The Oasis Reporters
February 22, 2018
Kano State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Garba may well be regretting the garbage that suddenly spilled out of his mouth which ought to have been a closely guarded secret in the north western state where violence can erupt easily and thousands die, without provocation.
All in a bid to absolve itself of allegations on electoral misconduct, the Kano state government hurriedly confirmed what former President Goodluck Jonathan was quoted to have said:
“Go and check the results from Kano. The presidential election and that of the National Assembly happened on the same day and same time. The national assembly result reflected that about 800,000 people voted but that of the presidential election reflected a vote of about 1.8 million.”
At a workshop organised by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Kano on Monday, Mohammed Garba, commissioner for information, said videos and pictures of underage voters released recently were captured during the 2015 election, and not in the February 10 local government election as was being insinuated.
The images went viral on social media immediately after the local government election, which was solely won by the All Progressives Congress (APC). The opposition had demanded a cancellation of the exercise, alleging irregularities.
But Garba said antagonists of the government were only raising a false alarm.
“The video that went viral in social media contained scenes where INEC card readers were deployed; and nothing of such was used in the last council poll in Kano — we did not use card readers, and there was no event of under-age voting during the 10 February council poll in Kano state,” he said.
“It was recorded during the last 30 March 2015 election… some mischievous persons are behind the spreading of the clips… that incident happened in 2015.”
INEC SAID IT HAD NO CONTROL BUT WHY DID IT LATER SET UP A PANEL?
When the news first broke, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) distanced itself, blaming it on the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC).
“The commission wishes to inform the public that the images do not relate in any way to any election organised, conducted or superintended by INEC,” Oluwole Uzzi, INEC’s director, voter education and publicity, had said in a statement.
“As far as the commission can ascertain, they relate to a local government election conducted at the weekend, and over which we have no legal control or responsibility whatsoever. While the commission is charged with conducting elections at the state and national level, state electoral commissions are responsible for conducting the elections on the local government level.”
One week after that statement was issued, INEC set up a panel to probe the allegations, to which the state electoral commission responded by saying it would be vindicated.
THREAT TO LIFE OVER UNDERAGE VOTING
The issue of underage voting has been a challenge that we have been dealing with for a long time. In a recent interview with Punch, Lai Olurode, ex-national commissioner of INEC, narrated how declining underage voters almost cost him his life.
Olurode said community leaders presented a prepared list of children to INEC official and that he was opposed to it.
“I had to run for my life at one of the election centres in a part of the country because these people said children must vote or there would be no election at all. It is that bad,” Olurode had said.
“When you see community leaders coming to meet you with a prepared list of children to be registered and you refuse, you come under threat. The APC government has a responsibility to deliver an election that will be better than that of 2015.”
PDP RAISED THE ALARM
In 2015, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised the alarm on underage voting in some northern states but the APC asked Nigerians to ignore its opponent.
Uche Secondus, then deputy chairman of the PDP, had asked INEC to cancel the election results in seven states -Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi, Katsina, Kogi – alleging that underage participated in the exercise.
“In Kano and some of these states in the north, majority of voters were under-aged. Voting also took place in the night and you know that in the night, rigging can take place. We have compiled our reports from Kano state chapter,” Secondus had said.
Accepting Secondus’ suggestion would have been disastrous as those states were the stronghold of the PDP opponent — President Muhammadu Buhari got 1,903,999 votes, his highest from Kano but there were genuine fears which ought to have been addressed by INEC.
MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF INEC REC
A lot of things appeared not to have added up in that state. Just as allegations of rigging were making the rounds, reports filtered in that Minkaila Abdullahi, the resident electoral commissioner in the state, had died in a mysterious fire accident. Abdullahi died alongside his wife and two children, following an outbreak of fire at his official residence on Kashim Road, Nassarawa GRA in Kano. Up till date, the police have not made public their findings on the strange incident.