What played out last weekend in Adamawa State during the supplementary gubernatorial poll can best be described as attempts by desperate politicians to subvert democracy and undermine the will of the people. The electoral heist must be totally condemned in all its ramifications.
In the show of shame in broad daylight, the whole world was shocked to see the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Hudu Yunusa-Ari, on television illegally announcing Senator Aishat “Binani” Dahiru, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the election when results from 10 local councils were still being expected. How low can we get?
The electoral law does not recognise RECs to collate and announce election results in the states; that is the job of the Returning Officer. So, what Yunusa-Ari did was brazen, illegal and it could only have been inspired by an animal boldness of the worst kind.
Instead of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) summoning Yunusa-Ari to Abuja, he should have been arrested in Yola immediately and made to face the full wrath of the law. What happened next is even more shocking: Senator BInani, whom Yunusa-Ari declared illegally as the winner, read an acceptance speech, thanking the people of Adamawa State for electing her.
That was a lie from the pit of hell; she was not elected because she did not win the election. Binani is desperate to set a record as the first female governor in Nigeria but she has to be properly elected – not through the backdoor, subterfuge or illegality.
We may have seen bad behaviours displayed by politicians in the past but what Senator Binani and her enablers did at a time we are trying to improve on the electoral process takes the cake. How far will politicians go in the theatre of the absurd?
On top of this travesty and brazen shenanigan, Binani approached a High Court in Abuja, seeking a judicial review in an attempt to stop INEC from voiding her illegal declaration as the “winner” of the governorship poll as announced by Yunusa-Ari.
I have never seen anything like this before. If we truly want to be honest with ourselves, politicians are the biggest threats to our democracy.
What the Adamawa REC and Binani have done should come with consequences; otherwise it will become a standard playbook for other politicians who do not have any sense of shame or higher purpose.
Because of Yunusa-Ari’s egregious conduct, another national commissioner deployed to Adamawa for the supplementary poll, was beaten black and blue and then stripped naked. It was clearly a case of the anger of the mob.
Yunusa-Ari appeared defiant on the day he made the illegal announcement in the presence of security personnel. He was confronted by onlookers in the room that he had no powers to announce the winner. He was also reminded that it was the holy month of Ramadan – the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which strict fasting, prayer and deep reflections are observed from dawn to sunset.
In his desperation, the Adamawa REC who has now been disowned by INEC set aside all the entreaties and spiritual injunctions. There must have been something in it for him to have taken such risk for a zero-sum game.
Before the supplementary governorship elections in Kebbi and Adamawa States, INEC had been in the eye of the storm. The reputation of the electoral umpire had taken severe beating arising from the previous elections in February and March.
INEC had the opportunity to redeem its image but, apparently, the likes of Yunusa-Ari with his gang of co-conspirators had other plans. There was now palpable tension in Adamawa State which could have led to a breakdown of law and order.
As it turned out, INEC worked very hard to do damage control. Last Sunday, the electoral body announced that the REC illegally announced the winner which was declared null and void.
In order to calm frayed nerves, INEC suspended the collation of results and the supplementary election. INEC’s statement did not leave anyone in doubt. “The attention of the Commission has been drawn to a purported declaration of a winner in the Adamawa Governorship election by the Resident Electoral Commissioner even when the process has not been concluded.
“The action of the REC is a usurpation of the power of the Returning Officer. It is null and void and of no effect. Consequently, the collation of the results of the supplementary election is hereby suspended.”
Thankfully, INEC concluded the exercise and declared the incumbent governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, as the winner of the governorship poll. Any further delay would have caused unnecessary anxieties for mob action and violence.
However, the facts of the matter must stand. Before the collation exercise was suspended on Saturday night, Binani was nowhere near winning the election as she was trailing Ahmadu Fintiri, the incumbent governor and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). By this time, results from 10 local councils had been announced.
Nigerians were outraged by Yunusa-Ari’s unacceptable conduct and disregarded the announcement that he made. In the meantime, no one has told us where Mele Lamido, the Returning Officer, has been hiding; he just disappeared into thin air.
Was he part of the plot to sabotage the will of the people of Adamawa State? Could it be that the RO did not agree with the REC to announce Binani as the winner without results from all the 69 polling units?
The drama in Adamawa State happens in other states and it is a reflection of our inverted value system: we condone impunity without consequences and it has gone to great lengths to damage the moral fabric of society.
For example, why would a parent buy exam question papers for his/her children to gain undue advantage? The same parent will also join those accusing INEC of improper conduct of our elections. Isn’t that hypocrisy?
After the meeting of its National Commissioners in Abuja which held on April 18 over the supplementary governorship election in Adamawa State, INEC resolved to write the Inspector General of Police for the immediate investigation and possible prosecution of Yunusa-Ari who, by the way, is a lawyer.
How can a lawyer superintend over such travesty and be the lead actor in a poorly scripted drama? To tell you the truth, Yunusa-Ari pretended to be an actor who wanted a Nollywood-like fame but he failed his audition woefully by announcing a fake election result that was not his responsibility in the first place.
Is he still a “learned colleague”? What action is the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) going to take?
INEC will also write to Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), to inform President Muhammadu Buhari that his appointee, Yunusa-Ari, has been “unworthy” of the appointment as Adamawa State REC. His “unwholesome behaviour” should be reported by the SGF for further action.
The commissioner of police in Adamawa State has been redeployed by the Inspector General of Police. That was a timely intervention and commendable action but it does not go far enough. He should be sanctioned immediately. Under his watch, Yunusa-Ari orchestrated a dangerous plot that could have sparked an orgy of violence.
We are all witnesses to the disgraceful conduct of politicians even in their parties where there’s complete absence of internal democracy. The Labour Party has also joined APC and PDP in poor housekeeping manners because if you have been following the political developments in Imo State, Labour Party has two factions (Ikechukwu Ukaegbu and Chibutu Isiguzo factions laying claims to the ticket) in the run-up to the party’s primary to elect its gubernatorial candidate.
With parallel primaries, the factions usually end up in court because politicians are generally bad losers – everyone wants to win. How’s that possible?
If party primaries are fraught with rigging and violence, what then should we expect at the state and national elections? Are they not the same people?
When the outcomes of our elections are poor, we are quick to blame INEC instead of desperate politicians and their supporters. What in the world was Yunusa-Ari thinking when he declared Binani as the winner of the Adamawa governorship poll? Was he expecting Nigerians to clap for him?
He should have emulated the Returning Officer in the Abia State gubernatorial election, Prof Nnennaya Oti, vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) which Alex Otti won. This amazing amazon refused to be intimidated even at the risk to her life; she stood her ground and the will of Abia voters prevailed.
But Yunusa-Ari couldn’t because he sold his conscience for a mess of porridge.
- Braimah is a public relations strategist and publisher/editor-in-chief of Naija Times (https://naijatimes.ng)