Kogi Guber: Ethnicity As Core Factor In Audu’s Replacement
THE political logjam thrown up by the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu, is taking a very precarious dimension. Serious ethnic politics is at play as the three senatorial zones struggle to outdo one another over who should replace Audu, the APC candidate to complete the remaining election. This has brought some confusion, which is further made worse by the fact that the nation’s laws never envisaged that a candidate in an election could die midway.
The state, which was polarised along party lines before the governorship election, became further divided along ethnic and senatorial zones. The issue of power shift that had eluded the Kogi Central and West Senatorial districts since the creation of the State about 25years ago, resurfaced. The two main political parties in the governorship election used the power shift slogan as the main campaign bait to woo voters in Kogi East and West. While Governor Idris Wada assured the people that the next governor would come from either the Central or West senatorial zone in 2019, he tried to match his words with action by setting up a working committee that would actualize that promise once he was re-elected. On its part, the APC promised to also ensure that the governorship goes to either of the two zones. Its candidate, now late Prince Abubakar Audu, assured that he would be the first to make that dream come true.
Either way, people from the West and Central zones seemed to align with the two parties according to their convictions. But immediately the news of the demise of the APC candidate filtered in, while he was coasting to victory, the music changed in the two zones. While those from the West started advocating for the running mate James Abiodun Faleke to be empowered to step into Audu’s shoes and complete the supplementary election, those from the Central did not hide their preference for a recourse to the result of the APC primary election. They said it would be fair to allow the runner-up in that process to benefit, saying that he spent so much and deserves to be compensated. The Kogi East leaders, who seemed to be at the receiving end, would not have any of that. They believe the votes that gave Audu victory were their votes, adding that it should be given to his first son Muhammed as the best way to reward the zone for their support and votes.
Their argument is fueled by fact that the timeline for substitution of candidates has clearly elapsed. According to the Electoral Act, it is 45 days before the election. And that if the candidate dies before the commencement of the election, the Commission is mandated by the Act to cancel the election and schedule a future date. Many have argued that the ideal thing was to conduct a fresh poll or approach the Supreme Court for guidance and elaboration of the law. But all these would have not cropped up if the results of the election were conclusively announced and the APC candidate was declared winner. The violence that erupted in about 91 polling units across 18 Local Government councils of the state caused the lacuna.
The Returning Officer, Professor Emmanuel Kucha of the University of Agriculture Makurdi, declared the Kogi State Gubernatorial election inconclusive, even though the APC candidate, Audu, was leading with over 41, 000 votes. Speaking after declaring the results, the Returning Officer said there would be rerun in 91 polling units to take care of 49, 553 registered voters. Kucha said INEC guidelines stated that the winning margin must be in excess of the total number of votes in units where election were cancelled, adding that in the instant case, election were cancelled in 91 units across 18 local governments. The total number of votes in the areas, he noted, add up to 49, 953, while the margin of win was 41, 353, which gives a difference of 8, 600. The RO said APC scored a total of 240,867 while the PDP scored 199,514.
With the development, lawyers have been advancing all manner of legal interpretations. As could be seen, everyone seems to be promoting argument that favours his or her selfish interest. Some legal practitioners have come up with arguments that even a layman knows, cannot be tenable. This promises a long drawn legal tussle as the PDP and its candidate have been waiting in the wings to capitalise on the lacuna to seek opportunity for a fresh election. This is because the party seems to be confident that any other candidate apart from the late Abubakar Audu would not have given them a run for their money. The other 20 political parties who could not make much impact in the election are not left out, as many of them are seeking relevance by threatening to go to court against INEC and the Attorney General’s decision for APC to substitute Audu for the supplementary election.
Search For Fresh Election.
THE national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare its candidate, Governor Idris Wada as winner of the November 21 governorship election. The party also seeks the exclusion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from the supplementary election slated for December 5. While the electoral body offered to conduct a supplementary election in units where election was cancelled, INEC had also given the APC a window to field a substitute candidate. But the PDP said there is no known law or constitutional provision that allows for the substitution of candidates, once the ballot process had commenced and threatened to challenge INEC’s decision in court. What the PDP is saying is that with the unfortunate death of Audu, the APC has no valid candidate in the election, which it said leaves INEC with no other lawful option than to declare the PDP candidate, Capt. Wada as winner. Yet the running mate to Audu, Faleke, has also asked INEC to declare him winner of the poll.
Faleke described as not only “unconstitutional” but “misleading” INEC’s directive to his party – APC – to conduct a fresh primary to nominate Audu’s replacement in the supplementary election. In separate letters from his counsel Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) Chambers to INEC and the APC, Faleke said the electoral umpire erred by declaring the November 21 election inconclusive after the emergence of a clear winner. A former member of the PDP who recently joined the APC, Duro Mesoko, faulted the leadership of the APC for being hasty in taking the decision of accepting to go for another primary election. He canvassed that the running mate to the diseased to be made the new candidate of the party.
When asked whether he was aware of another agitation from Kogi East for Audu’s first son, Muhammed, to be made to replace his father, he said he was only aware of the plan to make Muhammed the running mate to Faleke, even as he faulted INEC for declaring the elections inconclusive in the first place. National Commissioner of INEC and professor of sociology, Professor Lai Olurode on the same platform disagreed with those who faulted INEC for taking the decision to ask APC to produce another candidate arguing that the electoral Body was duty bound to take a decision. Olurode said it was now left for the political parties to sort themselves out in the court. He said votes in any election is not an inheritance that could
An APC stalwart from the Kogi East Senatorial district, Alhaji Linko Ocheje, would not accept anything less than compensating the district by substituting Audu with a new candidate from the zone. He declared that Kogi East rallied more than 50 percent of the votes that gave APC victory before the election was declared inconclusive. It would be wrong, he added, for a group of people to capitalise on the death of Audu to further their political interest in a victory that they did not work for. Audu was instrumental to the victory of the party in most of the Local Government areas where he won because he was the most popular and not any other person, he claimed.