President Muhammadu Buhari failed to see Bauchi State Governor Mohammed Abubakar and his Adamawa State counterpart, Jibrilla Bindow when the duo visited the Presidential Villa yesterday.
Both men face an electoral battle in about a week, following a declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the results of the March 9, 2019 gubernatorial election in the states were inconclusive.
On Tuesday, three days after the election, All Progressives Congress (APC) governors, Kashim Shettima (Borno), Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) also visited the Villa.
No reasons were given for both visits.
The Guardian learnt that Abubakar and Bindow arrived in the Villa separately and sought to see Buhari. They met a brick wall however, as the president was not favourably disposed to seeing them. Thereafter, they held audience with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo behind closed doors. Emerging over an hour later, they declined questions from reporters.
Some observers may see the meeting as a move by the governors to curry the president’s favour, to keep their states from slipping into the hands of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The fight to retain the APC’s hold on Kano State also continued yesterday as Commissioner for Local Government Murtala Sule Garo debunked an allegation that the state government withdrew a large sum of money aimed at influencing voting when incumbent Governor Abdullahi Ganduje faces PDP challenger, Abba Yusuf, in the March 23, 2019 re-run.
A group, Kano Civil Society Situation Room, had claimed the government released N235,500,000 to APC members for the alleged purpose. It, therefore, petitioned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeking an investigation into what it described as organised crime.
“We wish to draw the attention of the EFCC to a suspicious withdrawal of N235,500,000 from the Kano State government treasury, through the Ministry of Local Governments. The said amount has been allocated to different local governments where INEC is scheduled to hold a re-run election.
“We hope that the EFCC will investigate the matter, while also putting some measures (in place) in those communities to ensure that vote-buying does not influence the outcome of the gubernatorial re-run poll,” the group’s coordinator, Abdulrazaq Alkai, told journalists in Kano.
Garo however insisted that the group’s alleged mission to dent the government’s image was dead on arrival. “It is not true. It is gross misinformation,” he exclaimed.
According to him, “The money released is part of normal allocation from government treasury since both state government and local councils operate a joint account. We need not buy votes because the people are already with the state government.”
He added: “And if they say we released money to compromise the election, the allocation was meant for 13 Local Government Areas (LGA’s). The re-run will however hold only in nine. Kabo, Tsanyawa, Dawakin-Tofa and Kumbotso LGAs will all benefit from the money but the re-run will not hold in these places. How can we book money to nine out of 30, if at all the claim is anything to go by?”
INEC meanwhile has said that no court has the power to restrain it from holding the re-run in Adamawa.
The clarification came after a court order obtained by the Movement for the Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and its candidate, Eric Dollars following the alleged omission of the party’s logo during the March 9, 2019 polls.
“Although we are not aware of any court restraining INEC, let me nevertheless tell you that court order will not stop any election,” Adamawa State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) Kassim Gaidam told journalists in Yola yesterday.
Citing Section 87 Sub-section (10) of the Electoral Act to buttress his point, he said: “This is a clear attempt to murder the rule of law. Judges should put their personal interest aside and give respect to the provisions of the constitution. It is embarrassing to hear that the court is stopping INEC from concluding an election it started.”
Gaidam urged the National Judicial Commission (NJC) to ensure that judges who make such pronouncements are punished to serve as a deterrent to others.
In a related development, INEC said it would begin work immediately on a post-2019 elections review. INEC Chairman Mahmud Yakubu dropped the hint in his opening remarks during the presentation of certificates of return to lawmakers in Abuja yesterday.
He stressed that delaying electoral reform, especially the review of the electoral framework, until polls arrive leaves the commission with little time to develop processes, regulations and guidelines and also make required consultations with stakeholders.