Who did this to Binani?
As the announcement was made on that Sunday morning that Senator Aishatu Dahiru Binani has been elected the Governor of Adamawa State I was ready to crow that a woman has broken the glass ceiling. I am sure that many women groups, many equity-seeking groups were also happy for her, for APC and happy for Adamawa State.
Since independence in 1960 all the states of Nigeria and the Federal Government have been run by men. And see what the country looks like; it looks like a bus that has been smashed by a moving train. So the speculation has been that perhaps if a woman had the opportunity to run Nigeria or any of the states, things might be positively different. This speculation is based on the other speculation that women are less corrupt, less audacious, less greedy, less avaricious, less domineering than men and therefore would make better leaders.
I have no evidence to support this speculation. It is just that: a speculation. Of course, there are some men and some women who could run Nigeria better than what we have had so far but where are they? They haven’t managed to get to the pinnacle of power, in the states or in the centre for some reasons, which include faulty leadership selection process. But that is a story for another day. Today is Adamawa’s day.
As we were saying, on that Sunday a man called Hudu Yunusa-Ari, he wasn’t hooded, walked into the collation centre with an officer of the law, a Commissioner of Police called Mr Mohammed Barde and an unnamed official of the Department of State Security (DSS). He swiftly announced without giving details that Aishatu Dahiru Binani had won the election as Governor-Elect of Adamawa State. After that he quickly disappeared knowing full well that collation had not been completed, knowing full well that it was not his responsibility as the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) to announce the result. It was the duty of the Returning Officer (RO), Professor Mohammed Mele. Binani took over from there and made an acceptance speech. After that Adamawa State was in confusion, as illegality had been compounded by illegality.
Let’s tell the story from the beginning. Binani, a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria had contested the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the governorship ticket of her state, Adamawa. She defeated six men to clinch the ticket. These men included Mr Nuhu Ribadu, a former Chairman of the EFCC and 2011 presidential candidate of ACN as well as Senator Jibrilla Bindow, Governor of Adamawa State between 2015 and 2019. The main election was basically a two-horse race between Binani and the incumbent Governor and PDP candidate Mr Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri.
At the end of voting on March 18, Fintiri scored 421, 524 votes while Binani had 300, 275 votes. The Returning Officer had declared the election inconclusive as he cancelled the results in 69 polling units in Fufore Local Government Area, which affected some 37, 016 potential voters because the cancelled votes were more than the margin of victory recorded by the PDP candidate. The supplementary election was held on April 15. It is while collation of the votes cast at the supplementary election was going on that Mr Ari decided to make his illegal declaration of the result.
There was an uproar in the state. INEC decided to intervene. The collation was completed and the Returning Officer, Professor Mele appropriately announced the final result as follows: Fintiri 430, 861 and Binani 398, 788. So Fintiri was declared the winner. Binani rushed to the Federal High Court in Abuja, arguing that it was only the election tribunal that can constitutionally nullify her victory. At the court Justice Inyang Ekwo refused to hear Binani exparte motion application but adjourned the suit to April 26.
According to section 25 of the Electoral Act 2022, it is only the Returning Officer who has the power to announce the result and declare the winner of an election for a State Governorship election.
The Adamawa Governorship election was crucial for some heavyweights in the state. The former Vice President and presidential candidate of the PDP, Mr Atiku Abubakar, comes from Adamawa. The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Mrs Aisha Buhari also hails from there. So the stakes were quite high as each of the big guns in the state wanted to ensure that the government was controlled by the party that they favour. As things are now, the glass ceiling remains unbroken in Adamawa or elsewhere. Of the 28 women that contested for governorship posts in 25 states Binani was the only person that ran on the platform of a major political party and posed a threat to the political survival of the incumbent. All the other 27 women contested on the platforms of anonymous parties, parties that were virtually unknown in their states or nationally and they were not expected to make any serious impact in the election. It appears that they were using those unknown platforms as a bargaining chip for whatever else they were looking for in the political space.
In every sense what Mr Ari did was wrong. He made the wrong decision because collation was still ongoing at the time. Even if collation had been completed he was the wrong person to announce the result. What he did was a failed heist, a bungled coup for which there must be consequences. Africans are used to coups despite the homily about democracy. But coups have consequences, palatable and unpalatable. Successful coups bring joy and comfort to the planners because they are able to take charge of their booty. Unsuccessful coups end in death or imprisonment for those who tried them. They also earn the scorn of the society for themselves and their families.
It is our hope that this failed coup will be investigated and all the plotters and co-conspirators can have their day in court. In particular, the man who made the illegal announcement and the security men who stood guard or looked the other way while the deed was done have a case to answer because what they did was not what they were assigned by the authorities to do. It is often said that it is the forbidden that is most desirable. Adam ate the forbidden fruit and we are all paying for it. If Mr Ari ate the forbidden fruit he should pay for it because he threw away the white garment of honour, which his office gave him. He is said to have served as a permanent secretary in his home state, Bauchi. He is also said to be a lawyer. With such knowledge and experience it is clear that what he did was not a mistake. It was a deliberate act of sabotage, which has affected the reputation of INEC as an election manager.
It is obvious that Binani had dreamt of being the Governor of her state. Without dreams life would be unbearable. Infact, dreams are necessary for our survival. Binani may have said to herself that if she wants the office badly enough she will get it. That is something close to desperation and desperation is capable of leading anyone to do something foolish. Her quick acceptance speech and her rush to the Federal High Court to file an exparte motion application seem to be part of the desperation of our politicians. We have had several instances of Returning Officers being asked at gunpoint by politicians or their agents to make certain announcements that are illegal. They have to obey if they love their lives. That is a big minus for our democracy. That is the equivalent of a coup.
A few weeks ago I wrote a column in which I named three sets of people who are responsible for election rigging in Nigeria. I repeat (a) politicians (b) security men (c) INEC officials. Of the three sets of people it is the politicians who induce the other two to do what they want done so that they may achieve success. This success costs a lot and success that costs too much is the equivalent of failure. Those who planned the Adamawa State coup must have felt an unsettling urgency for success at any cost. Now that the dam has broken they will have to drown themselves in a pool of reflection. Some desires are necessary to make life worth living but rigging an election to get into an office, any office, is not one of them.
The electoral coup plot was a bitter betrayal of INEC, Adamawa and democracy, and a crude combination of crookery, tomfoolery and hara-kiri. INEC has denied the allegation of partisanship in the Adamawa election but there was some kind of suspicion when it was revealed that INEC had allegedly awarded a N430 million contract for the printing of sensitive election materials to Binani Printing Press, a company allegedly founded by Ms Binani. This has not been either confirmed or denied by INEC.
The messy situation in Adamawa cannot end with just the declaration of the results and the announcement of the winner. There must be an investigation that will reveal the details of this coup so that INEC can clear its soiled name, and we can take appropriate steps to sustain our democracy. What played out in Adamawa is the stuff from which fiction is written and movies are made, some kind of mafia-style operation that the Italians would be happy to copy.
Some people are already saying that what a man can do a woman can also do or even do it better. My advice is that we do not use this single incident in Adamawa to pidgeon-hole women as unfit for leadership. Men have done far worse things in this country, which is why we are still very backward despite the huge human and material resources available in the country.
Binani had become a Senator in a state that harbours many political heavyweights and moneybags. That means that she has political muscle. Therefore the future was her oyster. This event is certainly an unnecessary distraction, which she didn’t need. I hope she will get her reputation back after this event because she is a woman of the future.