Embattled Resident Electoral Commissioner Hudu Yunusa Ari, who went into hiding after he was suspended by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has insisted without evidence that the All Progressives Congress, APC, Candidate, Aisha Binani won the 2023 governorship election in Adamawa.
According to Peoples Gazette, Hudu in a letter received at the Force Headquarters on April 20, copied also to the director-general of the State Security Service (SSS), National Security Adviser (NSA) and the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), asserted that the two national commissioners, Baba Bila and Abdullahi Zuru, who had been tasked to assist him with the supplementary election on March 15, were secretly working with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to rig the results.
Hudu made history on April 16th when he usurped the duty of the collation officer and declared Binani winner of the poll even while collation was still ungoing. The INEC chief did not present any evidence to support his declaration, which he appeared to have made offhand. Since after the illegal declaration, he has been on the run. He was seen later that day leaving the state in a chartered flight and has not been seen ever since.
INEC headquarters in Abuja subsequently nullified Mr Yunusa Ari’s action, summoned him to Abuja and asked the police and other security agencies to take him into custody. The agency later concluded the election and declared Ahmadu Fintiri of the PDP winner. President Muhammadu Buhari also ordered the immediate arrest of Mr Yunusa Ari for the illegal declaration, which sparked nationwide anxiety.
According to the Peoples Gazette, it was not immediately clear whether or not security agencies know Mr Yunusa Ari’s location, especially after he managed to write letters to federal authorities.
INEC spokesman, Festus Okoye, said Mr Yunusa Ari should turn himself in to the commission or police, who already have a file outlining the offences he committed in the line of duty.
“He should report and answer to the electoral infractions and make his allegations, and it should form part of police investigation,” Mr Okoye told The Gazette Tuesday night.
“The commission is not interested in his ‘fictional letters from hiding’,” Mr Okoye added. “If he has a narration, he should make them to the police. Alternatively, he can report to the commission and the commission will take him to the police.”
SSS spokesman Peter Afunanya directed The Gazette to an April 16 press statement where the secret police had said it was investigating an attack “in which someone suspected to be its staff was allegedly manhandled by some political miscreants in Adamawa State.”
The statement appeared to corroborate Mr Yunusa Ari’s assertion that an SSS operative was attacked by police officers attached to the Government House and “thugs loyal to the PDP”.
Mr Afunanya, however, did not respond when asked whether there has been any new development since his last statement released over a week ago, particularly if the secret police has been able to track Mr Yunusa Ari’s hideout.
The police said on Tuesday that they received further instruction from INEC headquarters about Mr Yunusa Ari’s offences and immediately intensified the manhunt. A spokesman for the NSA did not return a request seeking comments on Tuesday night.
Mr Yunusa Ari, a legal practitioner, said he belatedly uncovered that the INEC officials held secret meetings with Mr Fintiri at the Government House Yola at about 8:31 p.m. on Friday, the night before the election, where they perfected plans to change the collation officers and alter the election results.
On election day, the state’s commissioner of police furnished him with findings of a plot that exposed how some politicians had hired Boko Haram terrorists to snatch ballot boxes and disrupt the polls, Mr Ari’s account of the matter said.
In an update the same day, the police said the security threats were still high as the insurgents had planned to attack various local governments to disrupt collation. Mr Ari was then advised to move the collation from local government areas to the state’s INEC headquarters, he said in the four-page letter.
The electoral commissioner said he quickly complied and directed that all ad-hoc staff conduct collation at the commission’s headquarters office in Dougirei, Yola.
He said he did not realise that the two assisting national commissioners had plans of their own as they “quietly and secretly gave out conflicting counter directives” to the electoral officers, adding that the counter-directives also said that collation should be done in the local government areas with new local government collation officers that he was “not aware of.”
“This is without my knowledge or authorisation as the Resident Electoral Commissioner as recognised by laws establishing INEC and Electoral Act,” Mr Yunusa Ari said, absolving himself of complicity and any wrongdoing.
He would later find out Messrs Bila and Zuru flouted his order and quietly collated results at local governments using “self-appointed, unapproved and illegal collation officers.”
Mr Ari explained that while he was preparing for state collation, he was shocked to learn that his name had not only been excluded but “replaced with that of the administrative secretary to take charge of collation.”
He questioned the assisting national commissioners but got no explanation. Instead, they “declared that I was nowhere to be found.”
He said he was placed under house arrest by security officers from the Government House Yola, and the police commissioner deployed mobile officers to rescue him.
“It took the intervention of the commissioner of police who sent mobile policemen to my house, and when they heard a call was made to the CP, the policemen from Government House fled in a white Toyota Hilux van, Mr Yunusa Ari recounted.
Around 1:00 a.m. on April 16, Mr Yunusa Ari said he went to the collation centre where Messrs Bila and Zuru had been sleeping to remind them he was still the state’s REC and that all stakeholders for the re-run election should return to the collation centre by 11:00 a.m. later that day.
The electoral commissioner said upon reviewing results uploaded on the INEC IREV portal, he discovered discrepancies as “the results on the portal were different because the results on the INEC portal were not signed by me.”
Mr Yunusa Ari said he summoned a meeting of security chiefs, including the police commissioner, SSS, commandant of the Civil Defence and others, to conclude the supplementary elections and prevent a breakdown of law and order.
After compiling the results, he found Mrs Binani to be the candidate with the highest number of valid votes and subsequently declared her winner of the Adamawa governorship elections.
“It was based on this that I compiled all the polling unit results and declared the winner of the election based on the highest number of valid votes scored by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed Binani,” Mr Ari wrote in the letter.
He added: “The breakdown of the valid votes scored by the two leading candidates in the supplementary election using the results from the polling units as collated into all relevant Forms EC8B, C,D and E respectively by properly and legally appointed and recognised collation officers and my humble self as Adamawa state Chief Collation Officer and Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC).”
Mr Yunusa Ari’s said his declaration led thugs loyal to the PDP to descend on the two other INEC commissioners for failing to alter the election results to favour the incumbent governor in spite of accepting bribes from his team.
“So, immediately after the declaration, some PDP supporters attacked one of the National Commissioners, Prof. Abdullahi Zuru as well as the Returning Officer, Prof. Muhammed Mele for failing to deliver Mr. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in the election after collecting money from him,” Mr Ari said.
Meanwhile, he claimed that one SSS operative who knew about the bribes given to the national commissioners was also overpowered, disarmed and whisked to the Government House, where he was assaulted by both police and “thugs loyal to PDP.”
In light of all the events leading to Mr Fintiri’s so-called victory, Mr Ari stressed that the result collated by the two national commissioners “is shrouded in doubt which is unacceptable and therefore illegal.”
Mr Ari defended his actions to be well within his rights as contained in the Electoral Act 2022.
“I want to categorically say that my action is within the responsibility vested on me and within the ambit law, particularly of the Electoral Act 2022 as amended.”
In the letter, Mr Yunusa Ari reaffirmed his position as the chief collation officer but did not say he had the powers to declare a winner, which is reserved for the returning officer.
A spokesman for Mr Fintiri strongly denied the allegations that the governor bribed electoral chiefs. INEC did not comment on the allegations of bribery raised by Mr Yunusa Ari against Messrs Bila and Zuru.
At least seven aides to the governor were arrested for their involvement in the attack on the SSS agent, who was said to be an assistant director, The Gazette learnt. It was not immediately clear whether some or all of them have been released as of Wednesday morning.