By Umar Ardo Ph.D
People can write what they just want to write; it’s a free world. But facts are sacred! I am a participant in this governorship election and I can state without evocation that neither Binani nor Fintiri nor any dispassionate observer can honestly claim that the election was fair, free, transparent and credible.
Now, let’s take the points one after the other. Excepting personal limitations of participants, an election can be said to be FAIR if all the parties are leveled on the same and equal pedestal by the organizing and supervising umpires. In this case, the umpires are INEC and the security agencies. Now, were the participants in that contest leveled equally on the same pedestal by INEC in the conduct of the election? The answer is simply no, we were not. One candidate, A’ishatu Binani, was unfairly given preference and higher advantage over others by the organizing body – INEÇ.
First, she was given insight by being put inside the production of INEÇ’s sensitive election materials – she was given the contract for the printing of INEC’s governorship results sheets six months after emerging as the governorship candidate of her party in Adamawa state! And concomitantly, by so doing, INEC also gave her financial advantage (of over N434m) over and above her opponents. Secondly, we have it for a fact that she met four times with state INEC officials, participating, knowing and thus influencing the engagement and postings of both INEC and ad hoc staff for the purpose of conducting the election, which some of us her opponents were not privy to such critical exercises.
Along with some fellow contestants, I personally held a press conference and pointed out these anomalies and suggesting ways of rectifying them, but nothing was done to either refute or reverse them. That INEC is also the body that solely conducted the election, these anomalies by the same body made it a foregone conclusion that fairness was removed from the contest. The election was therefore NOT FAIR!
A FREE election is an election where the electorate, without cajoling, intimidation or inducement, freely exercise their franchise and voting according to their conscience. This did not take place in Adamawa penultimate March 18th. While some of us depended on our campaign consultations, programs and manifestos, visiting each and every LGA in the state, holding town hall meetings, conferences, symposiums, rallies; meetings with all key societal stakeholders such as traditional rulers, community and religious leaders, women, youth and elders organizations; trade, labour and students unions, market, farmers, butchers, petty traders associations, disabled groups, etc., and in all these espousing our ideologies, seeing and evaluating firsthand the issues confronting our communities, and alongside with them formulating common solutions to our problems and extracting from them serious commitments of support for our candidacy – only on the Election Day the electorate were subjected to intensive vote buying pressures by Binani and Fintiri, the type of which were never witnessed in the state’s election history. We saw how the entire polling units were turned into market squares and bidding houses of vote buying, thereby creating a situation intensely unfavorable to free elections.
Given the level of hunger, deprivation and anxiety the PDP and APC regimes at the state and federal levels respectively subjected the masses, money, grains and cloth at hand at the polling units became more convincing considerations than the promises of better life embedded in good manifestos and programs. The poor masses thence yielded to the pressures and temptations of the moment and caved in. The election was thus NOT FREE.
And a transparent election is one held in the open at the glare of everyone without obstruction. But in many places, especially in the villages, the election was nothing but impertinent, intrusive, meddlesome, officious and obtrusive. Both APC and PDP in their relative strengths, employed security agents, political thugs and violent means to takeover and condone polling stations and perpetrate election malpractices. To this extent, the election of March 18th was NOT TRANSPARENT but coarse.
Therefore the totality of these misconducts, made the whole election exercise NOT CREDIBLE but implausible.
So if the election is to be reviewed at all let the entire charade be canceled and fresh one be conducted in a free, fair, transparent and credible manner. Then, and only then, that the truly popular candidate with the masses will be freely elected.
Dr. Ardo, the guvernorship candidate of SDP in Adamawa writes from Yola.