Two leading political parties – ruling All Progressives Congress and Peoples Democratic Party – are said to be at their wits’ end on the strategies to adopt in outwitting Independent National Electoral Commission in the supplementary polls holding in five states on Saturday.
The states where elections were declared inconclusive after the governorship/state House of Assembly polls that held on March 9 were Plateau, Kano, Benue, Sokoto, and Adamawa.
It was however learnt on Saturday that much as the two leading parties had mobilised resources for the political battle on Saturday, they had become apprehensive of plans by INEC to stop soldiers from the polling areas.
The electoral umpire are also said to be planning to come down hard on those suspected to be handing over cash to voters to compromise their choices of voting for any particular party.
Sources in INEC told our correspondent that the commission had made it clear that no soldier must be seen where voting was holding on Saturday.
“We successfully ensured that soldiers were not present at the polling areas on the two elections we have held this year. However, because of some developments we have heard from some parties lately, we have made it clear to the authorities that soldiers are not to be seen in the polling areas on Saturday. They are only to assist us in moving materials to the states.
“It is the duty of policemen to be present at the polling areas, though they must not be armed which, in itself, is a challenge,” said the official.
It was also learnt that INEC had allegedly uncovered plans by the two leading parties to deploy massive sums of money in the affected polling units to buy votes.
But INEC said the issue of cash-for-vote was “highly- complicated” as voters were also culpable.
The source added, “Do you know that in Enugu State during the last elections, some people came to a polling booth with their cards, asking which political party would offer them money. When they could not get a ‘suitor’, will you believe that they went back home without voting? That’s how difficult it has become. So, voters themselves are as guilty as the politicians.
“If they are exchanging money about 100 meters away from the polling booth, how can INEC officials intervene in the transaction? Even if you call the police, the policeman cannot confront armed thugs or hoodlums carrying guns because the policeman is not armed.”
Another official of the commission, who did not also agree to be named, said the commission was not working against any agency, but explained that it was necessary to avoid the “unfortunate incident” that happened in Osun State last year during the governorship rerun.
It was learnt that some European and United States observers complained to INEC chairman, Mr Mahmood Yakubu, about some ugly activities during the Osun rerun, warning him that he should not allow a recurrence in the 2019 general elections in order to keep intact the sanctity of the electoral process.
“What happened in Osun State last year was highly unfortunate and we need to work harder to ensure the credibility of the electoral process. If the will of the people cannot prevail, then the basis of democracy has been destroyed.
“So, we are not taking the issue of vote buying lightly. We need to eradicate it completely and anyone caught, we have to make an example of them to deter others,” he stated.
Supporters storm mosques in Kano, Saudi Arabia
Supporters of All Progressives Congress and their counterparts in Peoples Democratic Party in Kano State have resorted to spiritual warfare as they prepare for Saturday’s supplementary election in 30 out of the 44 local government areas in the state.
The prayer sessions, which reached a climax on Friday, have been holding in private homes and public mosques spread across the city of Kano.
Thousands of Muslims thronged mosques in the city to pray for a peaceful conduct of the supplementary election, which has attracted heightened interest among residents.
Depending on their political affiliations, supporters trooped to various designated prayer points to offer prayers in support of their preferred candidates.
Supporters of Kano State Governor, Mr Abdullahi Ganduje, gathered at a mosque in Dala Local Government Area to offer prayers for his success in the upcoming supplementary poll.
Supporters of a former Kano State Governor, Mr Rabiu Kwankwaso, held their first prayer session in the open field at the palace of Emir of Kano. Sources said the permission of the palace was not sought before members of the group converged there on Wednesday.
However, members of the group, who are also in support of the opposition candidate, Mr Abba Yusuf, of Peoples Democratic Party, have followed up their prayer sessions in mosques located within the party’s strongholds.
A new twist was added to the spiritual war with an online video of an unnamed businessman, who claimed to be a Kano State indigene, currently mobilising others to meet in various holy sites in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, to pray for the peaceful conduct of the upcoming poll.
The businessman, who claimed to be deputy leader of a group, Allaha Wassalam, in Saudi Arabia, in a YouTube post viewed in Kano on Friday, said he was mobilising all those interested to join him and others at a location in Jeddah on Thursday for visits to holy sites for special prayers which would culminate in the slaughtering of rams on Friday.
He also revealed that a Saudi Arabian businessman, who loved Kano and Nigeria, had offered four buses and undertaken to feed and convey those who could make it to Jeddah for the special prayer sessions to their different locations.
The unnamed businessman, who spoke in Hausa, said, “With my position as deputy leader of Allaha Wassalam here in Saudi Arabia, I announce to you that we have finalised all arrangements for pilgrims coming to the holy land in Saudi Arabia to pray against those who are planning to cause chaos in Kano and Nigeria as a whole (because of the elections). We have made adequate arrangements.
“On arrival, we will spend the night in Grand Mosque of Prophet Muhammad in Medina for special morning prayers, before proceeding to Grand Mosque in Mecca for special evening prayers.”
Independent National Electoral Commission declared Kano State governorship election inconclusive after it ruled that the number of cancelled votes was more than the margin of victory between the leading candidate in the contest and the first runner-up.
Candidate of opposition PDP, Yusuf, polled a total of 1,014,353 votes while the incumbent governor and candidate of APC, Ganduje, secured 953,522 votes in the governorship election.
The total margin between both APC and PDP candidates was 26,000 while total the votes cancelled were 141,694.
Sokoto PDP banks on CUPP alliance, APC brainstorms on plans
Also in Sokoto State, PDP is working out fresh moves for the supplementary election to consolidate its slim margin of 3,413 votes ahead of APC.
The party, as parts of it plans towards the supplementary election, has revved its alliance talks with other parties at the state level.
Sokoto State secretary of PDP, Mr Kabiru Aliyu, said, “We have opened talks with 37 parties that make up CUPP for alliance and working cooperation ahead of the rerun as ordered by INEC.
“Discussions similar to what our party at the national level opened with CUPP are ongoing in the state as we are speaking and we are sure of a working alliance which will be to our advantage that will ensure our victory.”
Investigation reveled that PDP had also resolved to send its ‘first 11’, comprising top government appointees and party stalwarts as party agents to the respective polling units where the rerun will hold on Saturday.
The plan, accordingly to a source, is to foil any rigging plot, to “protect votes and forestall possible sell-out on the parts of party agents who have less stake in the fortunes of the party.”
Feelers from the opposition APC indicated that the party is yet to recover from the sudden upturn of its acclaimed dominance of the state political landscape.
It was learnt that APC had embarked on a “self assessment meeting” as the leadership of the party in the state awaited the return of Mr Aliyu Wamakko, who was away to Abuja last week to collect his Certificate of Return as Senator-elect.
Wamakko, who is regarded as leader and generalisimo of APC in the state, is expected to preside over a strategic meeting that will fashion out plans and strategies on how the party will re-enact its resounding victory in the presidential and National Assembly polls during the rerun.
An APC stalwart, who spoke to one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said APC was capable of turning the table at Saturday’s election.
He stated, “Alliance or no alliance, we have the capacity and followership to win Sokoto State. What happened was that there was little complacency on our part during the governorship election and such will not repeat itself.
“We will use the opportunity of the supplementary election to show that our victory at the presidential and National Assembly polls was not a fluke.”
The supplementary election in the state will hold in the 22 local government areas out of the state’s 23 local governments.
Only Tangaza local government area is exempted from the estimated 75,403 voters expected to participate in the election in 136 polling units scattered across the state.
Prior to the declaration of the governorship election as inconclusive by the Returning Officer, Mr Fatima Mukhtar, Tambuwal was in a slim lead with a margin of 3,413 votes, having scored 489,558 votes ahead of his main challenger, Ahmed Aliyu of the APC, who polled 486,145 votes.
We’ll deploy our leaders as polling agents – PDP
Meanwhile, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Diran Odeyemi, has said the party will deploy its stalwarts and leaders as party agents during the March 23 supplementary governorship elections in the states where the polls were declared inconclusive by INEC.
In a telephone interview on Saturday, Odeyemi stated that the measure was to check alleged rigging plot against the party’s governorship candidates in the election.
He warned the Federal Government and APC against massive military deployment in the electoral process; the use of thugs and fomenting other forms of violence during the election.
Odeyemi stated, “We are trying all possible means to stop all this inconclusiveness. We will go to court for the true interpretation and conduct of INEC.
“Apart from that, we will not make the mistake we made in Osun State where we were rigged out. We have set an example now; all our leaders, all the big shots will act as polling booth agents. This, we believe, will checkmate whatever rigging ‘they’ may want to perpetrate. If they (PDP stalwarts) act as polling booth agents, we will want to see how they will rig us out.
“If we had done that in Osun; if Bukola Saraki (the Senate President) had been an agent or Uche Secondus (PDP National Chairman) coming from Abuja to be an agent; if we had got people who mattered like (Olagunsoye) Oyinlola and others to be polling agents, we would not have been rigged out.
“We have learnt our lessons from what happened in Osun State and we are trying to ensure that we curb that.”
Meanwhile, Benue State chapter of APC Elders Councils has raised the alarm that there are reports of plans to disrupt the March 23 supplementary governorship election, especially in APC strongholds in the state.
Spokesman for the Elders Council, Mr Terlumun Akputu, said more security deployment was needed for the supplementary election to prevent intimidation and vote buying.
Akputu stated, “There is nowhere in Nigeria where APC recorded zero votes except in the Guma Local Area Government Area despite having candidates and agents which he alleged were chased out of the polling units.”
He urged INEC to cancel results of elections in areas where card readers were not used.
He called on INEC to ensure that smart card readers were used in all polling units during the rerun, adding that no result should be accepted in any polling unit where the smart card reader was not used during the supplementary poll.
Secondus, Kwakwaso meet over supplementary elections
In the same vein, National Chairman of PDP, Mr Uche Secondus, met with a former Governor of Kano State, Mr Rabiu Kwankwaso in Abuja on Friday to discuss the supplementary elections coming up in the state and five others on Saturday.
The meeting, which was at the instance of Secondus, discussed strategies that would be used by the party to avoid the type of rerun that INEC conducted during the Osun State supplementary election where armed security men allegedly prevented members of PDP from gaining access to polling units.
Sources at the meeting said that the former governor promised Secondus that PDP would triumph over APC on Saturday.
Kano is among the five states where INEC has said rerun governorship elections will hold.
A source, who was privy to the discussions at the meeting, said, “Kwankwaso was of the opinion that nothing should be left unattended to in the rerun or supplementary elections in the six states.
“Difficulties that the party could come across were listed while the solutions were also provided.
“The party has therefore agreed that nothing would stop it from defending the votes, even if there are more soldiers and other security agents than voters in the affected states or polling units.
“We will not agree to have a repeat of what we had in Osun State, where PDP was robbed of victory by agents of anti-democratic forces at all cost.
“Because of this, the chairman will have meetings with all the parties concerned in the six states while the former Vice President, Mr Atiku Abubakar is taking care of Adamawa State and also helping in the strategy for other states.”
When contacted, Secondus confirmed that he met with Kwankwaso but did not discuss the agenda.
“It is a routine meeting. We have important rerun elections coming up on Saturday. Therefore, we are billed to meet with all concerned stakeholders in order to have a successful outing. Kwankwaso is central to our electoral success in Kano. We will continue to have such meetings,” he said.