Kaduna — The Governorship and State Assembly elections in Kaduna State that saw the return of the incumbent Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, back to the seat of power at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House came as a surprise to the main opposition Party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state.
Already, PDP has decided to challenge the outcome of the election in court, as the party cried foul over the guber contest, which gave el-Rufai victory over his archrival and PDP's governorship candidate, Isa Ashiru.
Before the March 9, 2019 elections in the state, all odds had favoured the PDP's candidate to defeat el-Rufai in the election. Considering the series of unpopular policies el-Rufai rolled out during his first four-year tenure in office. Among those policies were the governor's war against the labour unions, as a result of the sack of thousands of workers, his loggerheads with religious leaders, traditional rulers, Shiites religious sect and demolition of houses in Zaria and Kaduna metropolis.
Many people in the state, including religious leaders, opinion moulders and interest groups had ruled out the governor's ability to roll back the tide of opposition. However, he would embark on a massive sensitization and galvanization of Kaduna residents and voters to change the popular feeling during campaign, and also bring the people closer to his political fold and re-election for a second term.
The first thing Governor el-Rufai did was to appeal to the religious sensibilities of Kaduna people, particularly those in the Northern Kaduna by introducing a Muslim-Muslim ticket. In doing so, he picked a deputy-running mate in the person of Dr. Hadiza Balarabe from Sanga in Southern Kaduna.
The Muslim-Muslim ticket was what the governor needed to appeal to the religious conscience of a mass of the Hausa in the state and the minority in Southern Kaduna to evade the earlier wrath of citizens who had hitherto protested and vehemently opposed his style of governance and high-handedness during his first term.
However, domestic observers that monitored the governorship elections in the state have raised objections to the polls that saw el-Rufai winning overwhelmingly against Ashiru. The domestic observers deployed to monitor Kaduna State Governorship and National Assembly elections faulted the outcome of the elections, which they claimed were marred with electoral malpractices.
In the conduct of the polls, according to the domestic observers, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should have looked into the areas where results were cancelled, card readers not used and other acts of irregularities and thereafter conduct re-run elections.
The domestic observers' leader, Professor Banake Sambo, who briefed journalists on the outcome of the Governorship and National Assembly polls in Kaduna, said, "This report is a product of the observer groups' observation by their members deployed to 189 Registration Areas (Wards) in the 23 local government areas of Kaduna states. The observer groups underscore the significance of the state level polls for the strengthening of democracy in Kaduna State in particular and Nigeria in general.
"No doubt, it is easier for citizens to hold elected leaders accountable at the state level than those at the federal level, because they impact more directly on the people. We seek to provide accurate and unbiased report on the electoral process from the polling units, wards, local government and state collation centres.
"Our delegation observed that the elections were marred by irregularities, instances of intimidation, vote buying, violent acts during voting, counting and collation of results as reported in some places. However, no loss of life was reported anywhere as a result of violence on elections day.
"The actions and impunity with which some electoral actors conducted themselves, using the military, INEC officials and polling agents to subvert citizens' confidence in elections threaten the legitimacy of the outcome of the elections."
Sambo further argued, "In Kaduna, state-level elections are fiercely contested, as the two major political parties compete for vote and access to public offices and resources, and engage in campaigns at the local level. Intra-state politics and campaigns embitter pre-existing religious and ethnic tensions.
"Our members noted how religious or ethnic divisions fueled by political actors, the clergy and the media create fault lines that could enhance election-related violence and acrimony for a long time."
Sambo, who lamented the flawed electoral process, said that "election materials meant for seven polling units in Haskiya Ward, Kubau Local Government Area were hijacked by some of the political actors and no election took place in the said polling units", pointing out that "despite that and surprisingly election results were collated and declared at the collation centre under the protection of armed security personnel."
He further explained, "Voter turnout was significantly low in comparison with that of Presidential and National Assembly elections. As the elections progressed, our members observed irregularities in the voting processes - vote buying and voter inducement, metres away from the polling units were witnessed in some polling units in Kaduna North, Kaduna South, Ikara, Kubau and Kachia where supplementary election for House of Representatives was conducted - Igabi, Giwa, Zaria, Kagarko, Lere, Soba and Kauru.
"Non-usage of card reader characterised the election in Yakawada, Idasu, Giwa, Shika, Kakangi and Guga Wards of Giwa Local Government Area. More so, some polling units in Zaria, Sabongari, Ikara, Lere, Igabi, Soba, Kaduna South, and Kaduna North were not exempted. Incidents of snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes were recorded in 13 polling units in Magajin Gari III of Birnin Gwari Local Government Area.
"Such cases were reported to the police by our members, but they decided not to act promptly. Instances of voters and agents' intimidation and violent acts aided by the military were noted in Kwasallo ward in Soba Local Government Area. The military, led by senior local council officials, disrupted voting, unleashed terror and carted away ballot boxes in some of the polling units in Ikara, Fala, Sayasaya, Kurmin Kogi, Rumi Auchan, Kuya, Paki, Jamfalan and saulawa Wards in Ikara Local Government Area. Some of our observers fell victims of these attacks.
"In Yakawada, Idasu, Giwa, Shika and Kakangi Wards in Giwa Local Government Area, the same reports of unsavoury incidents were recorded by our staff. Apparently, the observer groups identified most of the manipulations, irregularities, falsification of results, harassments and intimidation of party agents, observer groups and the media at the collation centres at the local government levels.
"In Ikara, Jamfalan, Fala, Kurmin Kogi, Rumi, Auchan and Paki Wards in Ikara Local Government Area, Tudun Wada, Ungwan Fatika and Ungwan Juma Wards in Zaria Local Government Area; Pambeguwa and Haskiya Wards in Kubau Local Government Area; Idasu, Kakangi, Yakawada, Giwa and Shika Wards of Giwa Local Government Area; Hayin Banki/Ungwan Kanawa and Maiburuji Wards in Kaduna North Local Government Areas; Kukuyi Ward in Kagarko Local Government Area; Kwasallo Ward in Soba local government area, and Makera constituency collation centres, security agents in collaboration with political actors prevented or chased away observers from collation centres in the places mentioned above. These gave some political actors the cover to manipulate and rig elections in the mentioned areas."
Sambo further stated: "Observers reported a case where 54 vehicles with INEC's election duty stickers was loaded with suspected political thugs armed with weapons, wearing tags of a political party on election day successfully passed through over 10 security checkpoints without being stopped from Kaduna to the Southern part of the state, only to be accosted at Zonkwa by vigilant members, who were suspicious of their movement.
"The incident led to high tension. Three vehicles were burnt down before the police and senior political actors doused the tension. Before then, four persons were arrested by the police in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area. It is worthy to note how such mass movement of vehicles and people were able to cross the boundaries of local governments in Kaduna State during the elections in spite of the heavy security presence. This was quite intriguing and worrisome."
However, members of Political Parties Chairmen Forum (PPFC), who endorsed All Progressive Congress's Mallam el-Rufai for the gubernatorial candidate for Kaduna State even before his victory, condemned PDP's supporters, saying that the governor deserved a second term in office.
The group's chairman, Ambassador Shehu Mailafia, said "It is an indisputable fact that PDP's 16 years' rule in Nigeria only experienced kleptocracy, graft and plunder of our commonwealth with no regards for the majority of Nigerians whom they were supposed to serve."
Mailafia, who thanked the entire leadership of the registered political parties under the auspices of Political Parties Chairmen Forum, said the forum had unanimously agreed to endorse the candidature Mallam el-Rufai's gubernatorial election in Kaduna.
According to PPCF, the Mallam Nasir el-Rufai-led government has succeeded in doing what PDP did not do in 16 years of crass opportunism and plunder of our commonwealth, adding, "el-Rufai has transformed the status of education from primary schools to tertiary levels with great infrastructural changes, employment of graduates to teach primary schools and free education for the girl-child; these are areas the governor has worked well.
"The identifying and sacking of ghost workers and those who are in the habit of collecting 10 workers' salaries all to themselves is another big achievement."
Be that as it may, a few days after his victory at the polls, another controversy raged in the state about the where-about of el-Rufai, as it was rumoured that he was involved in a fatal accident that claimed the life of his driver. The speculation is being viewed as the continuation of the dirty politics by other means after the guber polls, as governor el-Rufai later emerged last Friday after more than a week away from the seat of power in Kaduna.
With the arrival of el-Rufai from his vacation overseas, it is the expectations of Kaduna people that he settles down for governance. It is also hoped that he would draw the opposition closer for an inclusive government to build the state despite the threat by PDP's guber candidate, Ashiru, to go to the Elections Tribunal for redress over the governorship polls.