APC, APGA, PDP and Nasarawa governorship election tribunal
Before the behind-the-door entry of Mr. Labaran Maku to snatch the gubernatorial ticket of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) from the winner of the party’s primary election, Mathew Ombugaku, many had thought that the race for the number one seat in Nasarawa State in the last election will be mainly between two candidates- incumbent Governor Tanko Umaru Almakura of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Yusuf Agabi of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Maku, who was the minister of Information in the last administration got the ticket of APGA after losing the PDP primary to Agabi.
As soon as Maku left the PDP to APGA, it was widely believed that the race for the governorship would be easier for Almakura. And indeed Almakura won the election overwhelmingly with over 120,000 votes.
A number of factors are believed to have worked in favour of Al-Makura. Apart from his political clout and the achievements he recorded in area of infrastructural development, the exit of Maku from PDP weakened the party which led to the division of votes between it and APGA, giving APC an edge.
The deputy national chairman, North Central, of the PDP, Alhaji Yusuf Ayitogo, who described Maku as an ingrate expressed the fear that PDP would lose the election due to the exit of the former from the party.
His words: “Maku is a destroyer who wants to reduce the votes of the PDP in Nasarawa State. He is biting the finger that fed him. PDP made him what he is today, rising from commissioner to deputy governor and lately a minister.
“It is unfortunate that he (Maku) has defected to APGA which is nowhere in Nassarawa State.
“People who served under President Goodluck Jonathan are the ones betraying him. They should be called to order. Labaran Maku cannot win any election in Nasarawa State. He will be shown this in the February election.”
And indeed the words of the PDP chieftain came to pass after the election.
When Almakura was eventually declared the winner of the April 11th gubernatorial race, the PDP and its candidate Agabi congratulated him and accepted the outcome of the election in good faith. But Maku who came second in the race described the election as “a daylight robbery,” saying he won but INEC decided to declare Almakura the winner. He then headed to the tribunal to challenge the credibility of the election and results.
The PDP chiefs who are still angry with Maku for destroying their chances recently told journalists that the party refused to approach the tribunal not because they are doubting the credibility of the judges in delivering judgment but because they were convinced that Almakura won the election.
The party’s coordinating secretary of the southern senatorial district, Alhaji Sidi Ndaji, who spoke to journalists in Lafia described the decision of Maku to challenge the victory of Almakura at the tribunal as the behaviour of a bad loser. He urged Maku and his party, APGA, to emulate former President Goodluck Jonathan and concede defeat.
He described the victory of Almakura as “the hand work of God”
and that was why his party decided to respect the wishes and choice of the people because doing the contrary would amount to questioning the will of God and their collective resolve.
The PDP chieftain noted that Maku only won the governorship election in his local government area, Nasarawa Eggon, as against APC’s eleven, insisting that the latter’s victory in the 2015 election was obvious.
“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.”
Sidi, who stated that his actions were not intended to pre-empt the tribunal’s judgment, said Maku’s supporters should brace for an outcome that might not be pleasant, for not presenting convincing evidence to prove that he won the election.
He then noted that “ How can a party that did not secure even a single seat out of the 24 members in the state Assembly claimed that the won the governorship election, it is laughable and ridiculous.”
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Halima Mohammed, adjourned its sitting to September 9 (yesterday), for adoption of final addresses by all parties in the petition, following the closure of cases by them.
The third respondent, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had earlier opened and closed its defence without calling any witness to testify.
Hassan Liman (SAN), counsel to INEC, in his application for the closure, said although his client had 10 days to defend its case, they decided to close it without calling any witness.
Liman said all the materials used in the governorship election in the six local government areas where the petitioner challenged, were intact and tendered in court in line with a subpoena from the tribunal.
Lawyers to Al-Makura and APC, Akin Oladeji and Yusuf Usman, supported the application for the closure of INEC’s case.
Liman later sought the permission of the tribunal to set September 9 for adoption of final addresses, saying that all the parties in the case had conferred and agreed on the date.
Out of the more than 150 witnesses billed to testify at the tribunal, only 58 testified before all the parties closed their cases.
Maku had presented 54 witnesses out of 60, Al-Makura presented two out of 26, APC presented two out of 55, while INEC failed to present any.
Almakura expressed delight at the way the panel had been handling the case since trial commenced. He said the fact that there were no petitions written against the panel or any of its members showed that the tribunal had displayed a high level of integrity in discharging its duty.
He said he was not jittery but ready to accept the judgment.
He added: “I am not distracted. I am very focused and ready to accept the verdict.”
Yesterday, the tribunal adjourned for judgment following the adoption of written addresses of the three parties by their counsel.
The APGA candidate is praying the tribunal to nullify the election of Almakura and declared him the lawful winner of the election.
Counsel to Almakura while addressing the panel said the petitioner who he maintained, won in only one LGA out of the thirteen LGAs, representing only five percent cannot be declared winner in the interest of equity.
He further argued that an earlier attempt by the petitioner’s counsel to tender in evidence, some documents before the tribunal after the final submissions by all parties involved was a clear indication that the petition lacked merit. He then urged the tribunal to dismiss the petition for lack of merit and as a waste of time.