On the Taraba tribunal judgement
THE judgement of the Elections Petitions Tribunal in Abuja declared the All Progressives Congress (APC’s) Aisha Jummai Alhassan as the duly elected governor of Taraba State and ordered the sitting Governor, PDP’s Darius Ishaku, to vacate office on the grounds that he did not emerge the candidate of the PDP in a properly conducted primary election.
The reasons the Justice Mustapha Danladi Abubakar Panel adduced for its ruling are worrisome. To all patriotic Nigerians conversant with the governorship elections which led to Ishaku’s emergence as the elected Governor of Taraba State, there are glaring holes in the tribunal’s judgement. 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 Ishaku’s nomination as the PDP candidate, and assumed 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 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 period. 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 geopolitical 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 fundamental bedrocks of sustainable democracy, Governor Ishaku won the election fair and square. So, why on earth would the tribunal go ahead to annul his election on grounds of his candidature? The judgement is curious and confounding.
How does the emergence of a party’s candidate, which is the clear internal business of the party and a pre-election matter, concern the APC and the election tribunal? 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 should not allow themselves to be deceived by politicians who chant change with their mouths in public but do things to the contrary in their closets while away from the prying eyes of the public.
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 that the majority of the people of Taraba did not elect must govern them? 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.
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 wishes of the people 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 being overruled by the Appeal Court. Anything otherwise would be a travesty of justice.
•Adamu writes from Jalingo .