Across the Northwest region of the country, last week’s Presidential and National Assembly elections served as a litmus test on how the electorate’s resolve to bring about leadership change could not always be discountenanced.
In fact, the outcome of the polls may have given a hint on the voting pattern for the governorship elections come March 11, 2023. The voting population in Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa states had tested their electoral capacity in impacting changes in the states and brought about purposeful leadership.
Although opinion leaders and other stakeholders who x-rayed the elections outcomes applauded the introduction and deployment of the new electoral system, they faulted the ability of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor and ensure that the ultimate outcome in the states were not flawed through malpractices that were witnessed in the Northwest.
For instance, the leaders of Joint Action Committee of Northern Youth Associations (JACOM), Northern Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and the renowned Northern Islamic Cleric, Sheikh Ahmed Abubakar Gumi faulted the outcome of the Presidential and National Assembly poll, warning INEC against derailing the democratic process and perpetuating poor leadership.
The leader and convener of JACOM, Murtala Abubakar who assessed the performance of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in the just concluded Presidential elections in the Northwest region where they have held sway, said the results showed that the governors of most of the states lost their political value and relevance because of their bad governance, saying that this translated to the voters rejecting them, despite the amount of irregularities that were recorded across the states.
Murtala said that the outcomes in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina were clear indications of the total rejection of the governors and their cronies who vied for National Assembly positions, pointing out that, “the governors could not even deliver to the President-elect, Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu because they do not have political value and credibility among voters.”
“The performance of NNPP in Kano is quite impressive. This really shows that the voting population and the people are tired of the policy and poor governance of Governor Umar Ganduje. And this translated to his inability to deliver to APC during the Presidential Elections. When you take note that the governors of most of these Northwest states are mostly APC, and that the instruments of power are in their hands, and yet they could not sway voters. This speaks volume that they have been rejected by electorates in their states. See, if INEC had allowed the use of BVAS and also allowed the votes of the electorates to count, it would have been a Tsunami in those states.”
He argued that, “for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other opposition parties to have recorded the number of votes garnered in the elections in Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano states inspite of the irregularities, it shows that the APC have lost political relevance and the will power to carry the people along because of poor governance and bad policies.”
According to him, “where the PDP and other opposition parties had problems were Jigawa and Zamfara where the people in the states also cried foul of the electoral processes,” stressing that “Jigawa state is supposed to be a strong hold of the PDP, but as the election turned out during the Presidential and National Assembly poll, it has fallen again into the hands of APC.”
The Northern CAN Secretary General, Elder Sunday Oibe said in his reaction, that “our general observation on the conduct of the elections in Northwest states is such that there is so much INEC has to do to protect its credibility.”
Oibe said: “For instance, in the polling units where I and some members voted in the northwest states, as at 11am we had not seen INEC officials and materials. That was the cry of all our people across the Northwest zone. I think INEC has to wake up and perform better than what we have seen so far, especially as we prepare for the Governorship election next Saturday.
Also, the Northern Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gumi blamed INEC for allegedly failing to follow proper procedure in the conduct of the just concluded presidential elections and the declaration of the APC candidate, Tinubu winner of the poll.
According to him, there have been series of protests across the country following the declaration of Tinubu as winner of February 25, poll.
The Labour Party and the main opposition PDP have vowed to challenge the results, alleging that the electoral body was compromised by the ruling party.
Reacting to the controversy, Gumi asked the aggrieved parties to seek redress in court, saying that if there is no justice, the nation may be plunged into chaos. He, however, warned against violent protest, citing the country’s challenges and the fact that the polity is tensed up already.
In Kano State, the final verdict of the elections may have contradicted the presumption of pundits who perhaps relied on the general political outlook to reach their conclusion ahead of the elections.
One of the strong assumptions that influences voting pattern is power of incumbency. But the result of February 25, 2023 election showed otherwise. Official results from INEC showed how APC secured six seats and lost 18 seats of the House of Representatives to the opposition New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). At the same time, APC reclaimed one senate seat and lost two to opposition NNPP.
Similarly, the ruling APC failed to deliver its presidential candidate, Tinubu, as the INEC results indicated landslide victory for NNPP presidential candidate, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso against other presidential candidates. In the final results, Kwankwaso polled 997,279 votes, Tinubu scored 517,341 votes, Atiku got 131, 716 while Obi had 28,513 votes.
Considering some factors that may have influenced voting in Kano, aside from the naira redesign policy, which increased hardship for citizens ahead of the elections, the political latitude enjoyed by the presidential candidate of NNPP, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso played a significant role in the voting pattern in Kano.
Kwankwaso, a two-term governor, former Minister of Defense and Senator representing Kano Central during the 8th National Assembly, attracted strong political followers whose form of loyalty to Kwankwaso is more of an ideological creed.
Kano residents ultimately expressed preference for their own essentially because of his indelible footprint left behind while serving as governor of the state. On education, Kwankwaso will never be forgotten for his scholarship scheme that enabled many to further their education up to postgraduate level. It was this singular loyalty and support for Kwankwaso that paved the way and swayed overwhelming votes for him, observers say.
But would Kwankwaso’s votes influence the outcome of the March 11 governorship polls? Special adviser to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje on Public Affairs, Dr. Abati Bako expressed the belief that Tinubu’s emergence as president-elect under the platform of APC is a strong moral booster for APC ahead of next week’s gubernatorial election.
“Kano people will not wish to be on the side of the opposition in Nigeria. The bitter experience of being in opposition in 1979 against the federal government is enough lessons. And that was the reason why in 1993, Kano voted for Abiola’s SDP and rejected the son of the soil, the late Othman Tofa. We in APC hope that people will vote Gawuna and his deputy, Garo, so as to attract more developmental growth from the central government.”
In a counter argument, Sanusi Bature, spokesperson to NNPP gubernatorial candidate, Kabiru Abba Yusuf, insisted the emergence of Tinubu would not swing votes for APC’s gubernatorial candidate. He cited how parties lose elections in Kano despite being in charge at the federal level.
“For us, there is no cause for alarm. For the NNPP to defeat the APC candidate in Kano, winning 18 out of 24 House of Representatives seats and two out of three senatorial seats, we are more than confident that Kano people will not be influenced by APC at the federal level. We have seen how Kwankwaso lost to opposition despite his party being in power at the federal level and how he (Kwankwaso) also won the gubernatorial seat while Mallam Shekarau’s anointed candidate Takai was defeated at a time their party was in power at the federal level.”
Also, in Katsina, for the first time in more than seven years, the ruling APC lost in the February 25 election to PDP in the number of votes cast during the exercise.
According to INEC, PDP’s Atiku got 489,904 votes from 13 council areas, APC’s Tinubu garnered 482,283 votes from 21 council areas, with a differential of more than 6,000 votes.
Atiku won in Batsari, Mashi, Kurfi, Dutsinma, Batagarawa, Kusada, Mani, Kankia, Kankara, Bakori, Jibia, Katsina, and Safana council areas. Tinubu, on the other hand, won in Matazu, Kaita, Musawa, Ingawa, Charanchi, Dutsi, Sandamu, Dandume, Sabuwa, Funtua, Danmusa, Rimi, Maiadua, Bindawa, Baure, Zango, Danja, Faskari, and Malumfashi.
The PDP was also able to win six of the 15 House of Representatives seats, a feat the party was unable to achieve in the last two general elections. The ruling APC, however, won all the three senatorial seats, with Lt. Col. Abdulaziz Yar’Adua, younger brother to late President Umaru Musa, clinching the Katsina Central Senatorial seat.
Yar’Adua, who would be going to the National Assembly for the first time, beat his closest rival of the PDP, Aminu Dalhatu-Kankia by 153,512 to 152,140 votes. Nasiru Sani-Zango, a House of Representatives member, beat his closest rival and incumbent Senator for Katsina North, Ahmed Babba-Kaita, for the senatorial seat. Sani-Zango scored 174,062 votes against Babba-Kaita’s 163,583 votes.
For Katsina South senatorial zone, Muntsri Dandutse beat his closest rival of the PDP, Shehu Garba by garnering 203,245 votes against 151,519 votes. Observers say the defection of some key APC members to the PDP shortly before the election, may have largely been responsible for the outcome of the presidential and National Assembly (NASS) polls in the state.
The APC had lost one of its Senators in person of Ahmed Kaita (Katsina North) as well as three house of representatives members: Hamza Dalhatu (Rimi/Charanchi/Batagarawa), Ahmed Dayyabu (Danmusa/Batsari/Safana), and Salisu Iro (Katsina Central) to the PDP.
A founding member of the APC in the state, and immediate former Secretary to the Government of the State (SGS), Mustapha Inuwa, had also left the ruling party for the PDP.
The five men among others, had reportedly lost favour within the APC due to political horse-trading, and they had moved over along with many of their supporters to the PDP.
Another factor that influenced election outcome, observers say, was the allegation that some persons overseeing government and ruling party affairs, were divulging sensitive information to the opposition.
Shortly before the general elections, not a few government memos and circulars were leaked, especially those that were linked with huge public spending. The PDP had judiciously utilised such information to campaign against the APC, with some of such documents shared widely on social media platforms.
This, however, led to the sacking of some government and party officials few days after the elections were held, particularly persons deemed ‘loyal’ to the defected party members. Those axed include State Secretary of the APC, Shittu S. Shittu, and the party’s Legal Adviser, Nasiru Umar-Wagini.
Others are Works, Housing and Transport Commissioner, Tasiu Dandogoro, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Aminu Waziri; Chairman, State Pilgrims Welfare Board, Yusuf Barmo, and Permanent Secretary, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Fatima Ahmed. They were asked to vacate their positions with “immediate effect”, and asked to hand over to the most senior official.