By Edmund Adetunji
The last may have not been heard of the Nasarawa state local council election that was held on Saturday, March 22, 2014. With the announcement of the results in Lafia, instead of the local government headquarters as prescribed by the electoral law was provocative. So was the hasty swearing-in of the so-called winners even when results from some local government areas were still being awaited.
It is an open secret that the incumbent administration in the state is a desperate one, but nothing prepared the people of the state to the shocking desperation it exhibited during the last local council election. When the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC) knew that it was being taken to the cleaners with reports trickling in that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had won in most of the Local Government Areas, including Lafia, Keffi, Nasarawa Eggon and Keana, hitherto strongholds of APC, the Returning Officers, obviously paid agents of the state government opted to vote with their feet from the field. And in connivance with the State Independent Electoral Commission, they simply went haywire by adopting the advice of a serving senator and former governor who said that candidates of the APC must be declared winners irrespective of the votes cast.
This they did by announcing the results in Lafia and quickly followed it up with a hasty swearing-in of the (s)elected winners. Equally disappointing is the fact that even in crisis-prone areas where it was unanimously agreed by all parties from the onset that elections would not be conducted due to security reasons, fake results were declared for phantom APC candidates. Now the state is on the tenterhooks!
To further underscore the level of its desperation, the state government hurriedly rushed to court and obtained a black market injunction restraining the State Assembly from carrying out their legitimate function of investigating the conduct of the controversial election.
In a Rambo style attempt to stop the legislators from questioning the Election Commission officials, the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Barrister Innocent Lagi suddenly turned himself into an emergency pro bono bailiff and scaled over the fence of the House with a view to serving the state legislators with the fraudulent injunction when the security personnel at the gate refused him entry into the complex to the consternation of all and sundry.
Consequently, he was detained for over 50 minutes at the Assembly security post before he was later whisked away in an Armored Personnel Carrier to the State Police Command Headquarters for interrogation on the orders of the Law makers.
The AG’s less-than-noble conduct deserves reprimand from the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee, while the kangaroo court that granted the injunction should be sanctioned by the National Judicial Council. The question on the lips of Nigerians is: why would Lagi, a former member of the same state House of Assembly under the then PDP Administration behave in such a condemnable manner? Even as a member of a minority Labour Party, Lagi enjoyed an unfettered freedom in carrying out his legislative assignments due to the magnanimity of PDP.
The desperation of the APC-led government became so glaring and laughable when it attempted to rubbish PDP stalwarts in the state with the results declared. How on earth would any sane person say that eminent personalities like the former governor, incumbent deputy governor, PDP BOT Secretary, a serving minister, State PDP Chairman, Speaker of the State Assembly, all PDP senators, House of Reps members, State Assembly members and other PDP stalwarts lost in their areas? With the recent growing fortunes of PDP in the state as epitomized by the massive defection of APC members to its fold, is it possible for the PDP to lose the way it was portrayed in this kangaroo election? How petty-minded can some people be in the name of playing dirty politics! Simply unimaginable!
This actually beggars belief and flies in the face of the reality on ground. More galling is the case of a former governor from Doma. It would be recalled that during the Sallah celebration in 2012, some colleagues and I happened to be in Doma to felicitate with the former governor, an illustrious indigene of the state. And boy! We were dumbfounded with the mammoth crowd that accompanied him from the Mosque to his modest house in the community. He was the darling of all, party affiliations notwithstanding. If it is this same man, and others like him that officials of the state government thought they could humiliate, it is simply an effort in futility.
If any individual or group of persons thinks that they can obliterate PDP from Nasarawa state landscape, then they are simply living in a fool’s paradise. The reputation that some of the party’s stakeholders have built over the years cannot just be rubbished by the whiff of a contrived electoral abracadabra as epitomized by the recent sham called LG polls.
Be that as it may, the election throws up a lot of hair-splitting posers to wit: why was Al-Makura in such an inexplicable hurry to swear-in the ‘’winners’’ of such a highly acrimonious election? Why did some of the Returning Officers engage in a rapid dialogue with their legs from their areas of their primary assignment? Why was the result of the election announced in Lafia, instead of polling centres in at the LG headquarters as prescribed by the electoral law? These are some of the questions begging for urgent answers.
It is heart-warming that the state’s Electoral Commission boss, Alhaji Moddibo, admitted before the House of Assembly that he erred in respect of the results of Obi, Nasarawa-Eggon and Akwanga LGAs, which were won by PDP but which the commission later declared inconclusive. But was that the only error? Other state governors should learn from the present fiasco in Nasarawa. If this present injustice is allowed to subsist, it will embolden the perpetrators to massively rig the all-important governorship election in 2015.
Edmund Adetunji contributed this piece from Abuja.