Adamawa: Governor Fintiri’s journey to re-election
On Saturday, March 18, 2023 when he went to the poll, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri never imagined that the battle would be as intense as it turned out to be.
Although as the incumbent governor, he never underrated his closest rival, Aishatu Dahiru (Binani), he was obviously not expecting an “inconclusive” election.
Binani also went into the election with a huge support made up of, mostly those who wanted to see her as the first elected state chief executive officer. Coming from the ruling party at the centre and the strong backings she had, many people believed she would make a serious impact.
Binani is a serving senator; she is popular in the state because of her philanthropy.
Although final results tallied by INEC showed that Governor Fintiri scored the highest votes, INEC said the cancelled votes were more than the margin of victory between Fintiri and Binani, hence the “inconclusive” declaration.
Governor Fintiri had accused the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) of misleading the Returning Officer to declare the election inconclusive.
He said with the margin of votes with which he was leading his closest opponent, Binani, he saw no reason for declaring the election inconclusive.
The incumbent added that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ought to have declared him the winner of the election.
“Because of the inexperience and mindset of the REC, he misled the Returning Officer; there was no need for it (inconclusive).
“I was leading by over 35,000. In Ogun, he (Governor Dapo Abiodun) led by 12,000, issues in various units across the state was over 30,000 but the man was declared. The same thing with Kaduna, the same thing in several other states if you go round,” Fintiri said.
As if the refusal of INEC to declare Fintiri winner on the strength of the March 18 was not disturbing enough, the confusion created by Hudu Yunusa Ari, INEC REC, who declared Binani winner of the election while collation was still on-going was very confusing.
As at 1am Sunday, INEC had adjourned collation till 11am to enable the arrival of results from 10 local government areas. However, at about 8am on Sunday, three hours before the scheduled resumption of collation, the REC, accompanied by security operatives arrived the collation centre and invited journalists around to join him for an address.
Despite not being the state returning officer, constitutionally mandated to declare outcome of governorship election, he was said to have brought out a paper from his pocket and declared the APC candidate, Binani, winner of the election.
Binani, who was seeking to become the first woman to be elected state governor in Nigeria, appeared to have also been deceived by the announcement, and went ahead to give an acceptance speech.
But, according to the Electoral Law, the announcement should have been made by the returning officer of the election, who is a different person, usually an academic appointed by INEC for that purpose.
“We’ve received reports of an illegal declaration of results by the @inecnigeria REC for #Adamawa in violation of S 64 & 65 Electoral Act 2022 & Part 3, INEC guidelines which vests the power to declare results solely on a Returning officer appointed by INEC,” prominent election observation group, Yiaga Africa, reacted on Twitter.
On the strength of the false declaration by the state resident electoral commissioner (REC) as the governor-elect, Binani had also delivered an acceptance speech
In the short speech aired over the television, Dahiru thanked the people of Adamawa for electing her.
She said her election as the first female governor in the country would encourage other women to participate actively in politics.
Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who many said would have been vilified and made a caricature of, should his party lost the election in a state said to be under his control, was insistent that the INEC must ensure that the right thing was done.
The Waziri Adamawa only relaxed, as it were, when the real result was announced on Tuesday.
In his reaction on twitter shortly after the announcement of the result, Atiku said: “Congratulations, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri, on your deserved reelection as governor of Adamawa State.
“Thank you to the people of Adamawa and men and women of goodwill for staying the course in resisting coupists and enemies of democracy from having their way.
“The lesson from this exercise and others is the need for Nigerians to be vigilant and never give in to anti-democratic forces whose objective is to snatch, run with and undermine the mandate of the people as freely expressed in their votes.
“By the way, it is not yet uhuru as we still have one more major mandate to reclaim, and together as ONE, we shall accomplish the task for the good of our country and its people. -AA_”
After the hullaballoo, the Returning Officer, Muhammed Melee, declared Fintiri winner on Tuesday. The PDP’s candidate polled 430,861 votes to defeat Binani who got 398,788.
While congratulating his co-contenders for their struggle in the governorship race, Fintiri condemned the action of Hudu Ari for causing confusion by declaring Binani as winner of the election.
The visibly elated re-elected Governor Fintiri, in his speech after he was duly declared winner of the election said he was “humbled the more.”
The incumbent governor reassured the indigenes and residents of Adamawa of his unwavering commitment in making sure that “no one is left behind and nothing is left untouched.”
Fintri, alias “Fresh Air” as he is called by the indigenes, lauded the collective efforts and willingness of the people to support good works of the past four years.
He said, “Today, we are at a point where history is made. It is made because of you.”
He also expressed satisfaction with the peaceful conduct of the people during the election across the state in 4104 polling unit, 226 wards and 21 local governments areas, adding that the people actually demonstrated and understood the value of rancour-free electoral process which is the hallmark of every ideal democracy.
Governor Fintri expressed satisfaction with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for standing firm and ensuring that no amount of gang-up triumphs against the will of the majority of Adamawa people.
He said: “As always, the umbrella is big enough for all of.”
The governor in the same vein congratulated his co-contenders and the leadership of their respective parties for a hard-fought contest.
He said: “I personally, consider none of you a loser in this race. We are all winners because the people have spoken and Adamawa State has won; democracy has won.”
He commended the institutional capacity of INEC election, saying “Even though the attitude of some of the personnel falls short of standard expectations, I have resisted the pressure to let that define the umpire status of the Commission.
“The technological innovation introduced in the conduct of the election and the untiring commitment of the management and staff of the Commission have added tremendous value to the credibility of this election.
“The fact that the INEC headquarters was swift in disowning the illegal action of the REC was the grace that nullified what was more of a coup perpetrated by politically overzealous upstarts.”
He also commended the watchful role of the international community, election monitors and observers, journalists and all Civil Society Organisations for being on their toes, spicing the election with vigilance and ensuring the right things were done.
“The combined effort of our security forces and their high commands in providing the needed atmosphere of peace throughout the election and even the waiting period is highly commendable. Their exhibition of professional conduct is undeniably, praiseworthy.
“To a father and leader, Atiku Abubakar, Wazirin Adamawa; thank you Sir, for the support as always. This victory is a sign of greater things to come. We shall not rest until we wrestle your stolen mandate at the national level.
“To Professor Kaletapwa Farauta, whom I had the honour of pulling out of her comfort zone – the University, to join me on this bumpy voyage, I say well done and thank you for trusting my instinct and judgment.
“To our development partners, especially the national and international NGOs, whom we were compelled to order the suspension of their activities for the election period,
“I must again reiterate that the decision was well-indented and done in good faith in the overall interest of all parties. Now that the elections are done and over, our doors are open to every partnership that is beneficial to our people.”
The controversy set off by the Adamawa election is yet to die down and may likely continue for a very long time.