Kabir Akingbolu, Esq
In the last few days, the media, both electronic and the conventional media have been awashed by all sorts of reports and analysis about the recent judgment of the Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the governorship election and return of Alhaji Yusuf Abba as the governor of Kano state. To my mind, I think and believe that this judgment and series of opinion or analysis that followed have all failed to decipher the real position of the law with regard to the major reasons why the Tribunal nullified the election.
As shall be demonstrated anon, the Tribunal lacked jurisdiction to declare the APC candidate in the election as the winner after nullifying certain votes, given the state of our electoral jurisprudence. Before going further, it is pertinent to state that the jurisdiction of any court, including an election petition tribunal, is determined by the statute, a fortiori, an Election Petition Tribunal, whose jurisdiction is not only donated but also circumscribed by the statute, that is, the Electoral Act, 2022 and the 1999 constitution (as amended).
This means that a court of law cannot act outside the statute that established it. See Alhassan V. Ishaku (2017) All RWLR (pt 866) 209 at 297-298, where the Supreme Court held that the jurisdiction of a tribunal is circumscribed and limited in power by the enabling statute or law. Therefore, looking at the major ground or reason given by the tribunal in nullifying 165,673 votes, it will be observed that it was based on the failure of the Presiding Officers of the affected polling units to sign, date and stamp the results issued, according to the tribunal.
Now, the question to ask are: can the mere omission to sign or stamp an election result constitute a ground to nullify same? Assuming it can (which is not conceded) does the tribunal have the jurisdiction to declare APC candidate the winner in the circumstances? It is submitted most humbly that the Tribunal’s order declaring the APC candidate the winner of the election completely turned the law upside down, for undisclosed reasons.
This is because section 60 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act, 2022, upon which the judgment was based is not sacrosanct. For ease of reference, section 60 (1) and (2) of the electoral Act 2022 provides:
(2) The presiding officer shall, after counting the votes at polling unit, enter the votes scored by each candidates in a form to be prescribed by the commission as the case may be.
(2) The form shall be signed and stamped by presiding officer and counter signed by the candidates or their polling agents where available at the polling units.
It is submitted that non adherence or observance of the above provision cannot render the result of an election invalid because looking at the provision, it commanded two major obligations, namely: The presiding officer shall sign and the candidates or his agents shall sign. Fair enough, but there had been several instances where agents of the candidates were available but refused to sign the results of the election and the court held that it is not mandatory neither did it nullify the results of the election. See Ikpeazu V Otti (2016) 8 NWLR (Pt.1513) at 54.
That being the case, if the failure of an agent to sign an election result is held not sufficient to nullify an election result, it then follows that non signing by the presiding officer or stamping is not fatal, especially given the fact that the presiding officers’ names are subscribed to the foot of every result and that suffices to give it validity. That apart, in Ishola V. Ajiboye (1998) 1 NWLR (Pt. 532) at 71, the court held that similar provision should be interpreted in the same way.
Therefore; the courts overtime having interpreted that the failure of the agents not signing results to be of no moment cannot now hold that non signing and stamping of same by presiding officers is fatal because the two obligations are provided for by same statute and in the same section. How then will the court give two different interpretations to the same provisions? It is impossible.
Moreover, the Electoral Act, 2022 in Section 60 (6) prescribes punishment of N500,000 or six months imprisonment for any presiding officer that fails to comply with the provision of section 60 relating to failure of the presiding officers to sign and stamp the results in the polling units. It follows to reason that since the electoral Act has prescribed a sanction and consequence for the delinquent act, the court or tribunal cannot do otherwise.
It is submitted that if the framers of the law had wanted the results not so signed and stamped to be invalid, they would have so provided expressly in the law. Be it noted, however that Section 60(6) of the Electoral Act, 2022 is an innovation which was not provided for in section 63 of the Electoral Act, 2010 which ended at sub section (4). For emphasis, section 63 (1, 2, 3 and 4) of the 2022 Electoral Act but with the addition of two new subsections, namely sub sections 5 and 6 of the Act.
Being a new innovation, it means that is the remedy provided by law which is punishment and not cancellation that is relevant.
Also, in section 120 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the failure by presiding officers to stamp is also criminalized. And what is more? Section 63(1) and (2) states further that a ballot paper that fails to bear official mark prescribed by the commission shall not be counted but section 63(2) whittled down the extensive provision by giving the officer the latitude to make use of any ballot paper without official mark. For clarity, section 63(2) reads” if the returning officer is satisfied that a ballot paper which does not bear the official mark was from a book of ballot papers which was furnished to the presiding officer of the polling unit in which votes was cast for use at the election in question he or she shall notwithstanding the absence of the official mark, count the ballot paper.
A close look at the above provision would reveal that what the law gives to the returning officer is a blanket power which may be exercised anyhow because it is the exclusive preserve to perform the obligation so imposed by law. In doing this, his discretion is needed which the law did not provide. In Menkiti V Menkiti (200) 8 NWLR (Pt.667) 154, it was held that exercise of discretion cannot be subjected to any rule or procedure neither can it be circumscribed by human made guidelines, though it must be in compliance with natural justice. See also University of Lagos V Aigoro (1985) NWLR (Pt.1) at 143.
Stretched further, a more analytical dissection and justaposition of sections 60 and 63 of the Electoral Act 2022 would reveal that while section 60 deals with election results, section 63 deals with ballot papers.
Unfortunately the tribunal applied section 60 which deals with stamping, signing and dating of election results and not ballot papers. For this, we submit that the tribunal misapplied the law and therefore, its findings are perverse, unjust and cannot stand.
Although, the electoral Act did not specify what an “official mark” means, it is submitted that any mark or name of any official of INEC suffices. In Aiki V Idowu (2006) 9 NWLR (Pt.984) at 49, or Aiki V Idowu (2006) All FWLR (Pt.293) 361 at 375,the court held that any mark constitutes a signature Also, by virtue of clause 5, of the INEC Regulation and Guidelines for the election, upon collation of results, INEC ward collation officer is deemed to have resolved any discrepancies.
It is submitted that by parity of reasoning, once the result of the election is taken and announced by the electoral officers, it is deemed that the result is valid.
In any case, clause 36 of the Manual and Guidelines on the election seems to suggest that water mark constitutes official mark. We submit that if that were to be taken, then, the tribunal was wrong to rely on the CTC or copies of the result because water mark can only be seen in original copies of ballot papers because water mark is a hidden security features in the ballot. What is more? Our courts over the years have reiterated the point beyond any peradventure that there is presumption of regularity in favour of any result declared by INEC. See Livinus Gwaza Ujumatyu V Titus Tyoapine uba & Ors. (2019) LPELR 48859.
Although, the presumption of regularity which enures in favor of INEC results by virtue of section 168 of the Evidence Act is a rebuttable one, the burden of proving otherwise is squarely on the person alleging any irregularity. Unfortunately, the Tribunal got it wrong in this regard when it held at pages 215-216 of the judgment thus: “The 1st Respondent, in demonstrating that the ballot papers were valid, ought to have pleaded and further called the returning officer to give more particulars as to the validity of the official mark and also the 1st Respondent ought to have identified before the tribunal thumb printed ballot papers which the hoodlums brought”.
Ditto no evidence was led by the 1st Respondent to show that the Returning officer was satisfied that the ballot papers used in the aforementioned local government areas which did not bear the official marks, was from a book of ballot papers which was furnished to the presiding officer of the polling unit in which the vote was cast or use at the election in question. The tribunal was left with no option but to work (SIC) the ballot papers tendered and relied upon by the petitioner. It is the view of this tribunal, that election petition results and reports are very important documents, as held by the Court of Appeal on the implication of undated election results and election report in the case of Adihige V. Nwogu (2010) 12 NWLR(Pt. 1209) 419 at 481.
Without having the name, signature and date of exception on Exhibits P5, P6-P16c, P18-P34a, how can the tribunal know that it was made contemporaneously with the date the results were declared? It may be of probative value if the maker gives parole evidence of date it was executed. Having not offered further explanation, this honorable Tribunal cannot engage on a voyage of discovery, to know why those ballot papers in respect of the local governments aforementioned, which did not bear the official mark, were counted or not”.
We submit, most respectfully, that the Tribunal completely went off the radar and misplaced the burden of proof by supposing that the INEC and other respondents in whose favour the legal presumption enures are to disprove the legal presumption. This is because the law on he who asserts must prove has not changed. Therefore, by misplacing the burden of proof, the judgment of the tribunal is perverse and unjust. See Atolagbe V Shorun (1985) 1 NWLR (Pt.2) pg. 360 at 375.
Stretched further, section 135 (3) of the Electoral Act, states that, “no election shall be questioned or cancelled by reason that there is a mistake, conflict or inconsistence in the date contained in the result of such election signed by a returning officer or any other officer of the commission.”
We submit that this provision says it all. This is because, it is safe to argue that the law itself knows that there is no way an election may be conducted without any mistake or shortcoming at all. Thus, the word “mistake” has been judicially defined in Bello v. State (2016) LPELR-45601 (CA) as follows “I have consulted the Black’s Law Dictionary for the definition of mistake.
Black’s Law Dictionary (supra) defines mistake on page 1001 as: “some unintentional act omission or error arising from ignorance, surprise, imposition or misplaced confidence”.
Therefore, omission of dates, even official marks or step, cannot make an election to be invalid more so that the court can take judicial notice of the date of election.
Furthermore, it is surprising that the tribunal that held that it cannot go on a voyage of discovery to know why the ballot papers which did not bear official mark were credited or not, summersaulted 360 degrees and held that it had no choice than to look at the results tendered and make use of them.
We submit that the tribunal was also wrong to have held that the hallowed principle of dumping of documents did not arise in the case based on section 137 of Electoral Act. This is because section 137 of the Evidence Act cannot override the provision of section 128-133 of the Evidence Act on burden of proof.
More interestingly, is the fact that this section was recently interpreted to be of no moment if a party fails to lead evidence on the documents tendered in court. We rely on the unreported decision of the presidential election delivered by the Court of Appeal on 6th September 2023.
Therefore, section 137 of the Electoral Act, even though an innovation, according to the tribunal, we submit that documents tendered before the tribunal or court must be spoken to and linked with the case of parties. Assuming without conceding that the findings of the tribunal that those results that bear no official mark are invalid and properly voided is correct, it is our submission that the tribunal cannot make a return of the APC candidate as the winner for the simple reason that the complaint against non affixing of official mark, non dating, non signing and non stamping of election results and/or ballot papers raised in the petition and decided by the court are grounds of non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act.
What is more? This was confirmed by the tribunal at page 206 where the tribunal held that “By way of conclusion, this issue, may we point out for the umpteenth time that section 137 of the Electoral Act and paragraph 46(4) of the first schedule to the Electoral Act, 2022, have changed the law on the hallowed doctrine of dumping in election petition litigation, so much so, that in a narrow sphere of proof of non-compliance, can now be proved by documents alone.”
It is submitted that by admitting expressly that the allegation of non- signing, non-dating non-use of official mark belong to the realm of non- compliance, the tribunal missed the point by declaring APC candidate as the elected governor of Kano state. This is because under our electoral jurisprudence, once a party based his petition on non-compliance with the provision of Electoral Act, the only order the tribunal or court can make is nullification of the election and not an outright return.
This means the tribunal should have cancelled the results and order for fresh election in the affected areas. See section 136 of the Electoral Act, 2022, which provides:
(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), if the tribunal or the court as the case may be, determines that a candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on any ground, the tribunal or court shall nullify the election and order the commission to conduct a fresh election not later than 90 days after the-
(a) Decision if an appeal is not filed against the decision; or
(b) Nullification of the election by the court having final appellant jurisdiction in respect of the said election.
Before dilating on the above provision, we reproduce section 136(2) and (3) which states thus;
(2) Where an election Tribunal or Court nullifies an election an the fund that the person who obtained the highest votes at the election was not qualified to contest the election, the lection tribunal or court shall declare the person with the second highest number of valid votes cast at the election who satisfies the requirements of the constitution and this Act duly elected.
Provided that the person with the second highest number of valid votes cast at the election remains a member of the political party on which platform he contested the election otherwise, the candidate with the next highest number of vote in the election and who satisfies the same conditions shall be declared the winner of the election.
(3) If the Tribunal or the Court determines that a candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on the found that he did not score the majority of lawful votes cast at the election, the election tribunal or the court, as the case may be, shall declare as elected the candidate who scored the highest number of valid votes cast at the election and satisfied the requirements of the constitution and this Act.
Looking at the above provision of the law in section 136 (1) (2) and (3), it is crystal clear that the tribunal will only have power to declare anyone the winner of an election where the petition succeeds on section 134 (1) (a) and (c) which deal with non-qualification of candidate and failure to obtain majority of lawful votes cast at the election respectively.
Therefore, section 136 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 has pinned down the specific order a tribunal can make where the petition succeeds on any ground other than the two grounds mentioned in section 134 (a) and (c) of the Electoral Act, 2022.
To do otherwise therefore, is an offshoot of the law. Put differently, the petitioners on one hand wanted the election to be nullified on the ground of corrupt practices or non-compliance, while on the other hand they want the tribunal to declare the 1st Petitioner as the winner of the election having allegedly scored majority of lawful votes cast at the election.
Considering the reliefs sought at the tribunal here, it can be concluded that the reliefs sought are mutually exclusive or inconsistent and incongruous.
In OBIEKWE & ANOR V. AYINLA & ORS (2019) LPELRN-50785 the court held that, “The complaint of the appellants under this issue centered on the reliefs sought by the Appellant as petitioner for the mollification of the election of the grounds that same was marked by substantial irregularities non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) and the reliefs seeking for declaration of the 1st Appellant as duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast are mutually exclusive, and cannot be granted.
I agree with the learned Judges of the Tribunal that in law the Appellants are entitled to make alternative claims in the petition but the Appellants have to make a choice which of the claims to pursue. The 1st Appellant cannot claim that he won the election by scoring majority of valid votes cast and at the same time seek for the nullification of the election. The reliefs are clearly incongruous and rightly, in my view, discontenanced by the Tribunal. See also, AMOSUN V. INEC (2010) LPELR 4943 (CA).
It is submitted that in a petition alleging and founded on substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act or corrupt practices, no winner ought to emerge. In other words, the consequences of proof of such allegation, which is the only relief available to a Petitioner relying on such grounds, is the nullification of the election and order for fresh election. No more, no less. Meaning that a petitioner cannot pray to be returned as the winner of the election he alleged to have been flawed by substantial non compliance as it is not only incongruous but also sign post his insincerity in the claim he is making before the Tribunal.
From the foregoing, it is undoubtedly clear that the judgment of the Tribunal is a total miscarriage of justice.
In the analysis of the facts of the case and interpretation of the law, the Tribunal took over the case of the Petitioners in arriving at its indefensible conclusion. In as much as the Tribunal tried to hide its unbelievable bias, one of the members employed such foul and vulgar language in attacking the 1st Respondent and members of the New Nigeria Political Party. In arriving at a predetermined position the Tribunal cancelled 165,000 votes because of the mistake of INEC officials who failed to mark and stamp the ballot papers.
Thus, in an undisguised manner, the Tribunal clearly showed sentiment and emotion in support of the APC in the language used in the judgment. A member of the Tribunal, Justice Benson Anya let the cat out of the bag when he said, “I use this opportunity to condemn the gang of Red Cap wearers who like a violent and terrorist cult chased us out of Kano and put us in the fear of our lives.
We believe that only Allah is the giver of power. Those who believe in Allah must bow to his will and submit to the authority of Governmental power. Resort to anarchy, violence and killing can never be a source of lawful power. Threatening to put Honourable Judges in the danger of their life as done in Kano by some disgruntled bandits parading as politicians is hereby condemned.”
In descending to the arena and subjecting the entire members of the NNPP to collective punishment the Tribunal did not deem it fit to give them fair hearing before condemning them. However, we agree with the Tribunal that “only Allah is the giver of power.” But since Allah has through the electorates of Kano State given power to Governor Abba Yusuf, we are confident that the Court of Appeal will dismiss the unjust judgment of the Tribunal and res tore the confidence of the Nigerian people in the judiciary.
Kabir Akingbolu, Esq
Is a legal practitioner, human rights activist and constitutional law expert
writes from Lagos, Nigeria
President Tinubu: Stunts of the Salesman
By Abdulaziz Abdulaziz
It was pin drop silence. All heads turned to his side of the hall listening as the man gently, but firmly, made a case for his country to this crème de la crème of the Saudi Arabian economic bureaucracy and business community. He grabbed attention with an off the cuff speech that exuded confidence, authority, assurance and truthfulness. It was a little wonder his audience followed through and nodded all through!
The setting was the Saudi-Nigeria Business Summit and the speaker was President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was a forum held on the sidelines of the recent Saudi-Africa Summit held in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.
President Tinubu went into the meeting hall at the JW Marriot Hotel in upscale Riyadh as the President of Nigeria. By the time he picked the microphone he quickly wore the garb of a chief salesman for a product he is excited to market.
It was an effortless exercise in sophisticated arts of marketing and advocacy. It was a presentation from the heart that was as unpretentious as it was unscripted. He spurned out the facts and the figures, reeled out the justifications and tickled the boardroom chiefs where it mattered without appearing weak or pitiable. It was a classic case of economic diplomacy and salesmanship at the highest level.
Since the beginning of his campaign for office, one of the most frequent words on his lips has been “prosperity”. President Tinubu is a prosperous man. His life is tinged with footsteps of prosperity, from the corporate world where he was a successful businessman to the prosperous political career that was capped with his election to the highest office in the land.
It had not always been rosy for him. He had told his story again and again to motivate the younger generation and inspire the country. He had toiled to reach the top. He knew the pains of want and starvation, and the sweetness that comes with economic liberation and prosperity. It is the latter that President Tinubu is desperately working to see that all Nigerians have tested.
He had the lifelong ambition to lead his fatherland. He has fulfilled this ambition. He could, if he chooses, stay back and enjoy the pecks that come with it and pass the time in office. But because the ambition was not a vain one, President Tinubu is up and doing. “I campaigned for it. I begged for the job. I even danced to get elected. There is no excuse!” That is his mindset and the philosophy of leadership for him, and it is for this mindset that he is willing to go to any length to ensure that he bequeath to Nigerians a prosperous country that everyone desires.
It was in his quest for this objective that the President chose to use his time in Riyadh to address the country’s top boardroom chiefs. It turned out to be not just another meeting or a boring address from just another President. It was dazzling interaction that stole the minds of almost everyone in the room, by their own admission.
“We came with high expectations but you have exceeded them,” said the Saudi minister of investment, Khalid Al Falih, who moderated the three-hour session, after the rousing applause that greeted President Tinubu’s address to the Saudi business community. The minister had in his welcome address spoke about how they had followed President Tinubu’s campaign promises and how he started off with the “boldest economic reform agenda in decades” for Nigeria, likening it to happenings in Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Abunayyan, Chairman of Saudi’s ACWA Power confessed to being “inspired and motivated” by the President promising to see how his company can make foray into Nigeria. In the same vein, Abdulrahman Alfaqiq, the CEO of Saudi oil trading company, SABIC, promised to upscale their business relationship with Nigeria due to the assurances he got from the top. They were just a few of the many who spoke in glowing terms about the President and in optimistic sense of the new business environment being created by President Tinubu for domestic and international investors.
This was not the first time and certainly not the last. In September, the President’s participation at the G20 Summit in New Delhi, India, was a potpourri of achievements. He maximally used the time to network with the right people and seek out investments for Nigeria.
It was, in every sense, a bumper harvest for the country as the President came back with a basket full of goodies amounting to billions of dollars in investment pledges. Most of the commitments are in areas dear to the heart of the President and at centre of our quest for development. These include the $3 billion promised by Jindal Steels for iron ore processing to aid Nigeria’s drive for industrialization, Skippersells’ plan to invest $1.6 billion in the power sector by building 2000MW power plants across the country in 4 years, Indorama’s pledge for $8 billion expansion of their petrochemical facilities in Rivers State, a billion
dollars secured by the Defence Industry Corporation Of Nigeria (DICON),
The President’s last trip to Germany for the G20 Compact with Africa Summit also garnered as much fruits with the signing of the $500 million gas and renewable energy pact with the German government, among others.
As a young man, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu was trained as an accountant. He was a very good student, his records show, who finished from the Chigaco State University with flying colours. In the aftermath, he pursued strings of career opportunities in Accounting and Auditing. He left his job on his own volition and ventured into politics. But in his new job President Tinubu is demonstrating that beyond his training in Accountancy, as omo iyaloja he has imbibed not a few skills from his revered mother and notable businesswoman to apply in his bid to market Nigeria to investors and the larger international community.
Abdulaziz is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Print Media. He’s on X @AbdulFagge
MTN Scholarships: Transforming Lives of Nigerian Students
In the corridors of Bayero University, Kano, two exceptional students from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Abdussalam Ojoshobo Adejo and Obeyemi Adebiyi, are shining examples of the transformative power of the MTN Scholarships.
Initiated by the MTN Foundation, these scholarships, have become a beacon of hope and opportunity for Bling students and those pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) courses across Nigerian universities, polytechnic and colleges of education.
MTN set up the Foundation in 2004, and commenced operation in 2005, with the goal to provides platforms and opportunities for their scholars to connect to their aspirations and realise their potential from which the nation will benefit.
MTN made it a point of duty to have youth development as a pillar for the Foundation, and one of the ways to express the commitment is through scholarship.
The Foundation Executive Secretary, Odunayo Sanya said “Till date we have given about 12,700 scholarships, expended the sum of N3 billion for indigent students who are science-based in the last ten years.”
Telling the success story, Abdussalam Adejo, currently in his fourth year of study, hails from Kogi State. His journey with the MTN scholarship began as a dream nurtured during his secondary school days.
Witnessing a senior student receive the prestigious scholarship at the Federal University Minna, Niger State, fueled Abdussalam’s determination to strive for academic excellence and secure the coveted award.
After completing his second year at the university, Abdussalam navigated the rigorous application process, ensuring he met the required Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) threshold of 3.5.
The competition, as he describes it, is fierce, with an estimated three thousand or more applicants annually from various institutions nationwide.
“Despite the competitiveness, I was lucky to be among the less than five hundred selected applicants,” Abdussalam adds.
Abdussalam’s dedication paid off, earning him a spot among the select few who received the scholarship in 2022.
“The offer comes with a payment of two hundred thousand Naira every semester from the year of award till your final year, and for you to renew that scholarship, it’s not an automatic payment; you have to maintain a certain CGPA of 3.5 above for the subsequent levels,” says Abdussalam.
Additionally, MTN sponsors specific courses, offering opportunities for students to enhance their skill sets without financial constraints.
“Some of those courses that we have taken open my eyes. I participated in an Internet of Things, I also took a course on cybersecurity, I took a course on soft skills development.
Basically, it has really contributed positively to my life, and I am happy to say that there has been a lot of improvement after the scholarship,” Abdussalam emphasizes.
Reflecting on the impact of the scholarship, Abdussalam attests to its life-changing nature. Financial burdens were alleviated, allowing him to focus on his academic pursuits and excel in his studies.
The scholarship served as a catalyst for personal growth, eliminating the need to seek financial support from his parents.
“Once you remove financial challenges from students, fifty percent of his problem has been taken care of,” Abdussalam states.
“It has been 80 to 90 percent motivation to my life both in academic and career growth,” he concludes.
He extends a heartfelt thank you to MTN for bringing smiles to the lives of students through the foundation’s commitment to education.
“I am happy to say that there has been a lot of improvement after the scholarship. I am grateful to MTN for putting smiles on the faces of students through the scholarship from MTN foundation.”
Obeyemi Adebiyi, another beneficiary from the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bayero University, shares a similar sentiment.
Originating from Osun State and residing in Jigawa, Obeyemi echoes the narrative of how the MTN scholarship has profoundly influenced his life.
“Actually, having the scholarship and been expose to the opportunities that has come with the scholarship, because for you to even renew your scholarship there is skills you need to obtain which you need to submit result of that skill, may be you take programming course you need to submit the certificate like at least two, which is part of the requirement.” Obeyemi stated.
“Now gaskiya, I am energise after the scholarship, I feel like sky is my limit, because I don’t have that monetary worry that will limit some of the I can do, it has been a life changing experience after the scholarship, I am super charge.” He emphasizes.
The MTN Foundation Scholarships continue to serve as catalysts for academic excellence, breaking barriers and fostering a brighter future for BLIND and STEM students in Nigeria.
Tinubu and Ganduje Shouldn’t Play with Fire in Kano
By Farooq A. Kperogi
In a predictable, premeditated, and carefully choreographed judicial charade, the Court of Appeal on Friday upheld the verdict of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that reversed the electoral triumph of NNPP’s Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State. I sincerely hope this assault on justice isn’t the spark that ignites an inferno in Kano—and in the country.
The signs had been evident since early October that a predetermination had been made that irrespective of the facts, the flawed, preplanned judgment of the election petition tribunal must be preserved at all costs.
For example, on October 6, the Head of the Legal Department of INEC in Kano State by the name of Suleiman Alkali wrote a curious letter stating that INEC, which had declared NNP’s Yusuf as the validly elected winner of the governorship election in Kano, was no longer interested in defending its declaration.
“I have been instructed by the commission headquarters that INEC as an umpire has no reason to appeal any judgment,” he wrote. “Consequently, the National Commission in charge of Legal Services and National Commissioner in charge of Kano zone directed that the appeal be withdrawn and all processes for all appeals should be forwarded to the Kano Office.”
In response to the jolt and outrage that the letter generated, Sam Olumekun, INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, said Alkali wasn’t authorized to write the letter, pointing out that the letter had “since been withdrawn and the officer reprimanded.” We weren’t told the nature of the “reprimand” because it was a lie.
That was exactly what played out when INEC acted in cahoots with Ahmed Lawan to steal APC’s Bashir Machina’s Yobe North Senatorial District primary win, which the Supreme Court affirmed in a shameless show of what I called judicial banditry.
(Retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammed quoted his colleague’s quotation of my abrasive censure of the Supreme Court in his parting shots at his colleagues even though he and his colleague didn’t give me credit— and slightly misquoted me. I said in a February 6 article titled “Lawan and Supreme Court of Shameless Judicial Bandits” that “Nigeria’s Supreme Court is, without a doubt, a rotten gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits. The highest bidder gets their judgement.” Dattijo used “voter” where I used “rotten.”)
Anyway, on September 5, 2022, an INEC lawyer by the name of Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, had filed an affidavit at the Federal High Court to discredit the result of its own election that had declared Machina as the winner of the Yobe North APC senatorial primary election.
In the aftermath of the shock and fury that attended this, Festus Okoye, at the time INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee Festus, repudiated Ikpeazu’s affidavit and said, “the Commission will review its quality assurance protocols, including the preview by appropriate ranking Officials of all processes filed on its behalf to ascertain their correctness in all material particulars with all reports and all information at its disposal before their presentation so that a situation like this is not repeated.”
Well, that situation was repeated in Kano in October this year, almost exactly a year later. It seems to be a well-practiced pattern. INEC first flies a kite, sees how high it flies, then crashes it. But the whole point is to prepare the minds of the public for what is being hatched so as to minimize its shock value when it finally materializes.
If the outcome of the Ahmed Lawan and Bashir Machina case is any guide, it means INEC is deeply complicit in Ganduje’s chicanery and plot to steal Yusuf’s governorship. It might also mean that the “judicial bandits” I talked about at the Supreme Court are waiting in the wings to feast on another stolen electoral dinner. I hope I am wrong.
The second indication that this appeal court judgment was a well-rehearsed theater came when the appeal court completed its deliberations on November 6 but deferred its judgment until November 17 and then requested that security be heightened in Kano in anticipation of the publicizing of its judgement. Only people in a dry run for the abortion of justice ask for anticipatory protection from their potential victims.
As I pointed out in my September 23, 2023, column titled “Why the Kano Verdict Can’t Stand,” it is apparent that former Kano State governor and current APC national chairman Abdullahi Ganduje has resolved to damn all consequences and use the federal might at his disposal to wrest the power that his party and his flunkey lost to Rabiu Kwankwaso and his son-in-law in the governorship election.
“APC appears intent to get back through judicial manipulation what it lost through the ballot box,” I wrote. “It’s a higher-order, more sophisticated, and less primitive version of the broad-day electoral heist they perpetrated in 2019 after former Governor Abdullahi ‘Gandollar’ Ganduje lost to the same Abba Yusuf.”
In a defiant disregard for potentially untoward consequences, Ganduje—of course, with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s blessing—has decided to pull all strings to snatch judicial victory from the jaws of electoral defeat.
As I will show shortly, both the election tribunal and the appeal court are not even pretending to be fair in their judgments. They have already been handed a verdict and mandated to fish for evidence to justify it. The verdict, of course, is that NNPP’s Abba Yusuf must go and must be replaced by APC’s Nasiru Gawuna.
In rhetorical studies, we call that finalism, that is, a conclusion in search of evidence. Psychologists call it “motivated reasoning,” that is, tendentious interpretation intentionally designed to produce a predetermined outcome. Philosophers call that armchair hermeneutics, that is, reasoning that ignores the evidence.
The Daily Trust reported Justice Moore A. Adumein as predicating the nullification of Yusuf’s victory on the fact of his not being a member of the NNPP when he was nominated by the party. “As rightfully found, Yusuf Abba was not a member of the NNPP at the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party and he was not qualified to contest the March Governorship Election,” Justice Adumein reportedly said.
Yet, in quashing the election of APC’s House of Representatives member Musa Iliyasu Kwankwaso and reinstating NNPP’s Yusuf Umar Datti as the validly elected member to represent Kano’s Kura/Madobi/Garun Malam Federal Constituency seat, the same appeal court said two weeks ago that “the issue of membership of a political party is an internal affair, which no court has jurisdiction on,” according to the LEADERSHIP newspaper.
I had thought that this was settled law. As I wrote in a previous column, “A May 26 Supreme Court ruling also says rival parties have no right to question the validity of the internal decisions made by other parties unless they can prove that they suffered demonstrable harm as a result of the internal decisions another party took. So, the Kano governorship election tribunal’s verdict on this issue will be as dead as a dodo upon appeal.”
The question now is, why is NNPP’s Yusuf being held to a different standard? I get that Kwankwaso and Yusuf didn’t handle their victory well. Instead of being happy, their victory roused destructive vengeance and mean-spiritedness in them. But that’s no reason to steal their legitimately earned victory.
I am certain that NNPP will take this case to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court is guided by its precedents, which is never guaranteed, I have no doubt that it will invalidate the judgements of the lower courts.
But this is clearly not a legal issue. It’s a battle for political supremacy in Kano between Ganduje and Kwankwaso in which Ganduje is deploying the courts as cudgels to fustigate Kwankwaso.
My advice for President Tinubu is to be very watchful because this is really treacherous territory. Righteous anger over obvious injustice—on top of ongoing existential torment in the country—can spark violence whose consequence we can’t predict.
Farooq A. Kperogi is a Professor of journalism and emerging media at Kennesaw State University, U.S.A
This article was first published on his Facebook page.
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