There is palpable tension in Benue, Plateau, Sokoto and Kano states as thousands of voters in selected polling units file out this morning to conclude the elections that will determine winners of the governorship polls in the states.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared governorship elections in those states inconclusive, citing electoral violence and over-voting among other reasons.
President Muhammadu Buhari in a statement last night urged Nigerians to turn out massively for today’s elections, promising that he would no tamper with the electoral wishes of Nigerians.
As at press time, INEC had moved sensitive and in-sensitive materials to all the locations the rerun elections will hold, while assuring citizens that it would conduct a free and fair poll.
Security has also been very tight in the four states, particularly in the local government areas where the rerun will hold.
The Police High Command has deployed five Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIGs), three Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) and 15 police commissioners with express orders to maintain adequate security in today’s supplementary elections.
Those affected by the deployment include DIG Usman Tilli Abubakar, Adamawa State; DIG Yakubu Jubrin, Benue State; DIG Frederick Taiwo Lakanu, Plateau State; DIG Anthony Ogbizi Michael, Kano State and DIG Godwin C. Nwobodo, Bauchi State.
Out of the 15 additional CPs deployed, Benue and Sokoto states got three each; Adamawa, Bauchi, Kano and Plateau states, two each, while Imo State got one.
The IGP Mohammed Adamu charged them to remain patriotic, steadfast, professional, neutral and civil, but firm, in their conducts and actions during the make-up elections.
He warned politicians not to undermine the electoral process by engaging in untoward practices such as snatching of ballot boxes, vote trading and violence of all kinds, stressing that violators would be made to face the full consequences of the law.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have been making frantic efforts to ensure victory in the acrimonious supplementary elections in the four states.
Days leading to the polls have been rancorous, with the PDP and APC candidates making rigging and counter-rigging allegations in their states.
At the national level, the PDP had alleged that it uncovered clandestine security meeting between the presidency, certain top officials of INEC and security agencies aimed at hijacking today’s supplementary elections, thus, raising tension nationwide.
In Benue State, today’s rerun elections will hold in 204 polling units across 19 local government areas. Of the 121,670 registered voters in the affected polling units, 109,733 who collected PVCs are eligible to vote.
Incumbent Governor Samuel Ortom of the PDP is leading the race with 81,554 votes more than his closest rival, Emmanuel Jime of the APC.
After the March 9 election, PDP polled 420,576 votes, while APC scored 329,022.
However, INEC had to declare the election inconclusive because cancelled votes- 121,091 were higher than the margin between the two top candidates. Ortom looks good to win today.
In Plateau State, rerun elections will hold in 40 polling units spread across nine local government areas of the state. The supplementary election may turn out to be a mere formality. Already, the incumbent governor and APC candidate, Mr. Simon Lalong is as good as having won the contest.
INEC’s Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Prof. Richard Kimbir, declared the election inconclusive on March 2, saying the number of cancelled votes were higher than the margin between the two leading candidates.
In the declared election result, Lalong polled 583,255 votes while Jeremiah Useni of the PDP secured 538,326 votes. With a margin 44,929 between the two contestants and 49,377 cancelled votes, Kimbir declared the election inconclusive.
In Sokoto, the PDP candidate, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal is clinging to a narrow lead ahead of his APC counterpart, Ahmad Aliyu Sokoto.
Tambuwal leads with 3,413 votes. On March 2, the PDP candidate polled 489,558 while the APC candidate polled 486,090 votes.
INEC’s returning officer, Prof. Fatima Muktar declared the election inconclusive “since the cancel votes (30,082) were more than the margin between the winner and the candidate that placed second.”
In Kano, today’s rerun will determine the political careers of the state’s former governor, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
PDP candidate, Abba Yusuf polled 1,014,474 to beat APC’s Umar Ganduje, who polled 987,819. Total margin between both APC and PDP candidate was 26,000 while total votes cancelled was 141,694.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of the state, Riskuwa Shehu, declared election inconclusive due to high number of cancelled votes compared to margin between APC and PDP candidate.
Today, there will be supplementary polls in over 170 polling units in Kano State.
Kwankwaso and Ganduje were political allies from 1999 when they were elected as governor and deputy governor respectively, up to 2015 when the former nominated the latter to succeed him as the state governor.
In less than two years after the election that brought Ganduje to power, his relationship with his former boss became sour which finally led to the defection of Kwankwaso to the PDP.
Ganduje is seeking re-election to complete a second tenure as governor while Yusuf is contesting governorship for the first time.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari last night appealed to Nigerians to come out en masse and vote in today’s supplementary elections.
In a statement, presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said Buhari, who thanked voters for re-electing him for a second term in office, promised not to forget their sacrifices in defying harsh weather conditions to vote for him.
It also said Buhari appealed to voters not to get tired of coming out to vote in the supplementary elections, because ‘‘these elections are no less important than others before them.’’
The statement said while appealing to voters to vote for candidates of their choice, because it is their “constitutionally guaranteed democratic rights,” the president dismissed rumours and insinuations that he was forcing voters to elect candidates other than those they preferred.
He described the rumours as baseless, insisting that at no time did he give such instructions to the electorate, adding: “I believe in the will of the people, and I cannot, therefore, put pressure on voters to elect leaders they don’t like.”
The statement added: “President Buhari also called on INEC and security agencies to ensure that the supplementary elections are conducted peacefully and in accordance with the law and constitution.
“The President assured Nigerians that he is ready to work with elected representatives of the people regardless of party platforms on which they are elected. President Buhari said he will work in the best interest of the country and democracy.”