every girl-child in Kaduna State and Northern Nigeria. I assure you that Dr. Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe and I will work resolutely for the progress of our dear state.
“We campaigned hard for your vote because we do not take you – our people – for granted. This outstanding victory has been achieved because you stood by us. You supported our governance agenda of Putting People First. You embraced our efforts to make lives better by focusing on the things that matter to ordinary people. In difficult circumstances you saw that we were promoting equality of opportunity, that we were improving schools and hospitals to make lives better for the people, that we were making our state attractive for business.
“How can we not be grateful when you upheld us so strongly when certain forces began resisting our reforms? You stood resolutely by us as we undertook programmes to expand access to Education and Health and to revitalise the public sector.
“My fellow citizens, you have spoken. You have spoken with a loud voice and voted for the continuity of our reforms. You have voted for equal opportunity. You have voted for genuine development and growth. You have rejected the politics of parochialism. Never again can the few entitled elite pursue their narrow interests using sentiments, and masquerading under the disguise of fighting for our people.
“This victory is a resounding vote in support of governance reforms. We were threatened with dire electoral consequences because we dared to disengage unqualified teachers, redundant public servants, restructured district administrations and over-bloated local government staff. We were warned that even though we were doing the right things and doing them right, the beneficiaries of our policies – the ordinary citizens of our state will not understand and will vote us out. We never relented, confident that you know that we are working honestly for you. You did not disappoint us. We thank you again.
“In this moment of victory, we acknowledge and respect the preferences of our fellow citizens who did not vote for us. We would listen to their concerns, but we invite them to join hands with us so that we can together build a better Kaduna State. The elections are over, and so should the divisive rhetoric that certain persons and groups chose to inject into the campaigns. It is time to come together and continue the work of rebuilding Kaduna State. Where there has been strife, let us seek calm through accord and conciliation. Where suspicion and ill-will have reigned, let us enthrone goodwill. We can do so much for the good of our state and all its people when we come together.
“We are committed to uniting the state around common values, anchored on equal citizenship, law and order, and protection of constitutional rights. We are not the only diverse place on Earth. Let constructive endeavours replace the bickering and suspicion. Let us all see and value each other as human beings descended from Adam and Eve. Let us end the misuse, abuse and manipulation of religion for personal gains. Religion should be a private matter. Our identities should not become barriers to a common humanity. Our doors are open to a new chapter of concord.
“We ran for election as APC candidates. But today, we are back to leading Team Kaduna. There is so much to do to make our state stronger, to tackle poverty, to improve health outcomes to provide decent education to create jobs for our youths, and to secure our communities. Let us do it together. We do not have time to exult in our victory. Our duty is to work diligently for our people. We shall not disappoint you. You have invested your hope in us. We shall not deliver despair. It is a new day in our state. Let us work together to make it the start of a better future”.
The governor’s acceptance speech is quite reassuring.
Again, inspite of the allegations of election irregularities by the PDP and its candidate, whether or not they have substantial evidences to prosecute their allegations and claims at the election tribunal when it commences sitting, only time will tell.