Anxiety, As Election Tribunal Sacks Another PDP Gov
• I Am Disappointed At Ruling, Says Ishaku
• Fayose Blasts Judgment
THE Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, yesterday, sacked Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku, and declared Mrs. Aisha Jummai Alhassan winner of April 11, 2015, poll in the state.
Ishaku is of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while Alhassan, now a minister-designate, belongs to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
The decision of the tribunal, hinged on Ishaku’s failure to secure sponsorship of a registered political party, as required by law, is coming on the heels of the recent upsetting of PDP victory in Rivers State.
Delivering a unanimous judgment in the petition filed by Alhassan, tribunal chairman, Musa Danladi Abubakar, ordered that the APC candidate is sworn-in immediately, having scored the second largest votes in the governorship election.
In the three-hour judgment, the tribunal held that the purported nomination of the sacked governor by the PDP breached Section 85 of the Electoral Act 2010.
The tribunal held that it was a fundamental law in Nigeria that a candidate for an elective position be dully nominated and sponsored by a registered political party before the candidature of such is deemed valid.
According to the tribunal, there was overwhelming evidence the PDP in Taraba held no primary election that could have led to the emergence of anybody as its sponsored candidate.
The tribunal recalled the evidence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on subpoena during hearing of the petition, when the commission claimed it had no record of any primary election by PDP in Taraba, whereas Section 85 of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory that INEC be given 21 days notice of a convention or primary where candidates are to be nominated for election.
The tribunal said, therefore, that since any known registered political party did not sponsor Ishaku, he cannot lay claim to votes cast for any political party and cannot as well claim to be an independent candidate in the election.
Reacting, Ishaku said: “I am disappointed in the judgment. I am very, very disappointed…the judge left the main issue and delved into something else.”
Urging people of the state to remain calm, he added: “I am going to appeal because it is the peoples’ free mandate that I am using…By the grace of God, the Judgment would be reversed at the Appeal Court.”
As news of the nullification broke, some residents took to the streets of Jalingo, the state capital, in celebration.
Also at the PDP state secretariat, heavily armed security operatives stood on guard to prevent any unwanted incident.
The verdict caps days of intense anxiety that had enveloped the state, with traders closing their shops in apprehension, amid the deployment of troops to major towns and streets in the state, to forestall the breakdown of law and order.
At the APC secretariat, one excited loyalists said: “The leadership of the party, some of whom who were in Abuja, called us immediately after the judgment and warned that while celebrating, we must not destroy anything or attack anybody. And as you can see, that is exactly what is going on, here, People are celebrating peacefully. So, no cause for alarm.”
Though PDP stalwarts in Taraba State were reluctant to comment publicly, a few who confided in The Guardian blamed the outcome of the tribunal on the party’s leadership.
“I must confess to you that the main reason we lost woefully at the tribunal was because our house is in disarray. The man we call chairman failed to perform his responsibilities to the party. Could you believe he has even been shielding the governor from the entire executives of the party?” said a chieftain.
Former Minister of Labour, Joel Danlami Ikenya, noted: “The judgment, as it is, cannot stand the test of time. (The tribunal) had nothing to do with issues of candidature,” and he is, therefore, “not worried at all by the pronouncement.”
APC state chairman, Alhaji Hassan Jika Ardo, said the ruling is victory for Taraba people, irrespective of tribe or religion and called on PDP faithful to board the APC train at state and national levels. “Right from day one, the world knew that the governorship election was won by APC,” said Ardo.
Meanwhile, the PDP in a statement, yesterday, said the judgment is another evidence of executive interference in the judiciary.
The party said the reason given by the tribunal for arriving at the decision is intriguing and further exposes contradictions and double standards inherent in recent tribunal rulings against PDP interests.
“It is rather curious and a great conflict of irony that the Taraba tribunal sitting in Abuja on security grounds faulted the conduct of PDP primaries shifted to the same Abuja on security reasons.
“Evidence that the ruling was a product of Presidency manipulation can be deduced from the fact that few hours before the judgment was delivered, the APC had arrogantly announced their victory,” the party said.
The PDP called on party faithful across the country, especially in Taraba State, to remain undaunted, saying the appellate court will restore its victory.
The APC National Women Leader, Hajiya Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, described Alhassan’s victory as triumph for democracy and triumph of the peoples’ will and called on “Nigerian women to rally support for the tribunal’s ruling, especially in the circumstance that it remains a priceless watershed in our political history for our great party to produce the first elected female governor in Nigeria, as desired and manifestly expressed by the electorate in Taraba State.”
APC chieftain in Taraba State, Danjuma Isa Munga, stressed that the tribunal’s decision has liberated the people from the shackles of the PDP, adding that the party had “for over 16 years milked the people dry.”
In a contrary view, however, the senator representing Southern Taraba, Emmanuel Bwacha, faulted the judgment, saying: “We are going to appeal because there is a contradiction. The tribunal sat in Abuja alleging insecurity. How come the same tribunal is now challenging why we held our primary in Abuja?
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, described the judgment as ridiculous, saying it will not stand before men of good conscience and God.
Fayose maintained that there was a conspiracy by the APC-led federal government and a section of the judiciary against the PDP and called on the Supreme Court to save the country from impending anarchy.
In a statement issued by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, the governor wondered how a tribunal could make the conduct of the PDP primary that produced Ishaku in Abuja an issue when the tribunal itself sat in Abuja.
He said: “How does the emergence of the party candidate, which is the clear internal business of the party and a pre-election matter concern the APC and the election tribunal?
“Isn’t it funny that it is no longer about election rigging but the technicality of how PDP candidates emerged, even when no one in the PDP went to court to challenge how Governor Ishaku emerged as the PDP governorship candidate?
“If insecurity could make Taraba State tribunal sit in Abuja and not in Jalingo, how then can it be justified that the same tribunal that sat in Abuja nullified the governor’s election because the primary election that produced him too was held in Abuja?
“Is it not being manifested in this President Mohammadu Buhari-led APC government that what is good for some people may not be good for others, even though we operate the same constitution?
“To me and the teeming supporters of the PDP, this judgment is one that must not be allowed to stand. It is a clear miscarriage of justice and we will seek redress from the court of men and the court of God.”
While reiterating his commitment to speaking the truth in the overall interest of Nigerians, Fayose said: “If everybody is persecuted and intimidated to submission, I will remain resolute in my resolve to always say the truth before men and God.”