Professor Sani Lawal Malumfashi is the former Provost of Kano State College of Education and Preliminary Studies, popularly called CAS and one time chairman of the state Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC).
In this interview with our correspondent, Salihi Abubakar Bello, he says handling the job of conducting an election, be it at federal, state or local government levels, is not an easy task considering many issues surrounding the exercise. These are some of the issues among many others he harps on. The excerpts:
Sir, as former chairman of KANSIEC, how did you handle that election and the challenges you faced in registering candidates?
Well, in the first place, section 7 sub-section 1 of Nigerian constitution mandated the States Independent Electoral Commission to organize, supervise, manage local government election and declare its result. On that constitutional mandate, we were constituted in 2013 to organize such election in the state.
Conscious of the complex nature of our job, conscious of the volatile nature of Kano politics, and conscious of significance of our action or inaction to the security of the state and its political stability in particular and the country in general, we started exercising our responsibilities by visiting the security outfits in the state.
We also visited the Garrison Commandant and parley with him. We interacted with the state Commissioner of Police; we visited Correctional Centers, Civil Defense, Immigration and Hisbah Board.
We were there to intimate them of our constitution and mandate and to declare our intention to organize free, fair and decent local government election in the state. We solicited for their cooperation because they are the guardians of democracy. Mind you that we were constituted at the peak of Boko Haram or insurgency.
That notwithstanding, after our interaction with security agencies, we also interacted with the media, the entire radio stations in the state. We briefed them of our intention and preparedness to organize the election and also solicited for their own cooperation, especially in the areas of voter education campaign.
We went round the entire local government in the state. We met with stakeholders, party leaders, elders across entire political parties, youth leaders, those who are in politics and those who are not, women, religious and community leaders.
We interacted with them, explained the significance of our responsibilities and solicited for their cooperation. They listened to us and we listened to them. Then we interacted with political propagandists, the so-called sojojin baka of different political inclinations.
After doing all these, we published election timetable. After publishing it, we started recruiting electoral officers of different local government areas. In fact, we recruited over 10,000 of them because the state if largest in the federation with 44 local government areas and 484 wards and 10,074 polling units.
We recruited these officials and trained them. They were sufficiently trained.
Three days to the election, to be precise, we started receiving sensitive and non sensitive election materials and we commissioned over 6,000 vehicles to deploy materials to different local government areas and ordered the electoral officers to redeploy those materials up to the polling votes.
We commissioned six radio stations to monitor the election itself and gave them the mandate to announce the election results at local government levels which they did.
However, I published a book and I named it ‘Election Management In A Volatile Environment,’ which is available even online. Everything about the election contained in the book, including the election result.
In the book I stated the reason why APC was able to win the entire 44 local government chairman seats and 484 councillorship seats. There are so many reasons in the book; part of the reason was PDP was terribly unpopular that time owing to the overwhelming insecurity challenges being faced by the nation then of Boko Haram in addition to our efforts at voter education campaign.
Also, the government gave me as the Chairman all the resources I required to conduct that election. And it never interfered with the conduct of that exercise and I never consulted or seek any directive from the governor or any other person on how to execute my responsibilities and I also tried as much as possible to distance myself from any political party.
I even warned anybody to approach me with any corrupt tendencies, I would expose it and I meant it. And they heeded to my advice. That partly also became the reason for our success.
In your opinion, do you still consider that election to be a success story?
It was still a success story because INEC has replicated it. The difference between my election result and INEC was 200 during the Presidential election. We had state House of Assembly election where APC claimed 40 seats, we have 24 seats of House of Representatives and APC won all. That also vindicated what we did. I am very proud of that because it became the most talked about local government election in the country and people cited so many references to it.
From that period to date, several elections were held in so many states where the ruling party always seems to grab all seats and you may be blamed for setting a pace to the scenario. What’s your reaction?
The situation at that time (the prevailing situation) set the pace as I told you the prevailing political climate provided for that. PDP was extremely unpopular, it would have been different if it were now, and it would have been seriously different.
Political climate sometime determines the outcome of election result and that was why I told you beyond setting the pace, even the INEC result appeared similar to my own. The variation was 200 only. But what is happening in other states, I cannot speak for them, I am not very much conversant with their political climate there, but I was conversant with the prevailing political climate at that time in Kano State.
In order to prove what we did was wrong or right, I advise the commission to follow my footsteps in terms of allowing announcement of the election results by media organizations at local government level. I never interfered, I didn’t announce the result. I declared. I didn’t announce the result. Radio stations did. Those radio stations are still in existence and can bear me witness.
The political environment now is different from that time; meaning it is not volatile now in Kano, so are you expecting a 50-50 contest between APC and PDP?
There is no way one preempts election result. But one can predict. APC is as popular in 2021 as PDP in 2014. So my expectation is if election is a measure of performance, I expect APC to woefully fail in the coming local government lection. I also expect APC to woefully fail 2023 election because it is more unpopular now because of the ravaging insecurity problem, more ravaging than 2014.
So it’s more unpopular now than in 2014. I may be right, I may be wrong. We wait and see how the exercise will turn out. Remember, then all parties fully participated in my local government election. I wonder, I learn that PDP is not participating, PRP is not participating, and I don’t know how the exercise will turn out to be. If the major opposition is not participating, there is going to be another unique election.
What is this portraying for political parties as they are not participating, are they not satisfied with the preparation so far made?
I want to be neutral. I expect the chairmen of those political parties to speak for themselves. May be the commission should parley with them, instill sense of confidence in them and encourage them to participate.
During your election and after its result declaration, were you faced with legal challenges?
Yes, you see, there are two phases of conducting election, one you have to manage pre-election time and two, you have to manage election time and post election time. We were lucky, in-spite of the security challenges; we conducted the most peaceful local government election ever in the history of the state. Second, I faced legal challenges of councillorship only by PDP in Dambatta Local Government Area. That was the only legal challenge I faced.
Did it come to your knowledge that KANSIEC is following the same route you followed?
Ever since I left KANSIEC, I think I followed that route only once because I have my philosophy in life that if I do things I do it 100 per cent. If I don’t do it, I don’t do it 100 per cent. I never looked at the direction of the KANSIEC and ever since I left government, I think I placed the tyre of my car on State Road only twice, since 2017. And ever since I left CAS, I never faced its direction. I have not been following KANSIEC, am minding my own business.
What are your advices for the commission now as former Chairman who means well for the state?
I advise them to do the needful. Whatever the present KANSIEC chairman did will affect me as a colleague. He is a friend, a colleague, a brother; I will not hope to see his failure.
I will be willing if need be to support him and want him to succeed, simply because of that kind of comradeship and occupational solidarity that we came from same university; we share the same profession since adolescence. So I will advise him to do the needful to protect his title as a professor.
Secondly, let him go by the constitution. I introduce him to section 7 sub section 1 of it. It has sufficiently, categorically and unequivocally explained how local government election will be conducted. KANSIEC has its own election guideline and that it was amended in 2012 and let him refer to that guideline to do the needful in line with constitutional expectations.
So far, has the commission contacted you for inputs or advice?
No one contacted me.
Are you aware of any quality of the present chairman of the commission that will also make his election a success story?
Well, this is the second time he is conducting local government election. The first time he conducted I didn’t follow it up and am not following what he is doing now for my own personal reason. I completely detach myself from the commission as a unit and detach myself as a person and detach myself from whatever he is doing because I don’t want to inject some controversies into his own management of the affairs of the commission. We are into politics and you know Kano politics whatever you do is subject to political interpretations. So the best favor I can do to him is to distance myself away. I am not aware of what is going on and not interested in knowing it.
If you are asked to be personally part, would you?
If am asked to be part, depending on the extent and nature of the request. If what is required of me will help in influencing and attracting success and ensuring political peace and stability, I will. But if what is required of me to do will generate so many controversies, I will not.
Do you expect in recent time that there would be a commission chairman that will conduct election that will supersede yours in credibility?
Nobody ever expected that I will do what I did. Is not impossible, but you have to remember that am different from the present KANSIEC chair personality wise, exposure wise, intelligence wise, am not saying am more intelligent, more exposed. Attitudinally we are different, so his approach will be the approach that suits his own personality. What I did was the approach that suited my own personality. We are different, the periods are different, and the situations were different, the finances are different. We had all the finances we required but am not sure, Nigeria is under serious recession now, even the Federal Government cannot afford to pay salaries, not to talk of financing local government elections at state level.
How would you express conducting election under then Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje?
I am very proud to have worked with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, as I told you earlier he never interfered in what I did. He never influenced any of my decision. He supported me because that was the ground I offered myself that I should be allowed to do what I think is needful and he allowed me to do the needful.
He requested me to extend the election date and I rejected it. He wanted to know the reason why I am adamant to conducting the election and I was able to convince him. He supported me not to be a yes man and by my disposition; honestly speaking I cannot be a yes man. My nature compliments his and his nature compliments mine.
If you are to advise the present administration on how to conduct the election, what would be your advice?
It might interest you to know that we worked together with Governor Ganduje during my tenure as KANSIEC chair because he was the Commissioner for Local Governments then. I interacted more with Governor Ganduje on the exercise than with Kwankwaso because he was the commissioner.
Even when Kwankwaso asked me to extend the election, Governor Ganduje was there when I rejected it, Rabiu Suleman Bichi was there, and I think only few people can do that, the whole governor instructing you to do something and you are saying no and we succeeded.
Three months to conducting local government election, I conducted a baseline survey, I paid for that survey across the state to know the extent of popularity of the government and that will guide me on how to conduct election. And I found he was 88 per cent popular and that was how I convinced him. I don’t think any other chairman can do that because the resources are not there now.
I pity Professor Sheka, because of lack of resources and resources are very fundamental in success or failure of election exercise. I want to suggest to government to provide all the resources that the chairman required for him to succeed.
I mean finance resources, I told you we recruited over 10,000 personnel and during my time, I paid electoral officers N300,000 each, I hired over 600 vehicles, I received observers from the 36 states of the federation, including Burkinafaso, Togo and Niger Republics. I took care of their transport, I accommodated them and I paid them. It isn’t easy conducting local government election.
I commissioned special prayers and I sufficiently and flamboyantly paid those Malams. I paid them for us to succeed and for peace to prevail in the state. I paid my staff, I attended to my staff sufficiently. I will not tell you how much I paid as honorarium but it was flamboyant.
I don’t think the present KANSIEC chair can do that because the resources are not there. I pity him and I also pity the state government because of the same lack of resources, politics aside. I told you I worked with Governor Ganduje, he respects me and I still respect him, because am a man of principle, he recognizes it and I face him and it was on that principle I left his government and he still respects me.
In one word or two, after you had left the commission, do you still have in mind what you didn’t do until after you left?
I never regretted any of my action. I did anything that was required.