After three years in office, the present administration in Kaduna State conducted local government elections last weekend. The controversy generated by the polls is yet to die down, BABA NEGEDU reports
Almost a week after the conduct of the local government elections in Kaduna State, controversy still trails the final results of the polls. This is as the social media has become awash with results being bandied about by individuals mainly on party leaning and interests in individual candidates.
The situation is compounded by the fact that the Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission, (KAD-SIECOM) had kept mute despite its avowed comment that the results of the elections would be declared at the local government collation centres.
Meanwhile, this is as some of the Returning officers, who are supposed to declare the results, have absconded from their duty posts, some with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and other materials used for the elections, leaving the electorate in many wards confused.
Four days (Tuesday) after the conduct of the elections, youths from Narayi ward in Chikun Local Government Area, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis took to the streets to protest the attitude of SIECOM officials and the returning officer for the area, who they claimed abandoned the EVMs and other voting materials for almost four days without coming to collate the results and announce the winners.
As it stands, allegations are rife in the state over the veracity of some of the results following allegations that some were announced in the state capital, others at the local government level, some announced on radio while others by persons other than the returning officers. For instance, there is still controversy trailing election results in Je’ama, Kajuru, Sanga and Kagarko local government areas.
This is as election has been declared inconclusive in Kaduna South and Chikun local government areas. Also elections were canceled in two local government areas in the southern part of the state, namely Jaba and Kaura, where the deputy governor of the state, Bala Barnabas Bantex hails from.
The state government said the cancellation became necessary following reports of violence a day before the elections. It was this situation that made the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates and aggrieved stakeholders to raise an alarm on Wednesday, over the prevailing situation, insisting that the Returning Officers must return to their duty posts and announce results of the elections.
Among the aggrieved parties were the PDP candidates from Chikun, Jema’a, Sanga, Kajuru and Kagarko local government areas. They are insisting that results must be announced at the collation centres in accordance with the law for the purpose of fairness and transparency. According to them, “the SIECOM law number 23, Sub Section A,B and 29 and 2b, says the Returning Officers are expected to announce results at the ward and local government collation centres.
But as we speak today, we are yet to hear the Returning Officers of Jema’a, Kagarko,Kajuru,Sanga and Chikun local government areas announce official results of the Saturday’s election.
They have all suddenly disappeared.” While the controversy rages, there is no doubt that even before votes were cast, the local government elections in Kaduna State had been dogged by claims and counter-claims. On assumption of office the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, had promised that he would conduct the local government elections within three months, but it took three years before the elections held.
Just before the polls, the two main political parties – the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) kicked against the date of the polls for different reasons.
At a stakeholders meeting organised by the electoral management body to discuss modalities and the way forward following the fire incident that engulfed the headquarters of the commission, the APC and PDP called for the postponement of the elections.
APC Acting State Secretary, Yahaya Baba-Pate, had postulated that the scheduled election will be too close to the forthcoming national convention of the party, while the PDP on its part insisted that it was not comfortable with the decision of SEICOM to conduct the council polls without card readers.
Alhaji Ibrahim Wusono, PDP State Secretary alleged that it was a grand design by the APC to rig the elections. “Conducting the elections without card readers is not acceptable to us in PDP.
The card readers must be made available during the election,” he insisted. But responding, the SEICOM Boss, Mrs. Binta Audu-Dikko, told the political parties that the commission was ready to go on with the polls.
On the fire incident, she said since sensitive materials were not affected, there was no need to postpone the elections. Consequently, the election held as proposed.
But so many issues came up during the exercise even though the voting process and the performance of the EVMs were adjudged credible. The state’s adoption of the electronic voting system is first of its kind in Nigeria and was hailed by many voters, who adjudged it user friendly and fast. However, as always in Nigeria, the human factor played a part to cast doubt over what ordinarily would have been a smooth process.
It started with the late arrival of some of the officials, materials and inability of some to operate the machines even after they were said to have been adequately trained on the process.
This was compounded by the disappearance of many of the returning officers mainly in the Southern and Central senatorial districts of the state seen as strongholds of the opposition immediately after voting.
Expectedly, the PDP did not take it lightly. Addressing a press conference on the conduct of the polls, the state Chairman of the PDP, Hassan Hyet, accused the APC of electoral fraud.
The party said APC in collaboration with SIECOM stole the mandate given to it by the people of Kaduna State in the local government elections. The PDP chairman, while calling on the party’s supporters to remain calm, also faulted the performance of the EVMs, saying that the manufacturers were supposed to have sent someone to Kaduna to monitor the machines to avoid malfunction in some polling units.
This is as he also alleged that some electronic voting machines were snatched from election officials and taken to unknown destinations only for results to be announced on radio stations.
But, Governor El-Rufai said he has received reports of the situation on the field and promised to investigate the claims. Speaking to newsmen shortly after the APC local government congress for Kaduna North on Monday, El-Rufai said despite the “human factor” that affected some aspects of the election, the EVMs worked “perfectly well.”
The governor also vowed to prosecute those, who tried to sabotage the process and announced fake results. According to him, in spite of the success recorded “we have sadly noted that those political forces that do not want free and fair elections tried to sabotage the process. We will investigate and prosecute those indicted. Also, legal action will be taken against individuals and institutions that announced false results.”
The governor said the legal action became necessary because in a state that suffered painful post-election violence in 2011, we cannot condone such recklessness or neglect to undertake vigorous prosecution.”
While the various parties continue to trade blames over the outcome of the polls, all eyes are on KADSIECOM to put the controversy to rest by authenticating the results.
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