To All Progressives Congress(APC) in Kebbi State, the October 26,2019 Local Government election was a testing ground for the 2023 general election. It was an avenue where different caucuses within the party showcased their political strength and popularity.
But for the opposition parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it was a different ball game. The LG polls offered the best opportunity to understudy which caucus within APC would feel disenchanted and allign with the main opposition party.
At the end of the tension-soaked exercise, the council election which took place in 225 wards across the 21 local government areas of the state turned out to be a game of checks and balance for APC unlike the PDP, the main opposition party, which was still contending with the mass defection that rocked its State executive. While the mainstream caucus in APC was trying to outshine minority groups in various LGAs, those who claimed to be disfranchised members refused to participate fully in the poll.
Prior to the election day, the Kebbi State Independent Electoral Commission (KESIEC) had confirmed that out of 51 political parties billed to participates in the October 26 local government election, only five parties sought extension for three weeks.
Commissioner II, in charge of Media and Public Relations, Alhaji Kabiru Muhammed Dabai who confirmed this while briefing newsmen on the Commission’s readiness for the poll had said: “We have sat with 51 political parties and they have agreed that election which is coming up in 21 local government areas on the 26th October, 2019 should hold. All these 51 political parties had signed the agreement with us; only 5 of these parties asked for three weeks extension. But you know, this is democracy, majorities would have the final says. We don’t have any litigation against us, no threat from any party on boycotting the forthcoming election. Just like I said, 51 political parties attended our meeting few minutes ago and they all signed attendance list”.
Despite assurances by the Commission, the result of the election was delayed for four days after the exercise thereby, creating suspense and tension in the state.
However, the Commission which later released the chairmanship seats results of all the 21 Local government areas declared APC candidates as winners of all the Chairmanship positions in the state while two wards election were inconclusive.
Chairman of the Commission, Aliyu Muhammed Mera who made this declaration through a release signed by him and made available to reporters in Birnin Kebbi noted that the affected wards were in Argungu and Dandi local government areas of the state.
Mera who attached results of only Chairmanship seats along with the statement said: “the KESIEC wishes to release the official results of the Kebbi State local government Council general election held on Saturday, 26th October, 2019 as already declared by the various ward and local government Returning Officers in 223 wards of the 21 LGAs across the state.
“ Meanwhile, two polling units, one in Argungu and one in Dandi local government areas are inconclusive. However, election in the two polling units will be conducted on Saturday 2nd, November,2019”.
The Commission did not mention the names of the two affected wards where the election would be rescheduled in the statement issued to reporters.
The Commission however declared that APC won all the 21 Chairmanship seats in the state while the main opposition party, PDP did not win a single seat.
Following initial refusal of the Commission to release final results, suspected supporters of main opposition in the state especially at Felende ward, Argungu Local government resulted to violent protest. They barricaded major road linking Birnin Kebbi, and Argungu town, agitating for declaration of the ward election results, which they claimed favoured their councillorship candidates.
One of the protesters ,Abdullahi Felende who spoke to newsmen claimed that; “the returning officer sensing the PDP candidate had won Felende ward, refused to declare him winner of the Councillorship election. We have decided to remain here until they do what is right”.
Similarly, APC, also rejected the councillorship candidates of Gawassu and Makera wards of Birnin Kebbi declared as winners by KESIEC.
The party’s Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Sanni Dododo who made the party’s position known while speaking with journalists on the local government election argued that ; “the names of those declared as winners in Makera and Gawassu wards by the KESIEC were not the names forwarded by the APC to KESIEC”.
Dododo said out of 15 wards in Birnin Kebbi Local Government, only two wards, namely; Makera and Gawassu wards councilorship candidates’ names forwarded by the party to KESIEC, were doctored and replaced with unknown candidates without the knowledge of the party.
He said: “candidates declared as the winners under the platform of APC in Makera and Gawassu wards of Birnin Kebbi Local Government were not the names APC forwarded to the Commission. We hereby reject the candidates declared by the KSIEC”.
The ruling party, APC had about 800 aspirants who contested for the Chairmanship and Councillorship position in 21 LGAs and 225 wards under the APC in the primary election held at various Councils’ headquarters. To streamline the number of aspirants, the party’s Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Dododo told newsmen that the reconciliation committee of the party had addressed grievances of other contestants who did not win the primary election.
He had said: “our Reconciliation Committee sat for 59 days and night addressing, considering and discussing with contestants in order to meet up with the deadline of the KSIEC. About 800 contestants showed interest to participate in the APC primary election which included 200 chairmanship and over 500 Councillorships candidates”.
While briefing newsmen on the performance of KSIEC, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu commended the State Independent Electoral Commission (KSIEC) for providing adequate voting materials and large turnout of women at various polling units. The governor noted that the development has demonstrated that Nigeria’s democracy is fostering and waxing stronger.
Bagudu who voted at his polling units, Mai Alelu polling unit at Nassarawa ward, Birnin Kebbi said; “Everybody has a role to play in fostering our democracy. My party which I belonged to had organised its primary election and even there are court cases on it. This showed that there is true reflection that primary election took place.
“Local Government election provides an opportunity for the people to make their choice to be made on whom will be their chairmen, councillors. Today, I came here to vote and I have spent up to 20 minutes here. Since I came here, I observed three things,; there is free flow of people coming to vote, there is adequate voting materials, and political agents are all here representing various political parties.
“All the ingredients are in place, that is to say, all the polling units are organized and there is an opportunity for people who come out to exercise their franchise. Mobilization of people can still go on and I think that is the beauty of democracy.”
Reacting to the anomalies in the election, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Argungu and Augie federal constituency from Kebbi State, Isa Bashar Matawalle also called on the KSIEC to cancel two wards in Argungu local government in the last October 26, 2019 local government election held in the 21 LGAs of Kebbi State .
Matawalle alleged that in Galadima and Dikko wards in his constituency, Argungu LGA, Returning Officers declared results even when the electorate had not completed voting. He said: “I went to cast my vote in the morning,what I saw was fascinating and encouraging because people were voting. By 2:30 pm, I branched to one village,Tungar Maidawa to check the complaints of people. Unfortunately as I was about to enter the village, I heard that the returning officer of Argungu local government has announced the results of all the wards which included the ward I was about to check while people were still casting their votes. Election results were just announced “.
Matawelle who fingered some people within the APC to have connived with the Argungu local government electoral officers especially the local government Returning Officer to perpetrate the dastardly act, however exonerated APC headquarters, KSIEC Chairman and Kebbi Government from the anomalies. He blamed some politicians in Argungu for the plot to rig the election in the wards he mentioned and insisted that Justice, equity and fair play must be observed during conduct of election even to the opposition parties that win their election.
In his reaction, the PDP spokesman, Mr. Ibrahim Umai assured the supporters of the party that their candidates in the election would emerge victorious in few wards and Councils if “ election is free and fair.“
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