Monday, November 26, 2007

We Must Sack The Notorious Ruling Party in Nigeria Before It Is Too Late

Kano LG Polls - the Inside Story

Daily Trust (Abuja)

25 November 2007
Posted to the web 25 November 2007

By Hassan A. Karofi

Last weekend's local government polls in Kano State left traces of violence, destruction and heavy presence of troops, reminding residents of the anarchy that reigned in parts of the state for days during and after the elections.

The election was never envisaged to be peaceful. Reason: pre-election campaign tones of the rival political parties dimmed any ray of hope of peaceful polls in the volatile city and across the state.

A day to the Saturday, November 17 elections, strange movements of men and materials were noticed, while political party offices soon became munitions depots. The party offices were taken over by weapons-wielding youths, who were publicly smoking marijuana, blowing flutes of hunters-reminiscent of the war period. These election-eve events instilled fear in the minds of residents of the looming danger ahead of the polls.

An estimated 25, 000 political thugs were recruited by various politicians during the elections. Over 400 of them were later arrested by the police and 40 by the army.

On the election day, polling units became virtual war zones. Many voters were scared from casting their votes. Those who dared the thugs paid heavily, some with their lives. Twenty five persons were reported to have been killed in the fracas that heralded the elections, though the police confirmed only six deaths.

It was in this condition of fear that the November 17 council polls in Kano were conducted.

Soon the trend became the same across the state, with reported taking over of polling units by thugs, who preventing voters from casting their votes and dared the security agents.

The situation was to be exacerbated when conflicting radio announcements started giving different election results. While the state radio station announced results got from the electoral officers, a private radio station in the city countered the results by announcing conflicting ones. The airwaves war soon worsened the tense situation.

When Sunday Trust visited Kura on the voting day, over 200 dagger-wielding youths were seen taking control of the poling unit adjacent to the district head's residence. They were chanting war songs, condemning the rival party as the police watched despondently.

The thugs, who prevented voters from nearing the booth, suddenly started attacking whoever was in their sight. The district head himself had to be persuaded back into his house. The thugs then took over the busy Kaduna-Kano road stopping motorists and forcing them to chant solidarity songs in favor of their (the thugs') political party. They also set up bonfires, forcing many prospective voters to flee to safety.

Because of the reigning anarchy, the electoral officers had to abscond from their posts, in many cases leaving the ballot boxes. Two persons were reported dead and several others sustained injuries.

The violence soon spread to many parts of the state making elections in five local governments impossible. Government properties in Minjibir, Gwale, Ungogo, Gezawa, Garun Malam, Albasu, Doguwa, Bichi and within the city centre were targeted.

Sunday Trust was also at Madobi Local Government Area, home of former Defense Minister Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso, where the battle was fierce. The former minister locked horns with his estranged political ally and now state commissioner, Musa Iliyasu over who controls the council. Hundreds of thugs marched around the polling centres in the local government. In the ensuing blood shedding, residents were forced indoors, electoral officers taken hostage and the police appeared helpless. The police station in the council headquarters was also targeted as thugs surged with dangerous weapons.

Before sun set, one was confirmed dead and many other persons were injured after bloody clashes between supporters of PDP and ANPP.

The battle for supremacy between the ANPP and PDP were also bloody in Bichi, Gwale, Minjibir, Garun Malam, Albasu and Dawakin Kudu areas. The most daring of the attacks was the killing of the Dawakin Kudu electoral officer Malam Ado. Sunday Trust learnt that luck ran out for Ado when rampaging thugs attacked the vote collation centre. Ado tried to escape but he was apprehended by the thugs, who inflicted fatal injuries on him. He died later at the hospital. Several attempts by our reporters to speak to his family at Tudun Maliki in Kano failed on the ground that the case is with the police.

The thugs also recorded casualties. In Bichi, four suspected thugs were killed when they attempted to ransack a poling booth. Youths totting dangerous weapons confronted the attacker and in the free-for-all, four thugs were killed instantly.

When Sunday Trust attempted to trace their families, it was found out that they were all brought from the neighboring Niger Republic by politicians to help destabilize the elections. Their corpses were still at the Bichi General Hospital when our reporter visited.

A Bichi PDP stalwart, Alhaji Kabiru Sale, accused the ANPP of starting the violence after they realized they were loosing the election. He said over two thousands political thugs were brought in from other states into Bichi because the ANPP realized they cannot win the election in the area. Bichi is home to the Minister of State for Commerce, Ahmed Garba Bichi, who lost the April gubernatorial elections to Governor Ibrahim Shekarau.

In Albasu, the local government secretariat was burnt. But the election officials, including the secretary to the ANPP Sabiu Bako, who were taken hostage by political thugs for over 30 hours, escaped unscathed. Bako told Sunday Trust that he was rescued by the divisional police officer of Garko local government after the Albasu police failed to contain the hostage-taking.

It was in the midst of this lawlessness that the state government solicited the intervention of the military. By Sunday night, troops were drafted to major streets of the city to help restore law and order and protect public buildings.

By Monday it was confirmed that crisis occurred in 15 of the 44 local government areas of the state, six of them losing their secretariat as they were razed down by rampaging thugs. The councils where council secretariats were targeted were Minjibir, Gwale, Ungogo, Gezawa and Rano.

While these crises went on, the state Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC) announced results that saw the ruling ANPP sweeping the polls with 36 local government areas. The main rival PDP got three local governments while elections in five others were cancelled. Chairman of the commission, Alhaji Aliyu Tijjani said elections were cancelled in the five areas because they were inconclusive due to violence.

On Tuesday, the General Officer Commanding 1 Mechanized Division of the Nigerian Army accompanied by Major General Kenneth Agbola Vigo, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, Kano, said the army had taken control of the situation and that peace had returned to almost all parts of the state.

The military and the police made hundreds of arrests during and after the violence. The arrested political thugs who appeared before a Chief Magistrate all pleaded guilty to the four-count charges of criminal intimidation, possession of dangerous weapons, unlawful assembly and disruption of public peace. They were all remanded in prison custody till November 25 and December 5 when the court is to rule.

Influential politicians were also accused of taking part in the violence. Secretary to the state electoral commission, Barrister Wada Bashir alleged that former defence minister Kwankwaso led a team of suspected political thugs to the commission's premises.

But the former governor denied leading a team of thugs. "Nothing like that ever happened," Kwankwaso's media assistant, Alhaji Ibrahim Gwangwazo told Sunday Trust. Gwangwazo said when Kwankwaso in company of other party leaders went to the electoral commission to protest the refusal of the commission to count some votes, they were attacked by ANPP officials at the KANSIEC premises. "We did not bother to respond to them as we just went straight to the KANSIEC chairman's office," he said. The state police commissioner, Alhaji Yesufu also denied knowledge of any gunshot when Kwankwaso went to KANSIEC's premises. "I do not know about that allegation and there is no any report or complaint from anybody (about this)," Yesufu said.

Sunday Trust spoke with some of the arrested political thugs who confirmed that they were paid by some politicians to carry out the attacks. One of them who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were hired from Katsina to help fight during the election. He said four of his colleagues died during the fight in Bichi.

With the election results already announced and troops still patrolling Kano city, complaints are still trickling to the electoral commission. In one of the petitions to the commission, the Kura local government chapter of the PDP through its chairman, Barau Salisu Kura alleged that the election was upturned in favor of the ANPP.

There are many such other complaints, Sunday Trust learnt. But is KANSIEC willing to address these grievances? The commission's scribe Bashir said KANSIEC is not mandated by law to listen to any post-election complaint. The proper place to take protest to, he said, is the election tribunal. "They are being guided by ignorance about the law, as we lack any jurisdiction to entertain complaints. Only the tribunals can do that," he said.

For now what remains to be seen is how the situation now under control can be sustained as already despite the announcement of the results, opposition politicians still continue to announce themselves as winners of the polls.

The news report quoted above, based on eyewitness accounts, is a confirmation of the state of lawlessness in Nigeria. The lawlessness caused by the notorious and monstrous politicians and their hired hoodlums and marauders on rampage in Nigeria since the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) rigged the elections in 2003 and the violations of the Federal Constitution of Nigeria by the PDP have become worse since the last April elections.

The new President of Nigeria, Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua has failed to convince Nigerians and foreigners that he won the last presidential election and has failed to prove that he is capable of leading Nigeria.
The convicted and indicted members of the PDP have not been punished for their horrible and terrible crimes and the PDP led government cannot protect the lives and properties of the citizens of Nigeria.

In Osun, a 17-year-old secondary school pupil is still in a hospital after she was brutally raped by a gang of political thugs from the PDP, because she was a prime-witness of the rigging of the April elections in Osun state and her testimony proved that the PDP rigged the gubernatorial election.
The political chieftain of the PDP in the state sent the thugs who attacked and raped her. Then, they shaved her private part and stuffed the pubic hair into her mouth before they left her gasping for breath as she writhed in the bloody wounds they inflicted on her. She was rescued and rushed to the nearest hospital where she is still on admission, being treated for the wounds inflicted on her by the criminal thugs of the PDP. She would live with the nightmares of the trauma and the stigma of the violation of her womanhood by the political thugs of the notorious and monstrous ruling party in Nigeria.

The sooner, this evil and wicked ruling party is sacked the better for Nigeria, otherwise the PDP will continue to violate the statutes of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the tenets of democracy and governance.

We must sack the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) from government before it is too late.

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