- Eyes on Kano, Sokoto, Plateau, 3 others
BY SEGUN ADEBAYO AND EDMOND ODOK, ABUJA – Hours after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed March 23 for supplementary polls to address inconclusive elections in six states of the federation, political gladiators are already back in the trenches to prepare for the final onslaughts.
Some top political actors in the affected States were sighted late Tuesday night in Abuja as high powered consultations with party leaders and officials took centre stage in the nation’s capital city.
Sources confirmed that with the date now officially set by the electoral umpire, the mounting concerns within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are reaching feverish height as both sides are not leaving anything to chance focusing attention on what is considered in many quarters as ‘an epic battle for political supremacy’ in the affected States.
The states where the exercise was deadlocked during the March 9 gubernatorial and State Houses of Assembly elections, are Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto.
Insiders at both the Presidency and Wadata Plaza hinted that the two camps are not letting off the steam strategizing on how to outsmart each other come Saturday, March 23 re-run polls.
Forefront usual dependable sources said though all the affected States are important to both parties, Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi and Plateau seem to hold special attraction in their political calculations going forward.
“However, going by certain sentimental attachments to all the states in contention, the drive for votes on March 23 may see the warring sides adopting the usual ‘do or die’ attitude in their search for electoral victory”, one of our sources said.
This is even as PDP insiders are already ringing the alarm bell over disturbing signals that the ruling party is working on plans to deploy heavy security personnel to intimidate opposition elements, militarized the affected areas and perfect its dubious plans of rigging the supplementary election.
“Given what happened during the Osun re-run as well as the February 23 and March 9 elections, even international and domestic observers are concerned that the March 23 exercise may also not be free, fair and credible. For now, there is mounting tension in the affected states and the appeal is that the security agencies should not only be on red alert, but most importantly demonstrate unbiased in handling the election duties”, the source said.
The upbeat in re-strategizing and polishing their political moves comes against the backdrop of announcement by INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of the Information and Voter Education Committee, Barrister Festus Okoye that March 23 has been fixed for supplementary poll during the Commission’s meeting held on Tuesday, March 12, 2019.
Okoye said in a statement that the meeting reviewed the Commission’s conduct of the 29 Governorship and 991 State constituency elections held on Saturday, March 9 across the country and endorsed reports submitted by the respective Returning Officers.
According to Okoye, with winners in the Governorship elections already declared in 22 states, the Commission however noted that; “The Returning Officers in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto States declared the Governorship elections inconclusive.
The statement stated that the Commission consequently picked Saturday March 23, 2019 to conclude the process with supplementary elections, adding that the “Supplementary elections will hold in polling units in all States where State Assembly elections were declared inconclusive and winners could not be declared.”
It further said; “Details of the constituencies including number of polling units and registered voters, will be published on our website tomorrow Wednesday 13th March 2019.”
Okoye noted that reports from the field blamed the inconclusive polls on a combination of factors, including discontinuance in the use of Smart Card Readers (SCR) midway into the elections; failure to deploy them; over-voting; violence; and widespread disruption in many polling units.
He explained that; “In compliance with the Margin of Lead Principle derived from Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and paragraph 41(e) and 43(b) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections, the outcome of these elections could not be determined without conducting polls in the affected polling units; hence, the Commission’s decision to conduct supplementary elections in line with this principle.
“Furthermore, the Commission has considered a report submitted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Bauchi State on the disruption of the collation at the Tafawa Balewa LGA collation centre, which led to the cancellation of results for the entire local government. The Commission found that there are issues that need further investigation and has set up a team led by a National Commissioner to resolve them”, the National Commissioner said.