Nobody envisaged that the November 21 Kogi governorship election would end in such controversy. All was well with the election until two things happened successively; the Returning Officer declared the election inconclusive and the leading candidate in the election, Prince Abubakar Audu died suddenly. Then the ensuing and expected confusion. EMMA ALOZIE looks at the likely end of the entire controversy
Nobody should pray for the kind of confusion the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has found itself in following the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu, its governorship candidate in the inconclusive election of November 21.
Since that unexpected happened, the APC and many legal stakeholders have been combing both the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended to find an exit route from the logjam. But it seems the more they comb, the more the party is headed to a legal landmine that may rob it of its near victory at the election.
While declaring the election inconclusive, the Returning Officer for the election, Professor Emmanuel Kucha said the difference between the APC candidate who was winning and the PDP candidate who was second was less than the number of cancelled votes, and in that situation, the guideline of the Independence National Electoral Commission, INEC demands that the elections should be suspended and supplementary election conducted to determine the winner.
This brought the APC to this state of utter confusion. So far, the party has been thrown into more confusion that it could manage. The party is battling to manage three separate threatening implosions; those who want James Faleke, Prince Audu’s running mate to seamlessly step under the cover of the ticker, those who want the party to immortalize Audu by handing over the ticket to his son Mohammed and those who are rooting for Yahaya Bello, the aspirant who came second in the party primaries where Audu emerged victorious.
These three contending forces are threatening to pull down whatever cohesion the party built prior to the election should the party fail to listen to their line of argument. The pro-Faleke campaigners are of the view that it is what is closest to the law, which says that when a governor dies, his deputy takes over. They also argue that Prince Audu and Faleke held a joint ticket and votes the Late Audu garnered at the polls, he did not garner alone, therefore to them, it is natural for Faleke to inherit the votes ahead of any other person.
In a letter he wrote to the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, through his lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, Faleke contended that, “Our client believes that the election to the office of Governor of Kogi State had been conducted and completed in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. INEC has no alternative or discretion than to announce the result of the election and declare our client as the winner of the election”.
Quoting Section 68(1)(c) of the Electoral Act, Olanipekun said any result declared by the returning officer was final and binding not only on INEC but all parties that participated in the election and could only be reviewed or upturned by an Election Petitions Tribunal.
Olanipekun said INEC’s preparation for a supplementary election in 91 polling units in the state as well as its directive to the APC to nominate a replacement for its deceased gubernatorial candidate was misconceived, contending that by Section 181(1) of the constitution, Faleke had become the governor-elect of the state.
“Our client, who was the deputy governorship candidate or associate of Prince Abubakar Audu at the already concluded election, constitutionally and automatically becomes the governor-elect,” he stated.
Also in a similar letter he transmitted to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, he argued that the INEC’s directive to nominate a replacement for Audu should be resisted by the party, saying the directive was unconstitutional and the electoral body had no power to cancel an election.
“In law and logic, no candidate can inherit or be a beneficiary of the votes already cast, counted and declared by INEC before that candidate was nominated and purportedly sponsored.
“Assuming without conceding that INEC is even right to order a supplementary election, the votes already cast, counted and declared on Saturday, November 25, 2015, were votes for the joint constitutional ticket of Prince Abubakar Audu and our client.
“Therefore no new or ‘supplementary’ candidate can hijack, aggregate, appropriate or inherit the said votes. Assuming further, without conceding, that the supplementary election in 91 polling units can hold as being suggested by INEC, it is our client who should be the automatic candidate of the party, since APC cannot conduct a ‘supplementary primary election’ for the supplementary election in 91 polling units,” he said.
The pro-Mohammed Audu’s campaigners are mindful of the delicate balance in Kogi politics where the Kogi East dominated by the Igalas call the sure. To them, any non Igala successor of Audu is a huge affront on the Igalas who are the majority ethnic tribe in the state. Some members of the Kogi State House of Assembly even had to meet with the national leadership of the APC to press home this demand. Led by Maman Rabiu, the Kogi State APC lawmakers said, “We present to the national leadership, Prince Mohammed Audu to replace his late father.
“It is not because he is the first son, but try him, he is very intelligent and equal to the task. With him, we will have the Kogi of our dream.
“It is not a threat, but we told them that we have no intention of washing our dirty linen in public. Removing somebody is just a two minutes job for us as lawmakers in the state.
“We are the legislators and have told the national chairman our position that in any case anybody is smuggled in contrary to what we present to them, we know the best way to remove him.
“Faleke could still be retained as the deputy governorship candidate. We are the electorate and we know why we are here. There will be no solution to this problem without giving us listening ear. Prince Audu was the man who went through primary before nominating Faleke as his deputy.
“We are not asking Faleke to stay away from the ticket. We equally worked with him during the campaigns. What we are saying is that it should be Mohammed Audu/Faleke ticket. The two of them must work together.”
On the other hand, those clamouring for the emergence of Yahaya Bello are arguing that it is the only natural thing to do; to activate the primaries that brought Audu in instead of going ahead with fresh primaries. Those who tow this line of thought are drawing reference from the 2007 scenario in Bayelsa State where going into the election, then then Governor Goodluck Jonathan was nominated as a running to the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, PDP then only went back to the primary election to pick the person that came second, Timi Sylva to run on its ticket.
But these disagreements are not the only headaches the party will have to contend with. There are the legal battles ahead, which the PDP is poised to pursue to its logical conclusion. The governor of Kogi State who scored the second highest votes in the inconclusive election and his party the PDP have approached the federal high court in Abuja asking to be declared winner. They have also asked to stop the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] from conducting/ holding a supplementary governorship election in the state fixed for December 5, 2015 or any other date at all.Alternatively, the governor is seeking a consequential order of court directing INEC to conduct fresh governorship election in Kogi State within a specified period.
In a motion on notice filed at the registry of the court by his counsel, Chief Chris Uche [SAN], Governor Wada is contending that being the only surviving candidate with majority of lawful votes cast at the governorship election held on November 21, 2015, he is the winner of the said election and ought to be issued a certificate of return by the INEC.
He further asked from the court, an order restraining the All Progressives Congress [APC] or its officers and members from organising and / or holding a fresh primary election for the purpose of any supplementary or other election for the Kogi State governorship election 2015.
In the alternative, the plaintiff prayed the court to declare that by reason of the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the candidate of the APC, the Kogi State governorship election held on November 21, 2015 and declared by the INEC [1st defendant] as inconclusive has been rendered aborted, cancelled, null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever.
The plaintiffs further asked the court to declare that having regards to the provisions of section 141 of the Electoral Act, 2010 [as amended], votes scored by a candidate who died during an election cannot be inherited by or transferred to a person, who was not a candidate at the said election and who did not participate in all stages of such election, for the purpose of conducting such election.
Besides, the plaintiffs asked for a declaration that INEC public notice dated November 24, 2015 for the holding of a supplementary governorship election for Kogi State on December 5, 2015 is unlawful, null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever.
From the ding dong that has characterized the Kogi guber affair, it promises to be a long drawn legal battle. With Faleke poised to pursue what he feels is his right in court, and the PDP and Governor Wada already in court, it is safe to conclude that whether INEC goes ahead to conduct the supplementary election or not, the burden will eventually be passed to the Supreme Court for guidance and resolution. It is sure going to be a landmark judgment that will certainly enrich the nation’s jurisprudence.