This Day (Lagos)

22 April 2007

Nigeria: Country Wades Through a Historic Election

Lagos — Nigeria muddled through a historic election yesterday despite all the logistical problems and voters' nightmares that attended the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

Some of the problems in respect of logistics were said to be as a result of the late inclusion of the name of Vice President Atiku Abubakar on the ballots for the presidential poll. Fresh ballot papers were said to have been printed in South Africa and brough into the country on Thursday.

There were reports of late arrival of election materials in most states of the federation resulting in late take-off of the polls while the elections was generally characterised by voters aparthy.

The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, described the election as unacceptable while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Katsina State Governor Umaru Yar'Adua said it was fair.

Vice president Atiku Abubakar who also contested the election on the platform of the Action Congress (AC) said the election was a "sham".

A state-by-state reports by our correspondents are presented below:

Katsina

Late delivery of materials in most places in Katsina State yesterday, marred what would have otherwise been a peaceful election as there was a massive turnout of voters.

Just as it was in the gubernatorial elections in the state, electoral materials arrived late.

The situation was worse in Daura, the home town of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, where impatient voters took to the street in protest burning down houses and destroying property belonging to INEC officials and PDP supporters who were alleged to have connived to either delay the delivery of the materials or short changed voters from the emirate.

In Katsina and Funtua Emirates, delivery of electoral materials was far better than that of Daura.

Speaking about the conduct of the election in the state, the ANPP presidential candidate, Buhari ,and the state Governor Umaru Yar Adua of PDP however expressed divergent views.

While Buhari described the situation as disappointing and unacceptable, Yar Adua said it was fair even as he spoke of his expectation of victory at the polls.

According to Buhari whose supporters had since gone wild, ballot papers were brought in late to his Sarkin Yara ward at the family house of the late Sheik Jafar Adams who was shot in the mosque in Kano last week.

Although the INEC presiding officer, Danlami Abubakar, said materials were brought in at about 9.30 am, he however confirmed that as at 11.am only 500 ballot papers was delivered as against 917 registered voters for the presidential election.

Also it was alleged that out of 98, 500 registered voters, only 46, 000 was made available in the area. This information enraged the predominantly ANPP supporters who declared that there would be no vote in the emirate unless INEC completed the number of ballot papers. To them, it is undemocratic to deny any one his voting rights and to that effect, they matched en masse to demand their rights from the INEC office by the Police station.

The enraged supporters moved to burn the INEC office but were prevented by a combined team of soldiers and policemen. When that effort failed, they turned their anger on the sawmill owned by one Umar Mangal, a PDP chieftain, and razed it. Later, the crowd burnt down two other houses belonging to Mangal located in Daura too and accused him of insulting Buhari on the radio. The house of the former Speaker of the Katsina state assembly, Sani Saidu was also burnt in Daura. It took the personal intervention of Buhari who mounted a vehicle to appeal to the youths to eschew violence and cast their votes to calm frayed nerves in the area. The retired general cast his vote by 11.06 am.

In Zango Daura, a border town with Niger Republic, no voting took place. INEC office which is located a few poles from the porous border, was burnt as early as 10 am and consequently no voting was done there at all.

In Daura, a Toyota Corola car with registration number Kano AW 526 NSR thumb printed voters cards in favour of the PDP was arrested while a young boy called Kamal, was shot with an arrow by those suspected to be political thugs in Daura.

Buhari later told journalists in his home that the election was marred with rigging and that he has called on his party people to gather evidence because we are proceeding to the Tribunal immediately. On whether he will accept defeat and congratulate the winner if he is not the one, Buhari said "the basis of accepting and congratulating anybody is free and fair elections which is not there." Expatiating on why the election is not free and fair, Buhari said even when he attempted to talk to the INEC Commissioner in the state over partial delivery of electoral materials, he refused to speak with him. He also said reports reaching him from some states in the north especially Gombe, Taraba, Kaduna, Borno and Zamfara show cases of votes snatching and ballot box stuffing. When asked to assess the overall general election, the ANPP flag bearer said "what happened last Saturday and what is happening right now across the country proved us right that PDP, the government and INEC and some law enforcement agencies are not prepared to have free and fair elections but we will wait for the next 48 hours to know the condition in the country."

However, Yar Adua who arrived the Modogi Primary school polling centre in Katsina town decked in an all white babaringa in a green Honda Accord with registration number AM 108 FGE accompanied by the governor elect, Ibrahim Shema cast his vote at exactly 11. 50am. He however expressed confidence that he would win the election.

Kano

Journalists in Kano State were attacked yesterday by suspected hired thugs at Gwarzo local government while covering the presidential elections.

Hundred of thugs blocked road for the Kano correspondent's chapel Bus saying that 'You must go back".

Gwarzo,which is the country home of Deputy Governor elect, Engr. Abdullahi Tijjani Mohammed, has become a death zone because of poor guidance and care by the government and its executives who are from the area.

Speaking to journalists after escaping from the attack, the deputy governor elect, said the aggrieved youth had done this because of what he termed as attempt by the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) to manuever the election.

THISDAY gathered that in most of the polling units in Gwarzo, Bagwai, Shanono, Karaye, Kiru and kabo local governments areas, the security of the polling unit and the election ballots papers was very poor.

Though elections materials in Kano was ditributed by INEC in good time, some politicians in the state however tried to foment trouble.

Adamawa

Presidential ballot boxes arrived Yola International Airport by 5.54am and were received by Resident Electoral Commissioner, Alhaji Suleiman Bello.

No fewer than seven policemen died while escorting electoral materials to Song Local Government around 8 am when the car conveying them crashed.

The state commissioner of police confirmed the deaths saying five others were under intensive medical care.

The REC confirmed that presidential ballot papers were short by 22 per cent adding that 78 per cent of the presidential electoral materials were sent. He however said National Assembly electoral materials were complete.

A heavy presence of combined members of the police and other armed forces were on patrol in Yola.

Cross River

In Cross River State, INEC however shifted the elections into the House of Representatives to Thursday, April 26, following what it described as anomalies in the ballot papers.

The INEC National Commissioner in charge of Political Party Monitoring the election in Cross River, Edo, Ondo and Enugu states, Dr. Ishmael Igbani, told newsmen in Calabar, yesterday that the commission discovered some party logos were missing on the ballot papers and decided to postpone the elections in order to rectify the problem.

He assured that the anomalies discovered would be rectified before the rescheduled date.

Meanwhile, as at 4 pm yesterday, INEC was yet to dispatch election materials to six local government areas in the state for the Presidential and National Assembly elections.

The affected local government areas include Ogoja, Bekwara, Obanliku, Yala and Obudu in the Northern Senatorial District, and Boki in the Central District.

Igbani said the election materials for the state arrived at about 6.00 o'clock Saturday morning from Abuja through Owerri Airport and that the commission faced logistic problems sending the materials to the northern senatorial district of the state, which is about seven hour drive from Calabar, the state capital.

Lagos

The Presidential and National Assembly elections took off peacefully in Lagos. Although the Senatorial election was put off in Lagos West and Lagos Central as a result of the omission of the party logo, names and photographs of candidates of the National Conscience Party (NCP) and and the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) on the ballot papers in the two districts.

Also election into seven House of Representatives seats in the state could not hold due to the same reason. The affected federal legislative seats are Kosofe, Ojoo, Amuwo Odofin, Ibeju-Lekki, Surulere I, Ifako-Ijaiye and Eti-Osa. The election was said to have been postponed and would be held at a future date.

Meanwhile, Lagos State governor-elect, Mr Babatunde Fashola, who voted with his wife at 12.15pm in Surulere, Lagos said voters' turnout was not too impressive compared to last week's gubernatorial polls.

INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Adedeji Soyebi, who described the election as "peaceful" but with "low turn out" said the senatorial elections were put off because the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DPA) as well as the National Conscience Party (NCP) did not feature on the ballot papers adding however that the decision to reschedule election was taken to avert confusion.

Meanwhile, two ballot boxes were snatched at Ijanikin, opposite Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education. Two persons were arrested in connection with the incident while a box was recovered.

Reacting to the postponement of the election in two senatorial district, the Action Congress (AC) senatorial candidate in Lagos Central, Hon. Muniru Muse, urged his supporters to remain calm and not to resort to violence adding that he was trying to clarify the matter from INEC.

One of the affected candidates in Lagos West, Honourable Ganiyu Solomon of the AC who is running for the senatorial seat of Lagos West expressed shock and described the situation as unfortunate.

Imo

By about 2.30pm, in Imo State yesterday, electoral materials had not yet been distributed to the polling centres on account of their late arrival from Enugu Airport.

According to THISDAY correspondent in Owerri, following the development, disenchantment set in with low morale prevailing. Speaking to THISDAY on the phone yesterday afternoon, Kezie Ogaziechi, lawyer and the Accord Party candidate for the house of representatives race, confirmed the situation in the area.

Ebonyi

The Presidential and National Assembly elections held across the country yesterday started very late at various Local Government Areas in Ebonyi State, even as there was clear improvement from what was witnessed during the gubernatorial and state assembly polls. The election was generally peaceful.

Contrary to the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that voting would commence by 10am and close by 5pm, the exercise started at about 2pm in Abakaliki, the state capital, while in some other areas including Akpoha in Afikpo North and Akeze in Ivo, Ngbo in Ohaukwu as well as Okposi in Ohaozara council areas, polling commenced at about 3.30pm.

However, the exercise was peaceful as no report of violence was received as at the time of filing this report.

Plateau

The election was generally peaceful. Both Air Cdr. Jonah Jang and Senator Ibrahim Mantu who is seeking re-election in Plateau Central senatorial district attributed this to the new spirit of understanding now prevailing in the state.

There was a general apathy in Plateau State as turn-out remained low in many places including Mangu, Jos South and Barkin Ladi Local Government areas visited by our correspondent.

Besides, voting did not start on time in several polling stations due to the late arrival of materials and INEC officials.

Akwa Ibom

Although the Presidential and National Assembly elections in Akwa Ibom State were very peaceful and orderly, the exercise was marred by late arrival of materials and poor turn out of voters.

Some people who spoke with THISDAY said the hitch and violence free elections recorded in the state may not be unconnected with the postponement of the election for the Federal House of Representative seats in the state.

Sources said the House of Representative election for the 10 federal constituencies in the state was postponed till Thursday this week in order to give INEC room to adjudge to legal issues and judgments brought by various political parties candidates against the commission.

Meanwhile, there was a mild confusion as two candidates of PDP in the state, Senator Effiong Bob and Ime Albert Akpan, contested for the Uyo Senatorial District election. While Senator Bob claimed that his name sent by the party hierarchy was on the INEC list, Mr Akpan said he had obtained court ruling as somebody who won the party primary to contest the election.

At some of the polling units and centers within the Uyo and Eket Senatorial Districts visited, officials blamed INEC for late commencement of voting saying materials were not given to them at the distributing centers in time.

Ondo

But for the general late distribution of electoral materials and minor skirmishes, voting was yesterday relatively peaceful in various parts of Ondo State monitored by THISDAY during the presidential and National Assembly Elections unlike what happened last week.

In many places visited, voting did not start until around 3.00pm.

At Ondo Town, voting did not start until about 4.00pm while material meant for 32 units were reportedly carted away by supporters of the candidate of a political party.

A Senatorial candidate, Mr Bola Ilori described the exercise as a sham because it did not start until 4.00 pm despite the imposition of curfew on the town.

Generally, there was low turn out of voters in various places as many people developed apathy towards the exercise due to the alleged bitter experience of last week in the state.

Few people who turned up for the exercise in some stations in Akure, the Ondo State capital, reported that they were scared away by hoodlums who took over the polling stations.

Ekiti

Low turn out of voters, late arrival of election materials and alleged rigging characterized yesterday's presidential and National Assembly polls in Ekiti State.

Elections did not start until between 12pm and 1pm in most of the places monitored across the three senatorial districts of Ekiti State, due to non-challant attitude of the people coupled with the late arrival of voting materials.

What appeared to be a relatively peaceful atmosphere in areas such as Igede-Ekiti, Erio and several other places turned out to be a deliberate protest to shun the elections, based on last week experience.

At a centre in Ilawe-Local Government Staff Training School, there were about five polling units located on the corridor where there was a break down of law and order following the snatching of ballot boxes.

Even, armed mobile policemen were alleged to have participated in the thumb printing of ballot papers which led to clash between PDP members and members of other parties.

It was alleged that those who engaged in the snatching of ballot boxes were sponsored by a prominent PDP chieftain in the community.

Apart from Ilawe, Ikole in the Ekiti North senatorial district was another place where manipulation allegedly took place.

At Iyin-Ekiti, the home of former governor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, about four fake police officers were identified by the people of the town but they later escaped. One of the agents of a senatorial

candidate in Ekiti central, who led the fake police was apprehended and beaten to a state of coma.

Kaduna

Voting did not take off in many parts of Kaduna State yesterday until about 2.00pm. There were also some complaints of shortage of electoral materials in most polling units within the Kaduna metropolis.

In major parts of the state where election was held the exercise took place under very peaceful condtiton as the combined security agents provided conducive environment for the polls.

In the Kaduna North Local Government Area in the Central senatorial districts however, elections into the Senate were suspended.

Public Relations Officer of INEC in the state, Abubakar Liman told newsmen that elections in the area was postponed for "technical reasons".

Liman said that a new date would be announced for the conduct of the senatorial elections in the affected zones later.

In the Barnawa area of Kaduna South, voting did not take place in most areas because the electoral materials arrived late and there were allegations that voting was being carried out illegally in a popular hotel in the area.

The chief observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission, Mr. Max Van den Berg, whose team monitored the polls in the state however condemned INEC's preparations for the polls. He observed that the gubernatorial election was better organised than yesterday's polls.

Anambra

In what looked like a mirage to the people, over one million registered voters in Anambra State could not vote in yesterday's presidential and National Assembly election in Anambra State following the late arrival of electoral material to their various polling units.

In most areas monitored by our correspondent, such as Aguata, Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi, voting was yet to commence at about 4:30pm. Awka South local government office of INEC electoral officials were seen still collecting electoral materials late as at 4:25pm.

The scenario, however climaxed into a drama in Awka at the country-home of the vice presidential candidate of Action Congress, Senator Ben Obi, when three men who identified themselves as officials of INEC suddenly drove to see the candidate at about 5.35pm so as to prevail on him to vote, just as they were told that the senator was still at his polling unit waiting to cast his vote.

Taraba

The election was marred by late arrival of voting materials.

As at 8am, people were seen at the polling centres. Most of them had to return home after waiting for a long time without voting. When contacted, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of INEC in charge of Taraba State, Habu Zama Ina, said they could only start elections when they get the election materials.

He said he requested for helicopter for the conveyance and distribution of electoral materials and none was given to him.

He added that he would do his best even if it was at night that the materials got to them.

In some centres visited in the state capital, elections started about 12 midday, while in some areas outside the state capital, it started at 3pm.

In Genbu and Kruni, there were insinuations that there may not be elections in these areas because it takes up to nine hours to get there.

Ogun

Yesterday's presidential election in Ogun State was anything but successful because voters refused to come out to vote.

Even where voters cast their votes, the ballot papers for senatorial election were not available and the voters had to vote for the president and House of Representative candidates of their choice, leaving out senatorial election.

Those who spoke to THISDAY in Abeokuta said there was no point wasting their time to queue in the sun to vote, since their votes would not count at the end of the day due to the rigging that was evident in last saturday governorship and House of Assembly election.

When THISDAY visited polling booths in Abeokuta, it was either no single voter was present or INEC officials were absent.

Most voters stayed indoors as armed military personnel patrolled the streets in a bid to forestall a breakdown of the law and order.

Gombe

Contrary to expectations of electoral violence in the presidential and National Assembly elections yesterday in Gombe State, the polls went on smothly.

Despite the lateness in arrival of electoral materials, eligible voters were seen on the queue as at 11am in most polling stations while voting proper took off in some polling stations around 12.00 noon in the state capital.

Delta

Elections held yesterday in Delta State were generally peaceful but with low voter turn-out.

Governor-elect of Delta State, Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan, voted at his hometown, Abigborodu, in Warri North Local Government Area, commending politicians and the citizenry for peaceful conduct of the exercise.

The governor-elect who arrived the Abigborodo waterside in a speedboat, for the Presidential and National Assembly elections proceeded to the Koko II, Ward 6, Umuegbe polling unit to cast his vote at about 12.30pm.

Meanwhile, Governor James Ibori voted in his hometown, Oghara, with an appeal to those who lost at the polls to accept the outcome of the exercise in good faith.

Osun

Gross manipulation and a high degree of rigging greeted yesterday's presidential and National Assembly elections in Oriade and Obokun local government areas of Osun state.

Ballot boxes were hijacked in most of the polling centres at Otan-Ile, Esa-Odo and Esa-oke all in Obokun local government area of the state.

The turnout at the election was low but largely peaceful in the three senatorial districts of the state and there was no record of deaths nor violence.

Rivers

INEC in Rivers State has cancelled elections in five federal constituencies. The State Resident Electoral Commis-sioner, Chief Rowland Uwa, who made this known in Port Harcourt attributed the cancellation to irregularities in the handling of electoral materials.

With that development, National Assembly polls was held in only eight out of the 13 federal constituencies in the state.

The constituencies affected in the cancellation include Port Harcourt 1, Ahoada East/ Abua/Odual, Akuku-Toru/ Asaru-Toru, Okrika/Ogu/Bolo and Gokana/Khana.

Uwa said the elections in those federal constituencies would now be on April 26. In some of the affected areas such as Akuku-Toru/Asaru-Toru and Ahoada East, the gubernatorial and state assembly elections did not take place.

Borno

In Borno, election was marred by low turnout, late start and the boycott of the poll by supporters of PDP and AC who were both protesting alleged electoral fraud at last week's gubernatorial election by ANPP.

Both parties withdrew their candidates from contesting the National Assembly seats in the state. The boycott could have been responsible for the low turnout as there was apathy on the part of the electorate.

Those that were interested in performing their civic duty were kept waiting endlesly at polling centres because elections in most parts of the state did not start until well after noon.

Even some officials were seen transporting electoral materials a little after noon to areas outside the state capital, Maiduguri.

The election was however devoid of violence, a departure from what was witnessed last week.

Kwara

Low turn out of voters and late arrival of election materials at the voting centers were identified as the major problems that affected the presidential and national assembly election in Kwara State .

Also yesterday, the resident electoral commissioner in the state, Chief Ayo Adakeja, announced the postponement of the senatorial election in Kwara Central senatorial district until further notice.

Adakeja said the postponement of the election was as a result of alleged omission of the name of the Action Congress (AC) candidate for the district, Hajia Bilikisu Gambari, from the ballot papers for the election.

The incumbent Senator Gbemisola Saraki of PDP and Hajia Gambari of AC are the major senatorial candidates that have been at each other throats for the control of the Kwara Central senatorial district area of the state in the election.

Bayelsa

Nothwithstanding the heavy security following Friday attack on the Government House by militants that left at least three persons dead in Yenagoa, Bayelsans trooped out and voted for their choice of president and national law makers.

The attack led to the destruction of the premises of the state Ministry of Utilities, the Parklane Hotel, Blessed Obaino Electonic Plaza and De Giant Shopping Complex devastated Yenagoa.

The victims of the attack including two unidentified young men and a woman, who lived in a caravan opposite the utilities ministry, were hit by stray bullets near the Yenagoa Sports Complex as the militants battled armed soldiers in their attempt to invade the capital city.

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