How APC survived infraction, inconclusive poll to retain Kebbi State
Idris as saving grace
The initial apprehension following the governorship primary of the Kebbi State chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC), which led to the defection of some major stakeholders in the party, no doubt, has ended with APC singing victory song.
Some of the stakeholders who left the party in the wake of the crisis include a former governor and Senator representing Kebbi Central, Adamu Aliero.
Aliero’s supporters did not waste time to join him in his new political abode, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It was as if the end had come to the APC. That perception was accentuated by the departure of Senator Dr. Yahaya Abubakar, alongside some former House of Representatives candidates and members of the state House of Assembly.
But what dampened the gale of mass defection was the emergence of Dr. Nasir Idris, Kauran Gwandu as the APC governorship standard bearer. None of those that left APC had any misgiving about Idris, who is also the immediate past National President of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT).
However, despite the widespread acceptability of Dr. Idris, fears that APC might lose Kebbi to the PDP remained pervasive. Some party faithful even went to town with the claims that President Muhammadu Buhari prevailed on the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, to quell his governorship ambition not to suffer embarrassing defeat.
The supremacy battle between the outgoing governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagadu and his predecessor, Aliero, sharply divided the state chapter of APC to the extent that many believed Aliero’s grassroots presence might sway votes in favour of the main opposition party, even before he returned to PDP.
As things turned out, APC depended on Kauran Gwandu’s philanthropic outreaches to counter Aliero’s grassroots popularity. Apart from the APC governorship contender’s support for the less privileged, particularly, orphans and widows in the state, the fact that he started his career from the local government level through to the state as a teacher and unionist made him popular.
His pedigree as the NUT national president and national Vice President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), was also a plus, which helped him to emerge as winner of the hotly contested APC governorship ticket. Many party faithful expressed shock after Idris beat the Senate Leader, Senator Yahaya Abubakar and a former Deputy Customs Comptroller, Alhaji Abubakar Gari Malam.
That outcome raised hopes within APC that the party would do well in the March 18 state Assembly and gubernatorial polls in the state. At the end of the day, it was obvious that the bone of contention between Aliero and Bagudu was who flies the party’s flag during the contest for Kebbi Central Senatorial District.
This is so, because the outcome of the March 18 governorship poll defied the strong challenge posed by the main opposition, PDP. However, by the time the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the election inconclusive, the initial apprehension reverberated.
Later, when the supplementary poll held, the INEC Collation officer, Professor Yusuf Saidu, declared that APC defeated PDP with a wide mergin of over 45,000 votes. That vote tally was a far cry from the looming image of the big time political gladiators, such as Adamu Aliero and others. It was that influence of big names that made analysts to predict that the election would be too close to call between the ruling party and the main opposition PDP, which mounted stiff challenge.
Even as politicians across the party divide agreed that the APC governorship candidate is a man of integrity and seen as an honest and transparent leader, the nature of opposition to APC was enormous. For instance, in the build up to the gubernatorial poll, Idris’s challengers made it look as if the election was a referendum on the eight years of APC in the state.
However, deploying his charismatic leadership style, the former NUT President rallied the support of such high calibre politicians such as former governor Alhaji Usman Saidu Dakingari, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, the AGF Abubakar Chika Mallami (SAN); former Deputy Comptroller, Abubakar Gari Malam, the National Coordinator of Tinubu and Shettima’s campaign coordinator ST7 BT 2023 movement, Alhaji Kabir Sani Giant, Ibrahim Bagudu, former Prison Controller, Alhaji Jafaru Jega, Farouk Musa Enabo and former PDP state chairman, Mansir Sheahu, among others.
However, by declaring the election inconclusive, INEC stoked the anger of Kebbi people, who expressed reservations about the motives of such delay, amid claims that APC and PDP were running neck to neck.
Reacting to the suspense created by the declaration of the election as inconclusive, the Chairman, Publicity Committee of the Kebbi State Governorship Campaign, Alhajl Kabiru Sani Giant, said INEC ought to remove the collation officer, Professor Yusuf Saidu. Giant accused Saidu of bias against APC, noting that his removal was all that was needed to restore sanity to the supplementary poll.
While alleging that the collation officer was working in cahoots with other political parties, Giant maintained that at the point of declaring the election inconclusive, the APC and its gubernatorial candidate, Idris, had won the election and supposed to be declared winner.
According to Giant, results from the balloting showed that APC and Alhaji Idris polled 388,258, while PDP and its candidate, Major General Aminu Bande (retd) scored 342,980 votes.
He stated: “There was no need to declare the election inconclusive. Our candidate won fair and square. He is leading with 45,278 votes. In some states, candidates were declared winners when the margin was a fraction of that. There is no need for a supplementary election.
“INEC cancelled election results in some polling units because of over voting and violence. Remember, the PDP candidate’s wife heads a department in INEC. It was also PDP that triggered violence in some of the polling units because they know those were our strongholds.”
But while declaring the poll inconclusive, the Returning Officer Professor Yusuf Sa’idu, said the cancellation of polling unit results in 20 out the 21 local government Areas of the state necessitated a re-run.