Opinion: Kogi Post-Election Matter And Legal Option before Yahaya Bello, By Stephen Ojate

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The death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the gubernatorial Candidate of All Progressive Congress in Kogi State had prompted the Independent National Electoral Commission to mandate the party to shop for his replacement.

The All Progressive Congress’s Party Chairman, Odigwe Oyegun on receiving the call for replacement from INEC announced that the party shall conduct another fresh Party’s Primary election to enable it nominate new Candidate to replace late Prince Abubakar Audu who died in the eve of the election when it was declared inconclusive.

The Party again had to reverse the earlier proclamation when respected legal luminaries in Nigeria offered legal advice that it will be wrong to conduct another primary election as the time lag stipulated in the electoral Act has already elapsed. They pointed out that nothing has invalidated the last primary as such, it still stands.

The All Progressive Congress had to summon stakeholders’ meeting to deliberate on the options for fielding one asreplacement for their late flag-bearer in Kogi. It was on this note that the idea of adopting the second runner in the previous party’s primary election and the choice of the running mate to late Prince Abubakar Audu as Party’s Candidate came to offing.

After much touted consultation, deliberation and consideration, they settled for the nomination of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, the second runner to late Prince Abubakar Audu in the last Party’s primary election. With this, the name of Alhaji Yahaya Bello was forwarded to Independent National Electoral Commission. The supplementary election was later conducted and Alhaji Yahaya Bello was declared the Kogi State Governor-elect as his party secured highest votes cast at the election.

The nomination of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as APC Party’s Candidate and his subsequent declaration as the winner of the last gubernatorial election has raised dust in Kogi State.Governor Capt Wada of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is contesting it saying with the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, he should be declared the Governor-elect and has commencedlegal batch base on this argument.

The running mate of late Prince Abubakar Audu at the election, James Faleke was not left out as he too gotdispleased with the decision of All Progressive Congress Party’s hierarchy in nominating Alhaji Yahaya Bello as replacement for the late Party’s Candidate and has also gone to court.

James Faleke once approached the Federal High Court in Abuja where he challenged the nomination of Alhaji Yahaya Bello as Party’s Candidate noting that All Progressive Congress ought to have nominated him in the first instance with the death of his principal. His prayer at this Federal High court was thrown out and the court hinted that this was purelyan election matter and does not fall under their jurisdiction.

James Faleke again has filed another legal suit against Alhaji Yahaya Bello at the election Tribunal challenging the decision of All Progressive Congress Party’s hierarchy in nominating him as replacement for the late Prince Abubakar Audu. One of his counts was, ‘with the death of late Party’s Candidate, the Independent National Election Commission ought to have declared him the winner as duo had already secured highest vote cast at the election’.

James Faleke based his take on the constitutional provision which stipulated that, ‘with the death of any Governor elect after the election, the deputy automatically becomes theGovernor’. In other angle, the National Electoral Act provided that the Party shall nominate one to replace any of her Candidate at the election in event of death but this was not explicit as to whether such provision should still be adhered to while conducting election. The election being declared inconclusive as clearly pointed out above has caused the confusion in the whole saga.

I must point out to my readers that one salient point on this constitutional matter which James Faleke is hanging on and should not be shoved aside by sentiment and which could make him get the favour of the Court is the total number of registered Voters with Permanent Voters’ Card (PVS) eligible to vote at the supplementary election versus the leading margin figure. James Faleke might convince the court that he had a joint ticket with the late Audu and he is still alive and should be declared the Governor-elect as the duo led their opponents with high margin at the election.

With this, there is every possibility that the Court could as well look into the direction of James Faleke by coming out with a final judgement that the late Prince Abubakar Audu had already won the majority Vote cast noting that Independent National Electoral Commission erred in declaring the election inconclusive in the first instance and also their later call for the supplement election.

Yahaya-Bello

The Court could say ‘those with Permanent Voters’ Card for the supplementary election were less than the leading marginal figures at the first total count of the election and as such James Faleke should be declared the Governor.

In view of the above, as one of the public affairs commentators on the side of Alhaji Yahaya Bello, i have a very strong advice for him on how to overcome whatever position James Faleke might present to court to challenge his nomination.

Recall that after the gtgAll Progressive Congress primary election, the party constituted ‘PRIMARY ELECTION APPEAL COMMITTEE’ and Alhaji Yahaya Bello had once approached it to challenged late Prince Abubakar Audu eligibility for the party primary election. Alhaji Yahaya Bello had prayed to APC election appeal committee to disqualify (Prince Abubakar Audu) saying he never resign his position as Party leader in the State before standing for the primary, one of the laid down conditions for any APC party officialsaspiring for political positions.

The election appeal committee had sat on this and came with a recommendation that the late Prince Abubakar Audu should be disqualified and to be replaced with the second runner, Alhaji Yahaya Bello. The recommendation was forwarded to the party’s hierarchy and was to be acted upon but they delay in implementing that as doing so at a time very close to the election could jeopardise the chances of the Party winning in Kogi State

As James Faleke is not ready to sheath his sword on the call of spirited individuals to allow the sleeping Dog lies byaccepting the Deputy Governorship position which he stood for, i therefore call on Alhaji Yahaya Bello to echo to the ears of his Lawyers to declare to court that the late Prince Abubakar Audu was not duly qualify to stand for All Progressive Congress party primary election in the first instance.

He should buttress this with the earlier recommendation of the APC Appeal Committee panel as forwarded to the party’s hierarchy. His lawyer should tell court that base on this, James Faleke has no legal ground to challenge him as he (Alhaji Yahaya Bello) supposed to be the rightful Candidate of the Party.

There is a saying that ‘make the hay while the sun shine’ and I believe that making this presentation before the Court will go along a way to thwart any moves James Faleke might standupon in convincing it to declare him the rightful Kogi State Governor-elect.

Shaibu Stephen Ojate is a Journalist and Public Affairs Commentator writes from Abuja.

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