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Monday, September 19, 2016

It’s Judgement Day For Gov Yahaya Bello!

The Supreme Court will, Tuesday, deliver judgement on various appeals challenging the election of the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello.

Two of the appeals were filed by a former Governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada and the former deputy governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, James Faleke.

The election was held in November 21, 2015 while the re-run was held on December 5, 2015.

The appeal of the candidate of the Labour Party in the election is among those pending in the nation’s highest court.

Mr. Wada, who contested the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Mr. Faleke had approached the Supreme Court in August challenging Mr. Bello’s victory at the Court of Appeal.

The appellate court had upheld an earlier judgement in June by the Kogi State Governorship Election Tribunal, which gave victory to the governor.

Shortly after the November 21 election, Mr. Faleke approached the tribunal seeking to be declared winner of the poll, which was declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The commission had declared Mr. Bello the winner of the re run.

But Mr. Faleke argued that following the death of the former candidate of the APC, Abubakar Audu, to whom he was running mate, he ought to be declared winner of the election and sworn in as governor.

He faulted the decision of the APC to nominate Mr. Bello as replacement for the late candidate, who had the highest number of votes in the November election.

According to him, the election was “almost” concluded before Mr. Audu died.

The tribunal, however, thought otherwise. In the judgement read by its chairman, Justice Halima Mohammed, the tribunal said Mr. Faleke’s petition lacked merit and therefore threw it out.

The tribunal further held that the fact that INEC declared the first election inconclusive meant no winner had emerged.

It also said that all votes belonged to political parties and not the candidate who contested on their platforms.

It said Mr. Faleke had no locus standi to challenge Mr. Bello’s nomination by the APC to replace Mr. Audu as he (Audu) was not the governor-elect.

Dissatisfied with the judgement, Mr. Faleke filed a suit at the Court of Appeal.

The five-member panel of justices of the appellate court, in a unanimous judgement in August, said Mr. Faleke failed to provide credible evidence of non-qualification against Mr. Bello.

Justice Jummai Sankey, who read the judgement, said Mr. Faleke should not have litigated the substitution and replacement of Mr. Audu with Mr. Bello at the tribunal since it was a pre-election matter and therefore an internal affair of the APC.

The court, which resolved four out of the six issues for determination in the governor’s favour, however faulted the tribunal for holding that Mr. Faleke had no locus standi to challenge the election.

However, Justice Obande Ogbuniya gave a dissenting judgement in Mr. Wada’s appeal. He cancelled Mr. Bello’s election, saying the governor was not validly nominated following Mr. Audu’s death.

Mr. Ogbuniya also said Mr. Bello ran the election without a running mate.
He therefore ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return given to the governor and conduct fresh election in Kogi State.

Mr. Bello, 41, was sworn in as the fourth democratically elected governor of the state in January following his victory at the governorship re run.

He polled 247,752 votes to defeat the then incumbent governor, Idris Wada, who got 204,877 votes.

The governor’s inauguration on January 27, though colourful, was historical and unique.

Mr. Bello was sworn in without a deputy. Mr. Faleke, who was presumed to be his running mate during the re-run had shunned the ceremony, thereby throwing up legal concerns about the exercise and his mandate.
Indeed, it was the first time a governor would be inaugurated without a deputy in Nigeria’s political history.

Mr. Bello’s emergence as governor of the 25 year old state was also significant in other ways.

He is the first person from a minority ethnic group to be elected governor of the state.

Mr. Bello belongs to the Ebira ethnic group in the Central senatorial district of the state.

The former governors, namely Abubakar Audu, Ibrahim Idris and Mr. Wada, all hail from the majority Igala ethnic group in the Kogi East senatorial District.

The Okun Yoruba in the western senatorial district from where Mr. Faleke hails, is yet to produce a governor.

Should Tuesday’s judgement of the Supreme Court be decide in favour of the governor, he would emerge as one of the governors to fight a prolonged legal battle to keep his mandate.
He has been entangled in legal battles in the last eight months that he has been at the helm of the affairs of the north central state.

Far more important is that Mr. Bello would rule the state without distractions, at least from the judicial angle. The governor is still facing stern battle from the organized labour for non-payment of salaries.
But should Mr. Bello lose the case, it would not only be a setback for him politically, but also for his Ebira ethnic group, which had battled in the last 25 years to produce the governor.

Already, the police, apart from banning public processions and rallies in Kogi State, have deployed its officials to all parts of the state to prevent breakdown of law and order.


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