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How courts, politicians are shaping today’s supplementary election

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Although inconclusive election predates the current leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the phenomenon is becoming an albatross robbing the electoral process of credibility. The ripples created by INEC’s inability to declare a winner in the first ballot of last year’s Osun State governorship election are yet to settle, even with the judgment on the outcome by the Election Petition Tribunal yesterday.

The outcome of the subsequent run-off poll between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is one reason many Nigerians, particularly PDP and its faithful, are wary of any such in the country, more so, where it appears to be leading in the first ballot, like it did in the Osun case.

For the records, supplementary election is to hold in 18 states for various seats. The PDP was ahead of APC in most of the elections, but violence in some polling units and wards marred the exercise; hence cancellation of results from there made INEC to declare the poll inconclusive and fix a date for election to be conducted in the affected areas, since the total number of registered voters were more than the margin between the leading party and its closest rival.

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The events, scheming and horse-trading that followed and preceded the Osun supplementary election, as well as the conduct of the poll itself, left a sour taste in the mouth of many residents and Nigerians, as well as local and foreign observers. This has led to lack of trust or distrust in INEC to deliver free, fair and credible supplementary election afterwards and today in the states where such is holding.

Following the inconclusiveness of the poll in Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto states, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, said the commission, after a review of the conduct of the March 9 Governorship and State House of Assembly elections, where winners were declared in 22 states, the returning officers in the affected states declared the exercise inconclusive and INEC fix supplementary elections to hold today to conclude the process.

Okoye cited discontinuation of use of the Smart Card Readers midway into the elections or the failure to deploy them, over-voting and widespread disruption in many polling units as reasons for the decision, saying: “In compliance with the Margin of Lead Principle derived from Sections 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Paragraph 41(e) and 43(b) of the INEC Regulations and Guidelines for the conduct of elections, the outcome of these elections could not be determined without conducting polls in the affected polling units.

“Furthermore, the Commission has considered a report submitted by the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Bauchi State on the disruption of the collation at the Tafawa Balewa Council collation centre, which led to the cancellation of results for the entire council. The Commission found that there are issues that need further investigation and has set up a team led by a National Commissioner to resolve them,” he added.Even as the commission was set to conduct the supplementary election, several court rulings have put further roadblocks in the way of the exercise.

While the courts barred INEC from going ahead with the exercise in Bauchi and Adamawa, the continuation of collation of results in Rivers State has been scheduled for between April 2 and 5. Justice Abdulaaziz Waziri of a state High Court in Yola, ordered INEC not to conduct the supplementary re-run slated for today, saying the polls should be put on hold until he rules on an application for an interlocutory injunction barring the commission from conducting the exercise and then adjourned the matter until Tuesday to give the ruling.

The Movement for Restoration and Defence of Democracy (MRDD) and its candidate, Eric Theman, had asked the court to cancel the election on the grounds that the party’s logo is not on the ballot paper.But INEC’s lead Counsel, Tanimu Inuwa (SAN), prayed the court to discharge the injunction on grounds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the case, citing Section 25, Subsection 1 of the Constitution, adding: “INEC, being a federal organ, challenging its decision should be through a federal high court, not a state high court” and the issues being canvassed before the court touched on the conduct of elections and that Section 285, Subsection 2 of the Constitution places conduct of an election in the purview of election tribunals.Justice Waziri adjourned the case to March 26 to enable him study the voluminous documents submitted by the counsel to the various parties.

There were indications that the process would be concluded in Kano, Benue, Plateau and Sokoto states, barring any last minute judicial pronouncement putting it on hold.First was a court order, restraining INEC from continuing with the collation and subsequent announcement of the results of Tafawa Balewa Council of Bauchi State in relation to the governorship election.”

Ahead of the poll, the two leading parties have been wooing voters with all manner of inducements in addition to lobbying other political parties for support, as well as pressurising religious leaders to help them convince members of their congregation to vote for them, even though they always deny this.

Adamawa: Supplementary Poll, A Formality
From Emmanuel Ande, Yola

IN Adamawa State, leaders of the two major political parties- APC and PDP- begun wooing supporters of other political parties in the state ahead of today’s supplementary election.PDP candidate and one-time acting governor of the state, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, going by the figures released by INEC in the last election, has the advantage, courtesy of the 32,476 votes difference over the APC candidate, Governor Jubrilla Bindow, who is seeking re-election.

Based on the voters data in the 44 polling units in the 14 councils of the state, political analysts in the state believed the governor’s battle to secure a second term is already a lost one.To worsen his political nightmare, APC chieftains in the state last week asked him to concede defeat and congratulate Fintiri, as the winner of the poll, to avoid unnecessary political tension in the state.

Spokesman of the group, leader of President Muhammadu Buhari, supporters and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, last week in Yola said: “The only honourable thing to do is for my party’s candidate, Bindow, to concede and give peace a chance.“The next election is only four years away, Bindow can go back to the drawing board and launch himself back. Therefore, let us not allow elections to cause trouble between brothers.”

Lawal pointed out that the results of the election, as announced by INEC, showed that PDP/Fintiri won by 367,472 votes, against 334,995 votes by the APC/Bindow; hence a former governor of the state, Mr. Boni Haruna, a PDP chieftain, said: “The margin of win by the PDP candidate is 32,476 votes.”Lawal added: “While we were waiting for the outright declaration of Fintiri as having won by a clear majority, we were taken aback with INEC’s declaration of the elections as inconclusive, on the grounds that the margin of win by PDP (32,476), was less than 40,988 in 44 polling units, where the elections did not hold or were cancelled.

“The electoral body relied on Section 26 and 53 of the Electoral Act, and Regulations and Guidelines, Page17, Paragraph C to justify its actions.“We wish to state that the action by the electoral body to declare Adamawa election as inconclusive is not only absurd, but untenable, most unfortunate and unacceptable. We wish to state or note that the national chairman had told the world that elections start and end at polling units. It is our understanding that if elections were cancelled at polling units or wards collation centres, they stand cancelled. 

“We, therefore, find it curious for the electoral body to resurrect the issue of elections results that have been cancelled at the polling units to justify its action of declaring the governorship elections as inconclusive at the level of state collation or declaration of results.

“The position of the electoral body ordering a supplementary election on the basis that the margin of win was less that the number of cancelled results in the 44 polling units is untenable, because we have been able to establish that the number of PVCs collected in the 44 polling units was 31,027, these are the only eligible voters if there is going to be a rerun. The 31,027 is far less than the number of registered voters that INEC relied upon to decline declaring PDP winner of the governorship elections.“I, therefore, urged Bindow to phone Fintiri and congratulate him, so that this matter will be laid to rest. There is no magic that can give the governor victory.”

To compound matters for the governor, the where the supplementary election is holding todays are PDP stronghold. In the state assembly, House of Representatives and senatorial elections, the opposition party won the seats at all levels.In Michika Council, which has the highest number of votes at stake today, with over 11,000 voters, PDP is in full control. Those elected for the state assembly are of PDP, same for Madagali/Michika Federal Constituency and senator for Adamawa North, where Bindow and Fintiri hail from.
In addition, Haruna is from Michika and the PDP returning officer for the election. He commands strong followership in the area due to his sterling performance as a two-term governor.Madagali Council, the home of Fintiri, is among the areas being contested.In Hong Council, PDP is entrenched. And with Lawal, as well as politicians like Maj-Gen. Haladu A. Hananiah (rtd), APC protestants, such as Markus Gundiri, supporting Fintiri, many believe PDP would capture Hong.

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Numan federation, which consists of four councils, is seen as a political desert for Bindow, especially as majority of APC members in the area have joined forces with PDP to ensure that Fintiri would see the governor off Government House on May 29.The polling units in Numan have the second highest number of voters, only next Michika Council. In any case, Fintiri’s running mate, Seth Crowder, is from the area, more so, PDP has won all elections in the area with a clear majority of votes.

The Guardian investigation revealled that majority of the APC chieftains and some political office holders have entered into some political pacts with PDP ahead of today, realising that their candidate/boss was losing the election.The only council where Bindow is strong is Toungo, from where his deputy, Martins Babale, hails, but its votes might turn out inconsequential, as the two polling units there have only 400 voters and the PDP is a strong contender for them, due APC’s internal crisis in the area.Mubi-North Council, Bindow’s homestead, has three polling units in Muchala ward, which is the den of PDP, as it ha always won elections there since 1999. The ward is located at the Nigeria border with Cameroun. The senator-elect on the platform of PDP, Elisha Abbo, is from the area. Perhaps the governor’s greatest headache is the fact that APC contestants that lost elections have already abandoned him to his fate.

Fintiri campaigned from one polling units to another, while Bindow was on political self-exile in Abuja for most of the period preceding today’s poll, allegedly seeking presidential support for the cancellation of the entire election results. A serving commissioner in his cabinet, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said: “Even if INEC allocates the entire remaining votes, which is only 31,027, that is the total number people that collected Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in the 44 polling units to the governor, he would still lose the election.

“So, for me, there is no need for my party to waste time and money to participate in the election that we have already lost.”On the rumour that APC might not participate in today’s election, the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Mohammed Abdullahi, told The Guardian that the list of his party agents would have been submitted to INEC by Wednesday, preparatory to the election.Some of the voters in the affected polling units, who spoke to The Guardian, described the election as an opportunity to get the attention of “the incoming government,” in terms of infrastructure development and appointments.

As PDP supporters in the state remain upbeat and wait to roll out their drums for celebration after the poll, APC members appear downcast, human traffic to and from the Government House and Governor’s residence slowed down over his political uncertainty immediately after INEC declared the election inconclusive and fixed supplementary poll today.The question on the lips of many residents is whether today’s poll would be a confirmation of PDP’s victory or unseen hands would turn the table in favour of embattled Bindow. This question would be answer by voters in the 44 polling units this “Super Saturday,” as one Adamawa politician put it.

Plateau: Gladiators Induce Voters With Promises Of Appointments, Contracts
From Isa Abdulsalami-Ahovi, Jos

SOME public affairs watchers believe with the results of the governorship elections released so far, Governor Simon Bako Lalong might carry the day, as the margin between APC and PDP is wide- APC has 583,255 votes as against PDP’s 538,326.Ahead of the election, some political gladiators had planned to buy votes, with others making promises of appointments, completion of projects, awards of new contracts and other inducements to sway voters.And to maintain their strongholds, they embarked on door-to-door campaigns, mobilising those with PVCs to come out and vote to starve off voter apathy and lethargy.

In Jos North-West, a former speaker of the state assembly, now a floor member, Peter Azi of APC, who lost out to PDP’s Dusu Esther Simi, worked hard to ensure victory for his party, ostensibly with the hope of been compensated with political appointment.The influence of PDP’s House of Representatives candidate in the March 23 election, Jonathan Dabo, and his APC counterpart, Haruna Maitala, who eventually won the seat for Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, impact on the elections, would impact today’s election.
Mangu Ward One, where the former secretary to the state government (SSG) during Senator Jonah Jang’s tenure as governor, Prof. Shedrack Best, comes from, would be interesting, as he would be fighting tooth and nail to ensure victory for PDP.

A voter, John James, said: “I feel INEC is not ready for our votes to count, because it is not all the polling units in the ward that had problems. INEC has developed this idea that when there is a problem at a polling unit, it will issue an order that the elections in the whole ward be cancelled.“Inconclusive election is foreign to us as Nigerians. There is nothing inconclusive in Nigerian constitution; it is only an appendage. To me, it is a mixed feeling. There is nothing to celebrate.”

Politicians, Security Agencies Tasked On Rules Of The Game
From Joseph Wantu, Makurdi

IN spite of palpable apprehension among political gladiators, especially the two major political parties in Benue State, some individuals and groups do not see today’s rerun election in 179 polling units as capable upsetting the direction of the earlier results.

INEC declared the Benue governorship election inconclusive on the grounds that the margin of lead between PDP’s candidate, Governor Ortom, and APC’s Emmanuel Jime stood at over 81,000, which is less than the 121,019 registered voters in areas that had their votes cancelled.In specific terms, Ortom had scored 410,576 votes, while Jime garnered 329,022 votes, creating the difference of 81,554.But Chairman of Middle Belt Movement for Justice and Peace, (MBMJP), Joe Bukka, said base on the record obtained from INEC, the total number of PVCs collected by the electorate in the effected communities is 61,040.

Bukka claimed that only about 28,000 voters in the 179 polling units actually came out to vote and were actually accredited before the elections were cancelled on March 9, excluding Mbalom Council Ward, where no election took place because the materials were completely burnt, insisting that there is no way APC can cancel the deficit. A civil society group, Centre for Transparency and Social Justice (CTSJ), said today’s election would be a mere academic exercise and a waste of time and resources.

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Its Executive Secretary, Patriot Hundu Bunde, alleged that with inconclusive elections, INEC was deliberately creating bumps to obstruct the free flow of the electoral process in the country, adding: “The parameter INEC used in declaring the last election inconclusive has defied all logic. How can INEC declare an election inconclusive on the grounds that the figure of registered voters in polling units and wards where elections were cancelled or did not hold was 121,019?

“INEC is aware and is in possession of the records, which clearly indicated that the number of PVCs in the 179 polling units affected is just over 60,000, while the margin of lead is 81,554.“We are still in shock over what INEC did in Benue State and other parts of the country where rerun have been scheduled, because the parameter used in declaring the election inconclusive was skewed from the begin, which casts doubt on the sincerity of INEC as an unbiased umpire.“PVCs collected in the affected polling units should be the emphasis and not the number of registered voters, since majority of the voters do not have PVCs and it was easy for the INEC to know from its records, rather than embarking on an academic exercise, waste of time and resources in Benue State in the name of rerun.”
Bunde maintained that it is obvious that the PDP governorship candidate won the election with 81,554 and the APC can never upturn it.
During the week, Ortom and Jime embarked on a quiet wooing of voters with gifts and promises in areas where polling takes place today, even as solidarity visits by supporters to the homes of the two gladiators continued.

Amidst the intrigues and strategies to win at all cost, press conferences and media briefings have taken the centre stage, as has social media.The state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged INEC to be more than ever, an unbiased umpire in the electoral process and refuse to bow to internal and external pressures to alter results in favour of any contestant or political party.

The association further charged the commission to strict adhere to the provisions of the electoral regulations and guidelines, uniformity of practice and procedure at all polling units and run a transparent result management to ensure conclusive elections.
While calling for non-interference by the military personnel in the upcoming rerun, CAN called on the Police, as a lead civil security agency, to be more assertive in coordinating with INEC towards maintaining the peace during the elections and deter impunity for violations of electoral regulations and guidelines.

The body of entreated all politicians and political leaders to refrain from unguarded utterances capable of inciting their gullible membership and public against true democratic tenets, saying: “The survival and existence of a viable and peaceful Benue must rank higher and above any other consideration in making the choice of the next governor of Benue State.” A voter, John Orafaan, from Mbalon Ward in Gwer West Council, where election did not hold due to snatching and burning of electoral materials, told The Guardian that most of the electorate were not eager to come out today to vote because of fear of the unknown. Orafaan said the people had in recent times witnessed killings and suffered social trauma and might not want to risk their lives in the hands of soldiers again.There was palpable tension and anxiety among the contending party faithful across communities where election holds today.

Anxiety In Rivers Over Suspended Polls 
From Kelvin Ebiri, Port Harcourt

RIVERS State was braced on Wednesday for commencement of suspended March 9 Governorship and State House of Assembly election result that is hotly disputed between the PDP and African Action Congress (AAC).INEC had penultimate Saturday disclosed plans to commence the process for the conclusion of the suspended polls on Wednesday, but failed to do so. Instead, on Thursday, it fixed a new date between of April 2 and 5 to continue with the collation.

A faction of the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by Minister of Transport, Chibuike Amaechi, which formed an alliance with the ACC, having been barred from this year’s general elections for disobedience of court order and inability to resolve its internal wrangling, expressed mixed feelings over INEC’s timeline for concluding the elections, and the reasons are simple.Its spokesman, Chris Finebone, said INEC has not shown sufficient good faith in the way it brought the collation to an abrupt stop without cogent, verifiable and convincing reasons, adding that the electoral body went ahead to announce that collation for 17 councils had been concluded, as against the records available to the party and its ally, ACC.To the APC, INEC is up to some mischief, pointing to a clear determination to rig the overall result in favour of Governor Nyesom and the PDP. “The signs are visible enough to the blind and loud enough to the deaf. All the shenanigans so far exhibited by INEC only go to confirm that fear.

“In any case, the APC will subject the recent announcement by INEC to meticulous scrutiny after which the party’s position will further be made public,” he said.Meanwhile some pro-APC youths, under the aegis of Initiative for Transparent Strategy and Good Leadership (ITSGL), have threatened to disrupt the planned resumption of collation of results if INEC fails to make public, the reports of its fact-finding committee, which probed the circumstances that necessitated the abrupt suspension of the now contentious polls.

Leader of the group, Chizy Enyi, admonished INEC to explain who was in possession of the said collated results, noting: “We demand that INEC must answer the questions before any other action, with respect to tampering with further collation and rerun election in Rivers State. “That on refusal as stated, we will take all legal means to stop INEC from collating results, announcing winner and conducting rerun election in the state.” But another factional leader of the APC in the state, Senator Magnus Abe, representing Rivers South-East, warned that no one man can handpick a governor for the state He condemned the violence that characterised the March 9 elections in the state, which he described as a shame, adding that the election was not only an embarrassment to the country, but also unacceptable, even as he wondered why people failed to learn from the past. He stated that across the country, people tried to vote and to count their votes, but regrettably, in Rivers State, the reverse was the case. Wike, who described the suspension of the elections as a conspiracy against the people of the state, however, implored the people to remain calm, saying the success of PDP in the election would be a sweet victory in the end, maintaining that the will of Rivers people would prevail.

Party Distributes Motorcycles In Bauchi To Woo Electorate
From Rauf Oyewole, Bauchi

TAFAWA Balewa Council, which has 139,000 registered voters, has been at the cynosure of attention since INEC announced that a rerun would be held in the area for the cancelled governorship election result. This has since caused apprehension in camps of both APC and PDP.

A resident of Tafawa Balewa told The Guardian that one of the APC chieftains distributed motorcycles and monetary gifts to woo the electorate, who would decide the outcome of the exercise, saying: “On Saturday 16, members of party were distributing motorcycles and monetary gifts to our people in exchange of their votes. They promised to bring more in trailers, though people collected and even though I didn’t get and I’m not ready to, a friend got. “It is our unspent money, which has been hoarded for years. We will collect it and vote according to conscience.”“God has planned for us to benefit from the inconclusive election. We have been given so many domestic gifts and foodstuffs by different politicians. We keep collecting these, but that would never change our decision on the day of rerun,” a resident of Ningi Council added.

The state REC, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, said INEC would conduct a rerun governorship election in 15 affected councils today, including 36 polling units and 22,759 registered voters, but election would not hold in Tafawa Balewa Council, pending the decision of the court. “Since the court order received by the commission only affects governorship collation of Tafawa Balewa Council, the commission has concluded arrangements to conduct elections in other areas where elections were either cancelled or not held at all,” Abdullahi said.State PDP Chairman, Alhaji Hamza Akuyam, said the party was disappointed in INEC’s compliance with court order, “because this same commission, when restricted by court in Adamawa over the re-run, said it will not comply, but unfortunately, here in Bauchi, INEC immediately stopped the collation. 

“The supplementary election is a sham, INEC wants to conduct rerun because 22, 759 people were disenfranchised in 15 councils, meanwhile, 139, 240 were disenfranchised in Tafawa Balewa Council. I don’t know what INEC is up to; maybe, they are reading somebody’s script. “Our legal team will look at this matter, though it is not just about going to court, but for INEC to do the right thing.”He insisted that the party would go to court and seek a redress.

But his APC counterpart, Uba Nana, said: “We went to court to challenge INEC’s reversal on re-run in Tafawa Balewa Council and we got the court order to stop collation. Let us go for re-run, as pronounced by INEC, and I’m very sure we will win the re-run.“As law abiding citizens, we remain bound by the court order and we urge all our party loyalists, INEC and all affected parties to obey court order and to remain in peace.”Abdullahi urged the public, especially the people of Tafawa Balewa Council, to be calm and await the outcome of the court ruling.APC and its candidate, Governor Muhammad Abubakar, are seeking the cancellation of the elections result of the council. Tafawa Balewa is a PDP stronghold and one of the councils under the constituency of Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara. 

Ganduje In A Final Push To Survive Kwankwaso’s Antics
From Murtala Adewale, Kano

UNEASY calm could best describe the atmosphere in Kano State, as residents in some parts of the state return to their polling units today to decide the fate of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. In the results earlier collated and declared, Abba Kabiru Yusuf of PDP was ahead of Ganduje of APC with over 26,000 votes.No doubt, the contest for the occupant of Africa House is more of a battle between Ganduje and his predecessor, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, who is the political godfather of Yusuf.

Ganduje, who is seeking a second term, took over the mantle of leadership of the state in 2015 after serving as Kwankwaso’s deputy in his two terms in office between 1999 to 2003 and 2011 to 2015. They, however, fell apart midway into Ganduje’s tenure over irreconcilable differences. The outcome of today’s poll would put to rest, the bitter rivalry between Ganduje and Kwankwaso. According to INEC, the supplementary election would be conducted in 207 polling units in 75 wards across the 28 councils, involving 128,324 voters.

A major centre of attraction is Gama ward, which alone has 83 polling units and 40,821 registered voters and whoever captures Gama would likely win the poll. Collation of Gama results reportedly turned violent following the invasion by unidentified thugs, who snatched or destroyed the original results and other sensitive materials.The state Police Command had to intervene to rescue the Deputy Governor, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, who was caught in the middle of the violence, while the Commissioner for Local Government, Murtala Sule Garo, and one Lamin Sani were arrested for allegedly masterminding the act.

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Within the past one week, Ganduje embarked on massive infrastructural development in the densely populated Gama, ostensibly to win the votes of people in the area, including the reconstruction of Gama-Tsansire road in less than 48 hours, just as series of boreholes were sunk in strategic locations to ease acute water shortage in the community.Both Ganduje and Yusuf reached out to the opposition Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), which is fast gaining momentum and assuming the third political force to reckon with in Kano politics, in a bid to swing the pendulum in their favour. The party’s governorship candidate, Mallam Sagir Takai, came third, trailing the PDP and APC at the poll.

The Guardian learnt that none of the two parties secured full supports of the PRP, as the party leadership and major blocks in the party failed to reach a common ground on who to support. It was further gathered that the party’s candidates in the last election, led by Aisha Ibrahim, have since collapsed their campaign structure and directed supporters to vote for PDP’s Yusuf. But Takai’s spokesman, Abdullahi Musa, insisted that the party was backing Ganduje.

The state Secretary, Balarabe Alhassan Danfulani, dismissed claims that the party’s leadership had taken position on who to support, saying: “Even though we cannot stop any party member from supporting whosoever they so wishes, we have not decided yet.”On the security situation, Commissioner of Police, Mohammad Wakili, threatened to deal with anybody whose interest was to foment violence during the rerun, saying over 1,800 suspected political thugs were arrested during the previous elections for electoral violence and all Divisional Police Officers had been charged to spread the dragnet across all the hot spots.The police chief emphasised that the Command would protect INEC staff and electoral materials, warning political parties and their supporters to be peaceful and stay off the polling units.

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