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Friday, 27 November 2015

Kogi inconclusive election and the brewing confusion

IT was obvious that the death of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in Kogi governorship election, Prince Abubakar Audu last sunday when he was coasting home to victory after Saturday’s election would breed confusion. His death has shown that there are forces controlling the affairs of men beyond what ordinary mortals can comprehend. This is a man who had governed his state twice before and was on his way to clinching another victory that would have made him a three times governor, a first in Nigeria, if It had happened, but the Almighty God had a different plan.

But beyond the power of the Almighty in the affairs of men, his death has opened up many vistas in which the chief ingredient are rancour and confusion. There had been speculations that The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the returning officer, Professor Emmanuel Kucha had been aware of Audu’s death even before the announcement of the election result, though unofficially, and that the inconclusive verdict was deliberate and part of a grand scheme to achieve a predetermined end. If Audu’s victory had been announced, the water would not have been so muddied as his running mate, James Faleke would have automatically translated into the mandate holder. Unfortunately, this was not to be, it would go against so many factors in Kogi politics. Igala is the major ethnic group in Kogi and the party leadership would still want to continue the ethnic group’s dominance in the state’s politics and this would only happen with a fresh nomination which INEC has ‘succumbed’ to. A James Faleke, from Okun taking over would have upset the apple cart. Therein lies the confusion. With the present state of affairs, It would be obvious to the other (minority) ethnic groups like Okun and the Igbira that they are not in reckoning for power shift yet.

But there are still some other consideration which worked against Faleke. He is believed to have his loyalty more in Lagos than Kogi and this actually manifested in the uproar that occurred when he emerged as Audu’ s running mate. He is presently a second term member of the House of Representatives, representing Ikeja Federal Constituency of Lagos State. He was also a two-term chair- man of Ojodu Local Council Development Area. As a council boss in Lagos, Faleke was the chairman of Forum 57, a group of LGA and LCDA bosses in Lagos State. But the problem is far from being over. What happens to Faleke if the APC goes ahead to nominate another candidate? Would the candidate be willing to still run with Faleke or would Faleke also be willing to run with another candidate? Though it is still early days yet, but would APC be willing to give the ticket to Faleke when it eventually conducts its primaries or would the ticket reverts to the man who placed second during the primaries as some people are already suggesting. These are the conundrums that the APC leadership has to battle with. Most people have speculated that with Audu’s death, and the party conducting fresh primaries, Faleke should emerge as the party’s candidate and be allowed to chose a running mate, since he is presently the holder of half of the mandate.

The electoral umpire further contributed to the confusion by doing it ‘half and half’. It agreed that APC should produce another candidate for the supplementary election but there would not be a fresh election. It is obvious that this decision would not go down well with many critical stakeholders in and outside the state. Ekiti state governor and a leading opposition voice said what INEC did was illegal as only the Supreme Court could rule on the way forward.

“INEC should either conclude the election with APC not having a candidate or hold a fresh election with APC nominating a new governorship candidate. Any- thing outside these two options will mean that the Supreme Court must intervene.”

“Section 33 of the Electoral Act only provided for substitution of a dead candidate before the election, not during the election. Also, the running mate would have become the governor-elect if the governorship candidate had been duly elected before he died. But in this instant case, the election was still in progress, meaning that Audu was a candidate like others when he died.“Therefore, what INEC has done will mean that votes have now become an inheritance that the late APC governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu, has willed to whoever that emerges as his substitute.“It is like saying that Audu’s votes in the in- conclusive election will now be inherited by another person. How logical is that?”

Though, I am not a lawyer, what the governor said sounds plausible. It is also obvious where the direction of things would be in the days ahead- the PDP would challenge INEC’s decision even up to the Supreme Court level. One of the questions being asked is on the number of eligible voters in the areas declared inconclusive. INEC has said it is 49,953, while the margin between the two candidates is about 41,000. The Faleke camp which has expressed disappointment over INEC’s inconclusive election decision argued that there are only 32, 785 voters with PVCs in the nine local government areas where the election had been declared inconclusive, adding that if the voters with the PVC all voted PDP, there would still have been a difference of over 8,000 which should have given APC a clear lead. There is also the possibility of litigation here too. It is thus obvious that the last has not been heard on the Kogi election. It is also uncertain whether the supplementary election scheduled for December 5 would still hold. Indeed, there are interesting times ahead.

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