THE recent judgement of the Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja declared APC’s Aisha Jummai Alhassan as the duly elected governor of Taraba state and ordered the sitting Governor, PDP’s Architect Darius Ishaku, to vacate office on the grounds that he did not emerge the candidate of the PDP in a properly-conducted primary election. This prompted me to write this article to call attention to the worrisome reasons the Justice Mustapha Danladi Abubakar Panel adduced for its ruling, and to alert Nigerians to the threat our country’s growing democracy might face if the curious judgement is allowed to stand.
To all sincere, discerning and patriotic Nigerians conversant with the governorship elections which led to the emergence of Darius Ishaku as the duly-elected Governor by the people of Taraba state, there are very glaring holes in the tribunal’s judgement. I will try to highlight some of these to clearly illustrate how the tribunal, in arriving at its decision, left substance and chose to chase shadows in a bid to achieve a pre-determined and sinister agenda.
Firstly, the candidacy of the governor as flag-bearer of the PDP in the election was a pre-election matter that was clearly outside the mandate and purview of the Elections Petitions Tribunal. However, the panel decided to ignore the validity of Governor Ishaku’s nomination as the PDP candidate, and chose to meddle into what was not its business by assuming jurisdiction on the matter. And this was despite the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognised him as the candidate of the PDP in the elections without any issues, published his name as candidate without any reservations, and went ahead to announce him as the winner of the election while also issuing him the Certificate of Return.
The tribunal’s ruling is all the more absurd more so when no one in the PDP went to court to challenge Ishaku’s emergence as the PDP flag-bearer to contest the April 11 elections or faulted his eventual election as governor.
Secondly, the tribunal rejected the explanations of the PDP and its legal team that the governorship primary could not hold in Taraba as a result of security concerns in the state at the time. This was despite the fact that the tribunal itself chose to sit in Abuja because of security concerns in Taraba. Yet, it mentioned this as one of the grounds for which it based its shocking ruling. Now, if the Tribunal could not sit in Jalingo, the state capital, as a result of the same reason of security, what was wrong with the PDP’s decision to hold its governorship primary in Abuja with party chiefs and all relevant stakeholders in attendance even as the primary was open to the world and was covered by the media?
Thirdly, since it was clear that the Boko Haram insurgency was still on at the period, and the tribunal was very well aware of the prevailing circumstances in the country at the time, especially in the North East and North West geo-political zones of the country, why does it expect elections to hold in all parts of the state on election day? Fourthly, and which is most baffling, is the tribunal’s express nullification of the APC’s claims that the governorship election in Taraba state was fraught with malpractices and over-voting yet it went ahead to nullify Ishaku’s election as the duly-elected Governor of Taraba state.
On the basis of free and fair elections which remain the fundament bedrock of sustainable democracy, Governor Ishaku won the election fair and square. So, why would the tribunal go ahead to annual his election on grounds of his candidature? The judgement is curious and confounding, and it’s clear that there is certainly more to it than meets the eyes.
With the tribunal’s ruling, it appears there is a grand conspiracy between the APC-led federal government and a section of the judiciary against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Otherwise, how does the emergence of a party’s candidate, which is clearly an internal party affair and a pre-election matter, concern the APC and the election tribunal? Indeed, the judgement lends credence to the views of those who insist that the APC government is pulling some strings behind the scene. And this position cannot just be waived aside. It just appears the APC seems so power-hungry and desperate to do just about anything to achieve its agenda of a one-party state. Nigerians need to wake up and not allow themselves be deceived by politicians who chant change with their mouths in public but do things to the contrary in their closets, away from prying eyes.
Now, while having a female governor is laudable in itself, is it appropriate for it to be done through the back-door? Is it right for the tribunal to rule that a woman whom majority of the people of Taraba did not elect must govern them? The truth of the matter is that the APC candidate in the election, Alhassan, is hardly prepared for governance. A woman who prefers focussing on frivolities rather than on substance and critical issues of governance and development cannot be the best on offer among women in Taraba state. She can yet become the Governor of the state in future; but she would need to prepare herself more and earn the valid votes of the good people of Taraba state.
For the next four years, it is Ishaku that Tarabans have duly elected as their governor to spearhead the task of moving the state forward. Citizens of the state believe in his vision and want him to deliver all of his campaign promises to transform Taraba. Nothing must be allowed to derail this mission. The people’s wishes must prevail.
Part of the legacies of the PDP government of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan to Nigeria is free and fair elections. Nigerians must never allow this legacy to be rubbished. Nigerians must not allow their rights and liberty to freely choose those who will lead and govern them to be taken away by a party that wants to have things its own way or no other way. I believe if President Muhammadu Buhari truly wants to succeed in his war against corruption, he needs to commence from tribunal judges.
That is why the people of Taraba state and all Nigerians who believe in credible elections and justice are eagerly looking forward to the hearing of the case at the Appeal Court. The tribunal’s judgement deserves nothing but being overruled by the Appeal Court. It is the right thing to do. And it is what God-fearing citizens of the state expect from the Justices at the Appeal Court. Anything otherwise would be a travesty of justice.
Adamu writes in from Jalingo