The 2015 general elections in the country conducted by the nation’s electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has no doubt come and gone, what remains of the elections are the petitions filed by aggrieved parties at the respective elections petitions tribunals set up across the states of the federation to ensure justice for the parties involved. In Nasarawa State it is between former Information Minister, Labaran Maku and incumbent governor, Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, writes correspondent, PETER AHEMBA.
In Nasarawa State, the Governorship Elections Petitions Tribunal being headed by Justice Halima Mohammed is currently preoccupied with the petition filed before it by the immediate past Minister of Information and governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, in the April 11 governorship election in the state, Mr. Labaran Maku.
The petitioner is challenging the declaration of Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of the All Progressives Congress, APC as winner of the said election by the Independent National Electoral Commission. He alleged that the exercise was marred by massive rigging, intimidation of voters by the governor’s agents, among other irregularities.
The tribunal had during its pre-trial session, granted a leave sought by counsel to the petitioner, Mathew Burkaa to inspect and obtain the Certified True Copies, CTC of all the polling documents, electoral and other materials in the custody of INEC which the tribunal graciously granted while ruling on the ex-parte application. The tribunal ordered INEC, the third respondent in the matter to make available for inspection by the applicants, ballot papers, ballot materials and other electoral materials used for the conduct of the April 11 governorship election.
The tribunal further granted a leave permitting hand-written and forensic expert(s) to conduct an inspection of INEC’s forms EC8A, EC8B, EC8E and all other forms, ballot papers used in the same election.
But unfolding events at the proceedings of the tribunal appears to be having a great challenge in the task of proving the allegations raised by the petitioner as evident by a strong-worded warning by Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Halima Mohammed to counsels to the petitioner over what she described as undue delays.
The Justice Halima Mohammed-led tribunal was reacting to another request by the petitioner for another extension of time for the inspection of election materials having failed to do so within the time frame earlier granted him for the inspection exercise.
Beside, in what observers described as a legal blunder, counsels to Mr. Maku had opened and closed their case without tendering evidences, the election materials they inspected and which were brought before the tribunal as ordered. Following this development, counsels to the first (Al-Makura), second (APC) and third (INEC) respondents, were of the unanimous submission that by law, the petitioner had not brought the inspected materials before the tribunal having failed to tender them in evidence even though the materials were kept inside the venue of the tribunal.
This position was collaborated by the tribunal when the chairman rejected an oral application by counsel to the petitioner to tender the election materials in evidence at the bar on ground that a party could only reopen a case that has been closed by applying formally.
“There is no provision for re-opening of cases after it has been closed within the stipulated time allotted to the party involved unless a formal application for that effect is made”. Justice Mohammed ruled.
While the matter is being decided at the tribunal, questions are already being raised in some quarters as to why the former minister should be bent on challenging an election clearly won by candidate of the APC in the first place.
Analysts averred that the inability of All Progressives Grand Alliance to secure a seat at the state House of Assembly during the last general elections attests to the fact that the party was not grounded and as such, had no structure that could warrant its clinching the governorship of the state when it failed to produce even a House of Assembly member, coupled with the petitioner’s alleged lack of home support.
Just recently, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the state which also participated in the governorship election gave reasons as to why neither the party nor its governorship candidate in the governorship election, Alhaji. Yusuf Agabi, has declined to approach the tribunal to challenge the victory of Governor Al-Makura when the Zonal Coordinating Secretary of the southern senatorial district of the party, Alh. Sidi Ndaji, admitted that the Governor won his re-election squarely in the exercise he described as free, fair and credible, prompting the party and its candidate to jettison any idea of going to the tribunal.
He maintained, “We are baffled that the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and its gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Labaran Maku are contesting the Governor’s declaration by INEC as winner of the election when it was obvious and to any observer that Governor Al-Makura won his election overwhelmingly”.
He said the PDP has decided to respect the wishes and choice of the people because doing anything else would amount to questioning the collective resolve of the people which is not only disrespectful but inimical to the growth of democracy.
The party scribe asserted that Mr. Maku only won the governorship election in his local government area, Nasarawa-Eggon while the APC won in 11, insisting that APC’s victory in the 2015 election recorded the highest landslide since the inception of democracy in 1999 just as he accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of allotting votes to APGA in the said election illegally.
“We in the PDP are calling on the electorates not to play into the whims of desperate politicians, warning that Nasarawa state has endured a turbulent past largely for the same reason and has now come out stronger.”
Alhaji Yusuf Mohammed Agabi, the PDP governorship candidate had openly congratulated the Governor Al-Makura over his victory at the poll. He accepted the outcome of the election in good faith and assured of readiness to join hands with the state government in contributing to its development.
Nigerian Pilot Sunday recalls that Maku’s kinsmen, the Eggon ethnic nationality had declared that the duo is “On his own”. The Eggon elders and other political bigwigs in the state are said to have vowed not to forgive the former minister for going against the decision his elders when he allegedly refused to cooperate with Solomon Ewuga, his elder brother whom they had endorsed prior to the 2015 general elections as their sole governorship candidate.
He is said to have loss the goodwill of the people including Christian community. Findings revealed that the pledges made to some churches and Christian groups by the former minister before and during the last general elections have not been redeemed.
Recently, the Eggon traditional council announced the withdrawal of the traditional title of ‘Turaki Eggon’ earlier conferred on the former minister for alleged acts of disrespect to the entire Eggon traditional council. Maku is also said to have defied all counsels on issues that affects the people of Nasarawa State, especially those of his Eggon ethic nationality.