The Presidency on Sunday warned the All Progressives Congress candidates in states where supplementary elections would hold on Saturday that President Muhammadu Buhari would not manipulate the Independent National Electoral Commission in their favour.
It also warned political leaders making inflammatory statements capable of inciting the citizenry to violence ahead of Saturday’s supplementary elections to desist from such acts immediately.
It also noted that INEC was fully in charge of electoral matters in the country, not President Buhari, who would neither interfere with the process nor change results in favour of the ruling APC.
In a statement on Sunday, the Presidency said some party leaders expected that Buhari would abuse his office by usurping the powers of INEC to turn the table in their favour.
It stated that the President would do no such thing. The Presidency advised party leaders in the six states to work hard to earn the people’s votes on Saturday.
The statement, which was signed by the presidential spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, partly read, “The Presidency also rejects unfair and ridiculous criticisms of President Muhammadu Buhari’s apparent disinterest in the upcoming elections in some states by party members who wrongfully assume that the President will abuse power by changing results to favour them.
“Past presidents of Nigeria were known to interfere in inconclusive elections, and that is why party members appear to be upset that the same thing is not happening now, but President Buhari is a different kind of leader. He swore to defend the constitution and will not veer off from that.
“The constitution of Nigeria gives the President no such powers. It is unfair and ridiculous to criticise President Buhari for not going against the constitution.
“Party members in states where there will be supplementary elections then need to be reminded that they need to work hard to earn their people’s votes, rather than expect President Buhari to manipulate INEC in their favour.”
It further observed that while the ruling APC members were expecting Buhari to interfere, the opposition too had concluded that the President would use INEC to assist his party to victory.
The Presidency maintained that Buhari would not play to the wishes of anyone on the supplementary elections, insisting that the APC must work hard to earn votes.
“Interestingly, while members of the ruling APC were criticising the President for not interfering on their behalf, members of the opposition were condemning the President based on their assumptions that he would definitely interfere, as many in the opposition did while in power.
“Under President Buhari, INEC had been and will be completely independent throughout the elections and will be free from any interference.
“President Buhari is a man of conviction, and the manipulation of election results goes against everything he stands for; INEC is completely in charge,” the Presidency added.
INEC, security agencies meet Tuesday over military role in run-offs
Meanwhile, INEC has summoned an emergency meeting with the leadership of all security agencies to ensure peaceful conduct of the forthcoming supplementary elections scheduled for March 23.
Top on the agenda of the meeting scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow), a source said, was “to sound a note of warning to security agencies on the need to conduct themselves in a manner that will not be injurious to the commitment of INEC to conduct a free, fair and transparent election.”
In states including Rivers and Bayelsa, the opposition PDP had accused the security agencies, particularly the army, of colluding with the APC to harass voters.
On Sunday, the Chief Press Secretary to the chairman of INEC, Rotimi Oyekanmi, confirmed to The PUNCH that the commission would be meeting heads of security agencies on Tuesday.
He was responding to enquiries on the measures being put in place by INEC to ensure that militarisation would not be allowed in the supplementary elections as it was the case in Osun and Ekiti states where voters were reportedly intimidated and not allowed to come out and vote.
“The commission is meeting with security agencies on Tuesday (tomorrow) to discuss this and other related matters. It is better to wait for the outcome of the meeting,” Oyekanmi stated but gave no further details.
Run-off: Ganduje woos voters with projects, PDP, APC bicker
Meanwhile, ahead of Saturday’s supplementary election in Kano State, the state government has started projects including road rehabilitation, construction of boreholes and drainages as well as refuse collection in Gama ward of the Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state.
The election in Gama ward was cancelled following a crisis at the Nasarawa Local Government Area collation centre.
One of our correspondents, who visited the Gama ward on Sunday, noticed that the laying of asphalt on the main access road into the community was nearing completion.
A resident of the ward, Mallam Abdullahi Gama ,who operates a commercial tricycle, said, “I was going home on Friday when I saw some of these projects especially the road.
“The number of projects we have seen in this area within the last three days is more than what we have seen in three years. Even though it is Ganduje’s government that is doing this road, some Kwankwasiyya people have named the road ‘Abba Yusuf road.”
It was learnt that the projects being embarked upon were being funded from the state and local governments joint account where N223.5m was withdrawn from last week.
In his reaction, the PDP governorship candidate in Kano, Kabir Yusuf, described the government’s action as laughable.
According to a statement by Yusuf’s spokesman, Sanusi Tofa, the ongoing road construction work at Gama ward was an act of deception.
Vote-buying is APC’s stock in trade, says PDP
Also, the Kano State chairman of the PDP, Rabiu Bichi, has faulted the withdrawal of N223m, saying it is meant to induce voters ahead of the crucial rerun.
He told The PUNCH, in a telephone interview that, “Everybody knows our candidate has won this election but the outgoing APC administration is desperate to cling to power and has withdrawn this sum to induce voters.
“Within the last few days not less than 10 APC members were arrested for buying Permanent Voter Cards from unsuspecting voters, we have the records.”
Kano govt dismisses PDP’s allegation
But the state Commissioner for Local Governments, Alhaji Murtala Sulegaro, said there was nothing controversial in the N233.5m in question.
He said the opposition was engaging in pure mischief because the fact that there was a pending election did not mean governance must stop.
The commissioner said the releases were made to ensure the completion of ongoing projects to improve the lives of residents and citizens of Kano.
Sulegaro said, “The money is meant for the 44 Local Government Areas, we always release money for the 44 LGAs when we receive federal allocations and I can tell you that these allegations are baseless.
“It is not in all the 13 LGAs that we disbursed the total of N223, 500,000 that we have supplementary election.”
Also speaking on the issue, the state Commissioner for Information, Mallam Mohammed Garba, said the decision of the state government to complete ongoing projects was in line with its current mandate of improving the lives of the people of the state.
Garba, who is also the Publicity Secretary of the 2019 APC campaign in the state, said, “There is nothing the government does at this time that those in opposition will not read meaning into.
“These projects are not only in Gama, there are ongoing projects in other parts of the state where there is no supplementary election.”
On his part, a former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mohammed Ali-Ndume, on Sunday defended the decision of INEC to declare the March 9 governorship poll “inconclusive” in Kano and five other states.
The other states are Sokoto, Benue, Bauchi, Plateau and Adamawa.
He said the move was to ensure fairness to the two leading political parties and their candidates in line with the requirements of the Electoral Act, 2010.
If INEC conducts rerun 20 times we’ll win – Benue PDP
Ahead of the governorship rerun holding in Benue State this Saturday, the two major parties, the APC and the PDP on Sunday said they were ready for the election.
Speaking to one of our correspondents on the telephone, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Bemgba Iortyom, said the party’s victory in the March 23 supplementary governorship election in the state was sure.
Iortyom maintained that the party was adequately prepared for the rerun, adding that the PDP would all go out to mobilise its supporters and people of the state to come out and vote.
“It is up to INEC to do the right thing because we don’t understand why INEC cancelled the votes in the first place. Just as l said earlier that we are going to mobilise our supporters to cast their votes on Saturday again and is up to INEC to determine what and what to do after the rerun, but we believe that if INEC conducts supplementary elections in Benue 20 times, the PDP will win all.
“We won all the three senatorial seats, won eight House of Representatives’ seats out of 11 declared.
“In the state’s House of Assembly poll, we won 18 out of the 24 seats that were already declared. So, this clearly shows that the PDP is on the ground and I don’t understand how the APC which won one House of Representatives’ seat, three House of Assembly’s seats would go and win the supplementary election. The majority votes which we are talking about is still there,” Bemgba said.
Nothing is impossible for God, says Benue APC
But the state Chairman of the APC, Abba Yaro, said the ruling PDP in the state would be defeated during the run-off.
Yaro, who noted that the party would not place its cards on the table for the opposition party to turn the table against it, said the APC would win the election.
“The APC is well prepared for the run-off but we cannot lay our cards on the table for the opposition party to feast on. It is our strategy, we will win the election,” he said.
When asked how would the party cancel the lead margin of over 81,000 votes, Yaro said, “With God nothing is impossible, wait and allow God to do that.”