Adamawa State was recently home to the latest attempt at the usual unbridled electoral heist in the country. Fraudulent elections and theft of votes by politicians are standard fare in Nigeria. What was unusual this time was the loud and optically flamboyant attempt at daylight robbery of Adamawa voters by the candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, and her party.
Nigeria’s politicians tend to be subtle and elusive when stealing votes.
Aisha Binani’s brawl for access to the state’s government house was one troubled by rancorous hostility from her political competitors and traducers. In May 2022, Binani, the senator representing Adamawa Central, emerged as the governorship candidate of the APC in the State.
By defeating known names, including former EFCC chair, Nuhu Ribadu, a former governor, Umaru Bindow, Abdulrazak Namdas, a member of the federal house. Binani became the first female governorship aspirant to win a primary election to represent a major political party in any general election in Nigeria.
Nuhu Ribadu, who lost to Binani had accused her of vote buying, inducing delegates and abetting over voting during the primaries. A federal High Court agreed with him, nullified the governorship primary and declared that the APC had no candidate for the 2023 governorship election.
In November 2022, an Appeal Court sitting in Yola, Adamawa State capital set aside the judgment of the High Court and declared Binani as the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the State.
She had gone into the main election against the incumbent Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri backed by the first lady, Aisha Buhari and the power of the government at the centre. Mrs. Buhari was keen to ensure her state delivered the first elected female governor in the country. It was a personal project for her.
On March 20, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared the March 18 Adamawa governorship election as inconclusive. The collation officer had announced that Fintiri scored 421,524 votes while Binani polled 390, 275 votes. He’d said the margin between the two top candidates was less than the total number of potential voters — 37,016 — in 69 polling units where elections were cancelled.
After the election was declared inconclusive, INEC fixed April 15 for the conduct of the supplementary election.
On April 15, the supplementary election was conducted in Adamawa. However, controversy ensued at the collation of the supplementary election results after Hudu Yunusa-Ari, the resident electoral commissioner (REC) in the state declared Binani the winner of the election.
Mele Lamido, the returning officer for the election who is empowered by law to declare the winner of the election was absent when the REC illegally declared the APC candidate as winner of the gubernatorial elections in the state.
Binani hurriedly put together an acceptance speech in which she thanked the people of the state for electing her. She said her election as the first female governor in the country would encourage other women to participate actively in politics.
INEC, heavily discredited by the shoddy and dishonest way it organised the February presidential election and the March governorship election in several states, announced the declaration by its Adamawa REC as null and void.
It was latter to proclaim incumbent governor, Fintiri as winner.
The curious, yet, sinister attempt by Binani and the APC to brazenly steal the votes of the people of the state, was further clarified when an operative of the country’s secret police, the Department of State Services, DSS, revealed that the REC of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Adamawa state, Hudu Yunusa, was paid NGN2 billion (USD 4.5 Million) to declare Binani as the winner of the governorship election in the state.
In a viral video, the officer said that the REC collected NGN2 billion to declare the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate as the winner.
Binani denied the allegations as “very bizarre and allegedly made when the officer was being tortured at gunpoint.”
Bribery of government officials is a crucial indicator that captures the breadth and scope of every day corruption in Nigeria.
It is the normative in politicking in Africa’s most populated country.
In January, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, alleged that the redesigning of the Naira introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was targeted against his presidential quest.
“They hoarded money, they hoarded Naira; we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they change the ink on the Naira notes, whatever their plans, it will come to nought. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose,” he boasted.
Mr. Tinubu was declared winner of the presidential elections by INEC. Local and international observers, noted major logistical problems, disenfranchised voters and a lack of transparency by INEC.
In February 2019, viral pictures on social media showed two bullion vans being driven into Tinubu’s Bourdillon residence in Lagos on the eve of the presidential election.
Tinubu dismissed insinuations of vote buying as mischief making by jobless busybodies. “Excuse me, is it my money or government money? So, even if I have money to spend in my premises, what is your headache?” he had said.
“Excuse me, if I don’t represent any agency of government and I have money to spend, if I have money, if I like, I give it to the people free of charge. As long as not to buy votes”.
Matthew Page, an associate fellow with Chatham House’s Africa Program, said INEC made mistakes both deliberate and unintentional.
“They raised the hopes about the election and its transparency, and then they dashed them,” Page said. “When the opposition says the process was broken, it’s hard to argue with them”.
A day before the February presidential elections, Chinyere Igwe, a lawmaker in Nigeria’s House of Representatives and a member of the opposition People’s Democratic Party was arrested with nearly $500,000 in U.S. bills in his car and a list of possible recipients for the money.
That same day, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, announced that it had seized NGN32.4 million, about $70,000, which it claimed was meant for vote buying in Lagos, the country’s largest city. It said someone had been taken into custody, but didn’t name the person or say whether they were acting on behalf of a party.
Vote buying in the country goes beyond procuring the votes of punters. It includes compromising election officials including staff of INEC.
A few days after the presidential election in February, former president, Olusegun Obasanjo alleged that officials of INEC had been compromised to manipulate the results of the presidential election.
Obasanjo specifically faulted the failure of the INEC to transmit the election results electronically through the use of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS), via the INEC Server, which resulted in the use of manual collation system.
“For the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a lot of money was spent to introduce Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), and the Server for immediate transmission of results from polling units. It is no secret that INEC officials, at operational level, have been allegedly compromised to make what should have worked not to work and to revert to manual transmission of results which is manipulated and the results doctored.
“The Chairman of INEC may claim ignorance but he cannot fold his hands and do nothing when he knows that election process has been corrupted and most of the results that are brought outside BVAS and Server are not true reflection of the will of Nigerians who have made their individual choice.
“At this stage, we do not need wittingly or unwittingly to set this country on fire with the greed, irresponsibility and unpatriotic act of those who allegedly gave money to INEC officials for perversion and those who collected the blood money,” the former president warned.
The Adamawa debacle that saw an unabashed effort to use suborned INEC officers to steal votes and upend the popular choice was just a loud visual of a normal pattern of election heist in Nigeria.
Binani and her party did nothing odd that is different from the regular modus operandi of Nigerian politicians. They were just unlucky to have been outed.
As long as INEC is not reformed and Nigerian politicians do not pay a steep price for bribery and corruption, both parties would continue their incestuous partnership to trade in the votes of Nigerian electorates; a disadvantage to Nigeria and her citizens