For Kebbi State Independent Electoral Commission (KESIEC), it must have been a mixture of grief and excitement, when the two major political parties All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), jointly repudiated the outcome of the Local Government Poll, it recently organized.
Being the first time a state electoral commission would receive such a denunciation, it could as well be that KESIEC toed the path of impartiality expected of an electoral umpire by doing the right things the right way.
While rejecting the results of last Saturday’s Local Government Election released by KESIEC, APC alleged that the electoral commission surreptitiously substituted names of candidates it submitted to it.
On its part, the opposition PDP hinged its rejection on alleged collusion by security agents with political thugs in perpetrating gross electoral irregularities.
It was perhaps in recognition of KESIEC’s determination to give the LG poll its best shot or in a hurry to get the crucial third tier in place that the governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, decided to swear-in the victorious councilors and chairmen.
Speaking shortly after presenting them with certificates, the governor urged the newly elected 21 council chairmen, vice chairmen, and councilors to create more opportunities to enlarge the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) sources so as to support the payment of new minimum wage and address the security challenges in their domains.
The Kebbi State chief executive noted that the principal challenges ahead of them are how to meet up with financing councils, especially the implementation of the N30, 000 minimum wage workers in their respective councils.
While commending the state independent electoral commission and the ruling party for a good job and superlative performance at the polls, the governor declared: “Today marks another milestone in our democratic journey. It is noteworthy that other parties participated and won in the results that were declared.
“You must mobilize all your people to succeed. I charge you to address the issue of IGR, Security and how to pay N30, 000 national new minimum wage, which Kebbi State ranks among the first states to implement.”
He pleaded with the newly elected council chairmen to be magnanimous in victory and embrace all, even as he challenged them to mobilise the people for their support in order to achieve an effective local government system.
Alhaji Shehu Bashir, a lawyer, who responded on behalf of his colleagues, the newly elected chairmen, assured the people of Kebbi State that they would work conscientiously to meet up with the IGR challenge, the new minimum wage as well as tackle all security issues in their domains effectively.
The state Acting Chief Judge, Muhammad Suleiman Ambursa, administered the oath of office on the new council officials at the Government House, Birnin Kebbi.
It would be recalled that KESIEC had earlier declared all the APC candidates in the 21 Local Government Areas of the state as winners of the election.
But a melodrama ensued last Monday when the commission wanted to issue certificates of return to the newly elected chairmen and councilors, as the leadership of the state chapter of APC disowned the winners.
KESIEC, however, went ahead to undertake the presentation of certificates to the 21 chairmen and 225 councilors that were returned as winners of the Saturday poll.
In the drama, which ensued around 10 am, stakeholders of the party stormed the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Lodge, shouting at the KESIEC officials, elected chairmen and councilor to leave, just as the commission insisted on going ahead with the ceremony.
When a semblance of normalcy returned, KESIEC commissioner in charge of Media and Publicity, Alhaji Kabir Mohammed Dabai Yakaji, who represented the chairman, conducted the presentation of certificates.
In his remarks, Yakaji reiterated KESIEC’s independence, stressing that no other anybody was charged with the responsibility of presenting the certificates of return to the newly elected chairmen and councilors.
While insisting that anyone that failed to appear would be sanctioned, the KESIEC commissioner noted with dismay that people should commend instead of trying to blackmail the commission.
“We have conducted free and fair elections, we will not allow anybody to smuggle in strange names of people that were not elected by the expressed wishes of the state electorate,” he added.
He, therefore, admonished the newly elected officials to be good ambassadors of their people, as well as ensure transparently and committed leadership to the electorate by promoting democracy in the state.
The Guardian gathered that although the certificates of return were supposed to be presented to the chairmen and councilors of the 21 Local Governments Councils, only a few of the chairmen turned up, while all the 225 councilors collected theirs.
ALTHOUGH their reasons for rejecting the outcome of LG poll were divergent, the APC spokesman, Alhaji Sani Dododo, who addressed journalists in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, said the party was disappointed with the state electoral commission for removing names of some candidates submitted to KESIEC before the election.
He further alleged that the results released by KESIEC were full of irregularities, adding, “We cannot accept these results, because the names of the vice-chairmen were not there. And some names of councillorship that were submitted were also removed.”
“APC will not accept these results; how can you release the results with only the names of the chairman without those of the vice chairmen and if the commission gives them the certificates of return, then they will sue them to court because it’s unconstitutional” he said.
Dododo, who also made reference to the Koko Besse Local Government Area in iIlea Sabon Gari wards, where for the councillorship, instead of Hadiza Sheahu, the name that was submitted, the one that was used by KESIEC was Mariyam Sambo.
He added that a similar thing occurred in Birnin Kebbi, specifically Gawaso and Makera wards, and called on KESIEC to urgently take actions on the matter or prepare to face legal actions.
Dododo agreed that KESIEC conducted a free and fair election, pointing out that the turn out was quite impressive and timely arrival of materials. “I commended them for that; and the security agents for peaceful conduct during the election,” he added.
But disagreeing with APC’s conclusions, the Kebbi State chapter of PDP said the LG poll was marred by irregularities and ridiculous use of security agents and political thugs to intimidate the voters.
The state PDP chairman, Alhaji Haruna D. Saidu, who addressed a press conference at the party’s secretariat, said his party has rejected the Local Government poll results.
He declared that there was no election in the state, explaining that while the voters queued up in readiness to cast their ballots, materials were not given to them, since according to him thugs had a field day.
While contending that the election result as announced by KESIEC was nothing but a gross misrepresentation of the deeply hurt feelings of the people of Kebbi State.
Giving instances of the irregularities that characterized the LG poll, Saidu said: “In Zuru, Mahyama, Dandi, Arewa, and other Local Government Areas, elections were not conducted. We have the facts and figures, so we are going to meet them in court. There was ballot snatching, security agents connived with snatchers, with intimidation of innocent voters.”
The Kebbi State PDP chairman expressed dismay over the results, lamenting that the Kebbi State Government was not ready to make changes out of the refusal to heed the yearnings of the masses.
“We won almost all the elections in the 21 Local Government Areas, both the chairmanship and councillorship, but they ended up giving them six out of eight councilorship positions. We are going to fight this to the last letter,” he asserted.
The chairman, however, urged PDP supporters to remain calm and law-abiding; assuring that the party was working hard to reclaim their mandate.