Declare me gov-elect, James Faleke tells INEC
• ‘Why we endorsed Audu’s son’
• PDP wants Wada declared winner
ALTHOUGH the electoral umpire has fixed December 5 for supplementary governorship election in Kogi State, an enduring solution to the constitutional crisis over the polls remains elusive.
While the All Progressives Congress (APC) members in Kogi East zone have endorsed Mohammed, the late Audu’s son to replace his father, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said yesterday that its candidate in the election, Governor Idris Wada, was the automatic winner and should immediately be so declared.
Then, James Faleke, the late Audu’s running mate made his declaration: “I am governor-elect of Kogi.”
But it appears the leadership of the APC is yet to agree on who to field as Audu’s replacement.
When yesterday, journalists inquired from the National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun in Abuja on the issue, he replied: “I don’t want to say anything now until the process is completed.”
Investigations revealed that the party chieftains are unsure whether to allow Mohammed emerge as the party’s candidate in the poll or let Faleke take the slot.
In a letter to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through his counsel Wale Olanipekun, Faleke said;
“In law and logic, no new candidate can inherit or be a beneficiary of the votes already cast, counted and declared by INEC before that candidate was nominated and purportedly sponsored.
“Assuming without conceding that INEC is even right to order a supplementary election, the votes already cast, counted and declared on Saturday, 25th November 2015, were votes for the joint constitutional ticket of Prince Abubakar Audu and our client. Therefore, no new or ‘supplementary’ candidate can hijack, aggregate, appropriate or inherit the said votes.”
Sources from Kogi East APC say they decided to settle for the eldest son of its deceased flag-bearer in the inconclusive governorship election to preserve the zoning arrangement and the legacy of Audu rather than go for an all-comers primary.
The source told The Guardian that the party reasoned that since victory had already been won midway into the election, organising a fresh primary election would throw up new animosities and destabilise the party further.
The source added that the decision to adopt the late politician’s son, Muhammed was also in recognition of the deceased’s untiring efforts at ensuring that the opposition clinched the governorship seat, adding that “selecting a new governorship candidate could necessitate fresh trouble for the running mate.”
In a statement, Head of Media of Audu/Faleke campaign organisation, Dr. Tom Ohikere, while commending supporters of APC for the solidarity with the late political leader, noted that the development called for unity and hard work.
Ohikere said: “We are not going to mourn prince Audu’s death in vain. We must keep his memory alive by ensuring that the APC continues and finishes what he started. Audu, we believe was killed by anti-democratic forces to stall the development of the state and keep the people in their grip. We knew what some of them said during the campaigns.
“We recall that the same elements killed the torch-bearer of Ebira land, Senator A.T. Ahmed in their desperate bid to put the area in disarray.
“We must not allow them to realise their wish to sustain their grip perpetually on the state. We will need to rise up, complete what our leader, Prince Audu has started by supporting the APC all the way.”
Rising from a meeting of its national caucus in Abuja yesterday, the PDP contended that the APC had crashed out of the election by the death of its candidate, Audu, before the conclusion of the election.
Also members of the party’s caucus of the House of Representatives yesterday rose from an emergency meeting faulting the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami’s decision on the Kogi State inconclusive governorship poll.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) apparently relying on the AGF’s counsel, had directed the APC to substitute its deceased candidate.
Reading a statement issued at the end of the PDP caucus meeting, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, said it would proceed to court to force the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare Wada as winner of the election.
Defending the party’s call for the declaration of Wada as winner of the election, Metuh said: “What if Abubakar Audu had finished voting and then announced his voluntary withdrawal from the election? Would INEC have told us that they be allowed to change their candidate because there is no difference between the death of a candidate and withdrawal of that candidate under our laws? If Abubakar Audu had withdrawn on Saturday, the election would have continued and Wada would have been declared winner,” Metuh said.
The caucus noted that in order to save the nation’s democracy from imminent collapse, the PDP as a critical stakeholder would immediately challenge this unlawful and unconstitutional decision by INEC in the court.
The party in its caucus meeting which continued till the early hours of yesterday, stated that ”with the death of its candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, the APC has legally crashed out of the governorship race as no known law or constitutional provision allows the substituting of candidates, once the ballot process has commenced.
“With the unfortunate death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the APC has no valid candidate in the election, leaving INEC with no other lawful option than to declare the PDP candidate, Capt. Idris Wada, as winner of the election.
“Caucus also alerts that the AGF, INEC and APC are creating a scenario where a loser in a primary will patiently wait for the winning candidate to finish election and then have him either poisoned or assassinated before the final collation of results.
“It will create a scenario where aspirants and candidates will exploit that to cause evil in the future. We don’t want to create a situation where there will be security risk by people who are contesting elections in this country.
“The combined reading of the provisions of the Constitution and Electoral Act does not in any way whatsoever support the substitution of candidates for election in the middle of the ballot process.
“If APC is allowed to substitute its original candidate, then the party would have fielded two separate candidates in the same election, a scenario that is completely alien to our electoral laws and to any known democratic norms and practice world over.
“The meeting observes that the leadership of INEC as constituted at present under the Chairmanship of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has demonstrated that it is incapable of neutrality and as such cannot be vested with the conduct of the Kogi governorship supplementary election as well as the December 5, 2015 Bayelsa governorship election.”
The PDP spokesperson further explained that “INEC does not have powers to insist on any election and since INEC cannot insist, we have gone to court and we are confident that the judiciary will settle this matter before December 5 and the supplementary election will go on without APC. Because they have no candidate, they cannot contest the election and the time has lapsed for them to substitute a candidate.
“We are not trying to take advantage of the death of Audu. Nigerians will bear us witness that the PDP observed great respect in the person and image of the candidate of APC. APC has crashed out of the race. Even in a relay, once you drop the baton, you can’t pick it again. The Kogi election is not Formula One where you are allowed to change your tyres at any time. The situation has gone out of INEC’s hands. It has gone to court. So, there cannot be any need for a supplementary election once it is determined that APC has crashed out. Our insistence is that the governorship candidate of PDP should be declared the winner of the election,” Metuh said.
Leader of the PDP House caucus, Mr. Leonard Ogor, told reporters that the AGF not only erred in law but conducted himself as one with political motive keen on satisfying the interest of the ruling APC.
Flanked by members of the caucus, he asserted that as far as they were concerned, the AGF’s action was tantamount to usurpation of the powers of the Supreme Court with the mandate to intervene in complicated legal issues such as the outcome of the inconclusive Kogi State governorship poll.
According to him, “It is time for us as parliamentarians to speak on this issue. I believe that the comments, words of the Attorney General of the Federation have become very embarrassing. We believe the AGF misled INEC and the nation in general.
“The question here is where you have an AGF carrying on as if he is an attorney general of a political party, it becomes very worrisome. I believe that what the attorney general should have done under the normal circumstances as attorney-general of the federation and not attorney-general of a political party is that he should have approached the Supreme Court to seek some level of interpretation on the necessary step to put in place.
“But he acted so much in haste and from nowhere what you saw clearly was INEC which in less than four hours of the attorney general’s speech directed that a candidate should be substituted by APC to replace Audu of blessed memory.”
Faleke’s supporters had threatened court action against INEC.
They rose from a meeting in Lokoja, the state capital and accused INEC of ambushing the people’s will by declaring an election that had produced ‘a clear winner’ inconclusive.