Bauchi elections: They’re after my life – returning officer

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Mrs. Dominion Anosike, the returning officer for Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State, in the gubernatorial election, has written to Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), requesting to appear before the electoral body at its headquarters in Abuja.

She was expected to appear before a committee set up by INEC to investigate controversies over the cancellation of the results of the governorship election in Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area of Bauchi State.

But Mrs. Anosike has requested to present her case in Abuja rather than in Bauchi on account of threats to her life.

The letter, dated March 13, 2019, was addressed to the National Chairman of INEC and was received in his office on March 14, 2019.

In the letter, she stated: “I superintended over the above election in Tafawa Balewa LGA as the returning officer and I believe that there will be need for your committee to find out from me what transpired at the collation centre that led to the cancellation of the result by the resident electoral commissioner for Bauchi State.

“The purpose of this letter to your good offices is to indicate my desire to appear before the team in another location, preferably Abuja – as doing that in Bauchi State would constitute a threat to my life, as I have already been threatened with instant death, should I be found anywhere in or near Bauchi State.”

It would be recalled that the returning officer for Bauchi State governorship election, Prof. Mohammed Kyari, had cancelled the election of Tafawa Balewa LGA on Sunday evening, citing the failure of Mrs. Anosike to use the prescribed form to enter the result of the elections collated across the local government areas.

This was despite the explanation given by her to the commission that the result sheets for the governorship election were carted away by thugs who invaded the collation centre in Zwall, Tafawa Balewa LGA, in the early hours of Sunday.

She had also notified the commission via an explanatory memorandum signed by all stakeholders in the election at the collation centre who unanimously agreed to collate and record the result on another form, and addressed same to the resident electoral commissioner and the state returning officer, which was submitted in Bauchi on Sunday.

However, the state returning officer, Prof. Mohammed Kyari, rejected the explanation and unilaterally declared that there was no result for Tafawa Balewa LGA and cancelled the election of the entire local government area even though there was no incident of cancellation, violence, or electoral malpractice at both the polling unit and ward levels as reported by the returning officer.

The PDP candidate, Sen. Bala Mohammed, was in the lead after results of 19 LGAs were collated, with the incumbent governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar of the APC, trailing behind with a margin of over 4000 votes.

In the contentious Tafawa Balewa LGA, the PDP had scored 40,000 votes against the APC’s 29,000, putting the PDP ahead with about 15,000 votes.

It would be recalled that when a similar incident occurred during the presidential election on February 23 in Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State, when the collation officer discovered that the result sheet for the presidential election was missing, all party agents and electoral officers unanimously agreed to record the result on another form which was accepted by the commission and collated as part of the result from Bauchi State.

Similarly, following an attack and destruction of result sheets at Nasarawa LGA collation centre by thugs, the resident electoral commissioner of the state decided that since elections held and result were declared at various polling units and wards, the results could not be cancelled and adopted regenerated results from the wards and polling units.

Meanwhile, last minute moves to salvage a bad situation may have been the reason two governors, Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State, and Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa State, visited the presidency on Thursday.

Although their mission was not stated, they met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo behind closed doors, separately, before they took their leave.

Sources within the presidency, however, disclosed that both governors may have visited the vice president, apparently to lobby him and ensure he intervened in the supplementary governorship elections slated for March 23 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Their fears, the source said, stemmed from the fact that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) appeared to be having upper hand in those states.

They refused to state their mission to State House correspondents who sought to speak with them.

The two governors are seeking a second term on the platform of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

But the governorship results of the March 9 election in the two states were declared inconclusive, including that of Kano, Sokoto, and Benue.

In the case of Bauchi, Prof. Mohammed Kyari, the returning officer had stated that apart from the cancellation of the result from the entire Tafawa Balewa Local Government Area, there were irregularities as the exercise in some other polling units also suffered the same fate.

Kyari had stated: “The margin between the winner and opponent is less than the total number of votes cancelled in some polling units.

“By law, since the margin of winner is less than the total number of votes cancelled and registered voters in the areas where the votes have been cancelled, this election is hereby declared inconclusive.”

He said the decision was in line with section 26, part 53 of the Electoral Act.

While announcing the votes garnered by the two contending parties before declaring the outcome inconclusive, the returning officer had given the scores of incumbent governor, Mohammed Abubakar of APC as 465,453 votes and that of Bala Mohammed of PDP as 469,512 votes.

Kyari had also stated that INEC would conduct re-run election within 21 days in the affected local government area and polling units which results had been cancelled before the final announcement of the winner.

It would be recalled that the opposition candidates in the PDP were leading in five states, which included Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa, and Benue.

Although INEC has fixed March 23 for supplementary elections in the affected states some of the APC governors held a private meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, obviously on similar agenda.

A source privy to the meeting, who craved anonymity, had stated that the president was not favourably disposed to their request for intervention, especially as he had vowed to leave a legacy of free, fair and credible polls.

Among the governors that initially thronged the State House, Abuja, to lobby the president shortly after he returned from Daura, Katsina State, where he had gone to exercise his franchise the previous week, were Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Muhammad Badaru, (Jigawa), and Ibrahim Shettima of Borno State.

Abdulaziz Yari, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) and governor of Zamfara State, was said to have led the governors to the meeting with the president reportedly in a last-ditch effort to assist the party clinch victory in states almost eluding it.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) on Thursday said it was currently mobilising its members and Nigerians to vote for candidates of the party in the March 23 supplementary polls in six states where governorship elections were declared inconclusive after the March 9 elections.

The affected states are Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau, and Sokoto while the election in Rivers was suspended indefinitely by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

In order to achieve victory, the party may enter into alliance talks with some political parties that participated in elections in the affected states.

Speaking with newsmen on Thursday, Lanre Issa-Onilu, the APC’s National Publicity Secretary, said the party would leave no stone unturned in its efforts to secure victory in the affected state.

He said: “We are getting ready to ensure that we mobilise our members and Nigerians to come out and vote for APC.”

When asked if the APC would adopt the strategy it used during the supplementary election in Osun last year, Issa-Onilu replied in the affirmative, saying the APC would do everything legal to ensure it won in the six states.

“Yes, that is what I am saying. We will put in all that is legal to ensure that we will achieve victory,” he said.

It would be recalled that the leadership of the APC as well as governors and ministers elected on its platform had mobilised to Osun State for the supplementary election held on September 27, 2018.

It also entered into alliance with Senator Iyiola Omisore, candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a key factor which led to its eventual victory in the runoff election conducted in one polling unit in Oyere in Ife-North, one polling unit in Olode in Ife-South, another polling unit in Osi, Ife-South, three polling units in Orolu, Kajola Local Government Area of the state and one polling unit in Osogbo.

Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had won the main election held on September 22 with 353 votes after polling 254,698 against Gboyega Oyetola of APC who had 254,345 votes. APC eventually won the election.

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