Lessons from Adamawa
If INEC learnt anything from the highly contentious Presidential and National Assembly elections of 25 February 2023 and the 18 March 2023 Governorship and State Assembly elections, it did not reflect much in the quality of the supplementary elections it conducted on April 15 2023. In Adamawa State, where the Governorship election was declared inconclusive on the ground that the number of cancelled votes exceeded the margin of lead between the People’s Democratic Party candidate, incumbent Governor Ahmadu Fintiri and his closest challenger, Aishatu Dahiru (also known as Binani) of the All Progressives’ Congress, the outcome of the supplementary election led to what could be called an attempted civilian coup.
The Returning Officer, Professor Mele Lamido, had by 9Am on April 16 2023 announced results from 10 of the affected Local Government Areas in the state, which showed that Governor Fintiri was comfortably in the lead. The Returning Office then announced a recess and said the collation and announcement of more results would resume by 11am that same day. However during the recess, the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Hudu Yunusa-Ari, came to the collation centre with a handwritten note, and announced Aisha Dahiru as the winner. Shortly after this usurpation of the role of the Returning Officer, Ms Dahiru, in an apparently well-choreographed move, gave an Acceptance Speech which was televised live by NTA. This threw the collation centre into confusion as party agents kicked.
Following the confusion, INEC first summoned both the Returning Officer and the Resident Electoral Commissioner to Abuja before later announcing that the purported declaration of Aisha Dahiru as the winner of the election was ‘null and void’. Aisha Dahiru quickly approached a court and filed an ex-parte application through her lawyer, Mohammed Sheriff, in which she asked the court to determine whether INEC could take any further steps on the declared governorship election results made by the state’s REC, Mr Hudu Yunusa-Ari. Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo fixed 26 April 2023 for hearing of the ex-parte application and the motion on whether the court has jurisdiction or not. The refusal of the Court to hear Binani’s ex-parte application same day probably helped to prevent the legitimization of the impunity in Adamawa State.
There are several lessons to be learnt from the Adamawa debacle:
One, the gamble from Hudu Yunusa-Ari apparently borrowed from the jargon popularized by Professor Mahmoud Yakubu that those dissatisfied by any of its actions, including possible cases of impunity, should “go to court”. The street interpretation of this lingo is that one can gamble with any act of rascality and then approach the courts to legitimize such. The subtext is a supposition that the courts are no longer temples where justice is dispensed blindly but avenues for various forms of contestations in which money, networks and other proclivities are valid currencies. It should be recalled that during the collation of the Presidential election results, there were several complaints by some political parties that the figures being announced by Professor Mahmood Yakubu did not tally with what their party agents had. They pleaded for a brief suspension of the collation and announcement of the results to enable a random crosschecking of some of the figures. The INEC Chair declined the request but promised to look into all complaints at the end of the collation exercise. However without apparently doing so, he went ahead to announce the results by 4AM and asked those dissatisfied to “go to court”.
Two, while INEC ended up doing the right thing by announcing that the declaration of Aisha Dahiru as the winner of the election was null and void and concluded the process which led to the declaration of Governor Fintiri as the winner, its initial decision of merely summoning the Resident Electoral Commissioner and the Returning Officer to Abuja was rather a tepid response to a very bad situation. Asking the now suspended and absconded Adamawa REC to stay away from its office, as it did initially, did not show the sort of indignation expected from an organization whose rules were flagrantly violated. One of the unfortunate consequences of this was people resorting to self-help which led to one of INEC’s National Commissioners, Professor Abdullahi Abdu Zuru, a former Vice Chancellor of Usman Dan Fodiyo University, Sokoto being stripped naked and beaten to stupor after being mistaken for Hudu Yunusa-Ari.
Three, the Adamawa debacle reminds us that we were perhaps too quick in assigning a game changer status to BVAS. While it is apparent from reports that BVAS mostly did the job of accreditation that it was meant to do, politicians seemed to have gone back to the drawing board and resurrected the earlier crude practices of ballot box snatching and re-writing or results. Perhaps it may be time to encourage private technology companies to invest in our electoral processes. Such companies can charge political parties to represent them at the various polling units as well as demand subscription fees from people who want to view the results of the elections live on their servers. An arrangement such as this will permit records at INEC’s servers to be compared with those held by the registered private firms.
Four, it is tempting to speculate on what would have would have happened if Hudu Yunusa-Ari is from another part of the country, say the South-east. Will he still be at large by now despite the fact that it was reportedly flown out by a private jet? It is also possible to speculate on what would have happened if it was Arise or Channel or AIT rather than NTA that televised the illegal acceptance speech by Binani. Will the rather hyperactive Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation still be mute? We certainly cannot build a society where citizens will put the country above themselves if they are hurting that the system has different standards for different peoples and operators.
Five, why is Binani’s apparent connivance with the illegality in Adamawa State being treated with levity? Neither her colleagues in the Senate are calling for disciplinary measures against her for embarrassing them nor are women groups calling her out for missing a golden opportunity to write her name in gold by rejecting that illegal declaration –if she was not really part of the plot. Is this a case of gender discrimination against men or the demonstration of the power of female enchantment?
Six, who are Hudu Yunusa-Ari’s co-plotters? Remarkably Festus Kenyamo, Minister of State for Labour and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who ought to know better, celebrated the illegal declaration of Binani as Governor with this tweet: “Just woke up in the US to this wonderful news. I am screaming my head off here! This is such a glass-shattering watershed for the women of Nigeria! Huge congratulations to my sister, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (Binani). At a point in the struggle, we were speaking like a dozen times a day on phone!”
Jideofor Adibe is Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Nasarawa State
University, Keffi and Extraordinary Professor of Government Studies at North Western University Mafikeng South Africa. He is also the founder of Adonis & Abbey Publishers and can be reached at 0705 807 8841(Text or WhatsApp only).