For the second time in less than a week, Bauchi State governor, Mohammed Abubakar, on Monday stormed the presidential villa, Abuja to discuss, with President Muhammadu Buhari, the plan by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to proceed with the electoral process in Tafawa Balewa local government earlier declared as inconclusive in his state.
The governor elected under the All Progressive Congress (APC) had come to the villa last Thursday to see Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, but was thought to have been unable to meet with them.
However, the governor had an audience with the president on Monday who he said he briefed on the security implications of the electoral body reversing itself.
Speaking to State House correspondents after the meeting, the governor said: “I came to brief Mr President about the situation in my state.
“I briefed him on the issues surrounding the inconclusive elections
“The Returning Officer for Bauchi State at the end of collation rejected the result of Tafawa Balewa local government and then 36 other units spread around 15 local governments of Bauchi state and ordered a rerun.
“Surprisingly, we woke up one morning and the independent and electoral commission came up with a procedure that is not known to law. Because, where a Returning Officer has declared the result, only an election petition tribunal can reverse the result.
“But INEC is attempting to reverse itself in the case of Bauchi. And when one juxtapose that of Bauchi and other states with inconclusive elections, one wonders why that is happening only in Bauchi State.
“So, for that reason, there is a need for me to come and brief Mr President because what has the potential of touching on the security of the state and it is paramount we …”
Abubakar asserted that what INEC was doing in Bauchi State was illegal as according to him, the returning officer is the final arbiter on collated results.
He added: “Of course it is definitely extra illegal. It is a straight forward matter. The returning officer is the final arbiter even with respect to scores and declaration of result. And once he makes a declaration, no power can reverse that declaration except a duly constituted court of the land.”
Reminded that INEC was an independent body which the president should not interfere with, the governor noted: “No no no. I said I came to brief Mr President, I am not seeking any action of Mr President. We all know Mr President, he is a stickler for procedure. What I pointedly told him was that I am not here to seek for you to interfere on our behalf sir but to brief you on what is happening and what actions I have taken.”
On the actions he had taken so far, the Bauchi governor maintained: “One of which is that I am a lawyer and I am pursuing the legal angle. I briefed him and he emphasized on that legal angle that it is the best way to go.”
He affirmed that the government was on top of the security situation in the state
On why he had to see the president on Monday having previously gone to the Vice President last Thursday, Abubakar stayed: “No no no. There are procedures in these matters and levels of authority. I am a stickler for procedure, I started at the right place and I have also ended up in the right place.”
He assured that if INEC allowed supplementary polls in Tafawa Balewa local government, Bauchi state, he would win the election.
Recall that President Buhari has told his party members that he would not interfere in the electoral process.
In response to criticism from members of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) who had frowned at his failure to intervene in favour of the party in states where gubernatorial elections were declared inconclusive, the Presidency in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday by Garba Shehu,
Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media & Publicity), noted that such party members expected the president to interfere because past Presidents had done so in the past.
But the statement vowed that President Buhari, having sworn to defend the constitution, would not go against it by such interference in the electoral process.
The presidency pointed out that while APC members were angry that he has refused to intervene on their behalf, members of the opposition were also accusing him of planning to change the results.
The presidency however assured that Buhari was not the type to manipulate elections.
The statement titled: INEC fully in charge, President Buhari won’t change election results,” read:
“The Presidency has cautioned against a lot of the hate spewing, incitement to violence and the polarizing statements by so-called political leaders as a number of states brace up for supplementary elections prescribed by the National Electoral Commission, INEC.
“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.
“Interestingly, while members of the ruling APC party 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, 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.”
Also at the presidential villa to see the president in respect of the scheduled supplementary election in his state, was Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau, who told State House correspondents that he had come to seek help from President Buhari with respect to deployment of more security personnel to the state in order to forestall any crisis on Saturday when the state would participate in the rerun election.
The APC Governor described the killings in the state soon after the February 23 presidential election as the handiwork of political foes who were bitter for losing in the exercise and consequently resorted to the killing under the guise of farmer-herder clashes.
“My meeting with the president is the usual briefing. I call it usual because of my passion for peace in the state. It is not about the election, it is about peace, to ensure we have a very peaceful election. So far so good, we have had very good peaceful elections.
“We are coming back for a supplementary election, I will like INEC to conduct a peaceful election and so we will like the security apparatus to be on the ground in the state. That was my briefing to Mr President,” Lalong said.
On the attack, he said: “That was why I said I am concerned about security. Usually, it starts like that, they start rustling and killing cattle and the next thing you will hear is that it is farmers herders crisis. I know that I have addressed that issue for a very long time and the police is handling the security. So I informed Mr President that we are on top of the situation because we wouldn’t want that to escalate into a farmers-herdsmen crisis. It is not farmers,-herdsmen crisis, it is criminals trying to foment trouble after losing elections.
“Very well. I always say it has a political undertone, why is it happening immediately after elections. It usually happens immediately before or after elections, why is it like that? It has some political connotation.”