Kogi 2015: And The Man Died… | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

Columnists, The Roundtable

Kogi 2015: And The Man Died…

Posted: Nov 25, 2015 at 12:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


Against all dire predictions, the Kogi State Governorship Election was adjudged by most observers to be generally peaceful and credible – except for isolated cases of electoral malfeasances. And from all indications it had the trappings of a major electoral upset. From the results released at the State Collation Centre in Lokoja, the challenger, one-time governor and APC candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, had won in 16 LGAs, while the incumbent governor and PDP candidate, Idris Wada, carried just five states.


The election was, however, declared inconclusive simply because the Electoral Act provides that where the margin of victory is less than the number of “registered” voters in polling units where elections were either cancelled or did not hold, the election should be so declared. Watching the way PDP agents at the venue, where the announcement was made, were jubilating one would have thought the announcement meant their candidate had won the election. On the other hand, the APC agents looked very dejected.

I personally wondered why APC agents were so pensive and did not see any reason for their rather downcast mood as it was just a case of a delayed coronation. It does not require rocket science to realize that the PDP candidate had lost the election and there isn’t a scintilla of chance that he would garner enough votes to override the huge majority the APC had built up.

Audu was reportedly leading by 41,000-odd votes. The total number of “registered” voters in the 91 polling units where elections were cancelled or didn’t hold was said to be about 49,000. On the surface, it would appear that the PDP candidate was still in a position to retrieve his chestnut from the fire. This could only happen if he garnered more than 41,000 votes. But there is no way he can pull off such a most unlikely outcome given the low voter turnout and the voting pattern.

The clincher is that the number of those actually eligible to vote with PVCs (permanent voter cards) in the 91 polling units is about 25,000. Even in the most unlikely event that they all turn out to cast their votes, and all decide to vote only for Wada, it won’t have prevented Audu from being formally declared winner of the election given the comfortable lead he has already amassed.

And then came the bombshell: the man who was on the verge of recording a historic electoral victory was dead! That was when I realized that the reason why the APC agents were wearing long faces when the election was declared inconclusive was because they had prior knowledge of Audu’s demise. There would have been no loose or untidy ends left if he had been declared the outright winner because his running mate would simply have

been been sworn into office in his stead. The national and state leadership of the APC reportedly were told of the candidate’s demise even before collation of election results had started but prudently decided to tightly keep the news under wraps until after the ‘show’ had ended in order to prevent the kind of confusion and staccato legal opinions that have become the order of the day.

There is no precedence for the Audu situation in our electoral history, Electoral Act and the Constitution and quite predictably a dozen legal and not-so-legal opinions can be bought for just one naira! One major school of opinion believes that with Audu’s death, the election has been annulled and a completely fresh one should be conducted. But given the periods provided in the laws for elections to be conducted and for one governor to succeed another, it would be impossible to start the entire process afresh without veering into the realms of illegality and unconstitutionalism.

Another major school of thought posits that since the ticket is a joint ticket, and going by the legal precedents set by the Supreme Court judgments in the cases of Rotimi Amaechi versus INEC and Abubakar Atiku versus Olusegun Obasanjo, among others, Audu’s running mate should step into his shoes and continue where he left off, since it is political parties that contest elections in Nigeria, under existing laws, and not individuals – the principal reason why symbols of sponsoring political parties, not photographs of the candidates, are to be found on ballot papers.

On its part, the APC insists that the Returning Officer, Prof. Emmanuel Kucha, erred in law and in fact by not recognizing the provisions of Section 179 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which does not contain the clause about declaring an election inconclusive on the basis of the relationship between the winning margin and the number of registered voters espoused by the Electoral Act. The ruling party insists that “the constitution supersedes any guidelines by INEC or the Electoral Act 2007 (as amended).”

There can be no gainsaying the fact that both the APC and PDP, as well different individuals within each party, would be scheming to reap maximum capital from the apparent electoral conundrum in Kogi State. As a “highly informed common man,” I suggest that: (1) INEC should immediately give the APC a maximum of seven days to nominate a replacement candidate at a special congress; (2) supplementary elections should be conducted in only the 91 polling units where elections were cancelled or did not hold; and (3) the supplementary election should be conducted within the next 14 days – there is no law that says that elections can only be conducted on weekends in Nigeria.

In order to focus on the Kogi guber poll, which is the most critical at the moment, INEC should postpone the Bayelsa governorship election already slated for December 5 to December 19 (two weeks). If, where and when deemed necessary, INEC could approach the National Assembly to ease its assignments with the enactment of the doctrine of necessity as was the case when Goodluck Jonathan was to takeover from an ailing Umaru Yar’Adua in an acting capacity.

The National Assembly should immediately assign itself the task of reviewing the Electoral Act to bring it in sync with the relevant provisions of the Constitution. The clause, for instance, that speaks of “registered” voters when the winning margin is less should be amended to read “accredited” voters. If this had been the case, the polity would have been spared the kind of tension, confusion, underground scheming and political antagonism that have arisen from the so-called inconclusive election in Kogi State.