I was destined to be, unwittingly, a witness to one of the election surprises that occurred in the last circle of the elections. The gubernatorial and state assembly elections that took place last week found me in a quandary.
As a resident of Abuja, I was only qualified to vote in the presidential and National Assembly elections and was thus disenfranchised for the second round of electing the governors and state assemblies. I loathed missing out on the exciting spectacle of elections held only once upon a time. What to do?
I took out an impromptu invitation to visit and observe the election in Nguru, at the far end of Yobe State. Nguru town is a prosperous trading centre, once famous for being the terminus of the rail line from Lagos, southwest to northeast, through Kano. It is nestled close to Jigawa State and it could easily be mistaken to be part of that state, though those of us from the larger Borno have always enviously guarded its ownership.
Politically, and as an election watch post, it would be an interesting focal point as it is the senatorial district of Ahmed Lawan, the Senate president who had already won his election. The constituency of the Speaker of the Yobe State House of Assembly, Ahmed Mirwa Lawan is situated there.
The flight on Air Peace airline to Kano on Thursday, two days before the election, was as smooth as could be and the onward road journey to Nguru was equally smooth. Nguru is so well-served by a good highway from Kano that one could even correctly time how long the journey covering the odd 200km or so would take.
We were soon in Nguru and could partake in the speculations ahead of the election. The APC is the ruling party in the state but in the presidential election, the opposition PDP caused an upset by wrenching victory for its candidate, Atiku Abubakar. It would be interesting to see whether the PDP’s challenge would prevail, or the APC would rally around to return the governor for a second term.
Nguru itself had been deemed a safe APC zone, the PDP votes in the presidential election came from another zone of the state. Nevertheless, even as of that Thursday, there was a strong buzz going around about the candidacy of the Speaker, Ahmed Mirwa Lawan, who has been representing Nguru II since 2003 before becoming speaker in 2019.
Under normal circumstances, there should be no controversy about his electability. However, it seemed that he had fallen out with strong stakeholders in his constituency who tried to thwart his ambition during the party primary election. And when they failed, they waited to deal with him in the general election.
On election day I was among the multitude at the densely populated Hausari ward, which is dotted with many polling units. The first surprise was the large number of women voters, toing and froing, all covered in multiflorous hijabs, and manifestly outnumbering the men voters.
The atmosphere was akin to a festival with plenty of jovialities in the streets. I noticed not a single untoward incident and heard of none. At the closing of this hectic day, you could hear the chants of votes counting, by the supervising officers, renting the air from the crowded polling units.
Even before the final collation of results, feelers were out from Nguru II constituency that the speaker had lost his ticket. By the break of dawn, the story was the headline in most media outlets in the country. Apparently, it is not the loss the speaker suffered that attracted attention but the social status of the winner. Afterall the Anambra speaker, Uchenna Okafor, also lost in the same election.
Lawan Musa the new member-elect for the Nguru II constituency is said to be a lowly teacher who from all accounts had been fixated on representing the constituency at some level to push his free education agenda. He tried to become a councilor in 2021 without success. Now buoyed by the strength of local grievances against the speaker and the backing of some strong stakeholders, success has, at last, smiled on Lawan Musa.
The election was now over, and we planned to return to Abuja the next day, Monday. The contentious Kano gubernatorial election result was yet to be announced and the fear of violence in the city deterred us from planning to use the airport to return to Abuja.
We intended to take to the road to Kaduna where we could join the Abuja train. We, therefore, left Nguru on Monday morning as the election result was being announced in Kano and the violence as expected had broken out and a dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed on the city.
As we approached the city, we were compelled to take the bypass, where everything looked normal, to join the Zaria highway.
It was already noon and on the route to Kaduna, we learnt that the gubernatorial election result was also due to be released and fears of violence had compelled Governor El-Rufa’i to issue a security red alert over the city. But as our luck would have it, besides a few military checkpoints outside Kaduna, the city was calm after the result was announced in the night.