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Jubilation in Zamfara as Supreme Court nullifies APC candidates’ elections

By Oludare Richards, Abuja and Isah Ibrahim, Gusau
25 May 2019   |   4:15 am
There was wild jubilation across the 14 councils of Zamfara State, yesterday, following the judgment of the Supreme Court, which rested the controversy surrounding the eligibility or otherwise of the ruling All Progressives Congress.....

[FILES] PDP Governorship candidate, Alhaji Bello Matawalle

• Says Party Held No Valid Primaries
• ‘Other Parties Should Learn From The Zamfara APC Debacle’
• Matawalle Commends Judiciary

There was wild jubilation across the 14 councils of Zamfara State, yesterday, following the judgment of the Supreme Court, which rested the controversy surrounding the eligibility or otherwise of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to participate in this year’s State and National Assembly and Governorship elections.

The APC governorship candidate, Muktar Idris, was declared winner of the March election with 534,541 to defeat Bello Muhammad Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 189,452, while the APC also won all the 24 seats in the State House of Assembly.

But in its ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court’s five-member panel of Justices, in a unanimous judgment, voided all votes cast for the APC and effectively sacked its candidates who were declared winners in the February 23 and March 16 general elections in the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), ruling that the party had no candidates in the elections, as it failed to conduct primaries in accordance with its own rules and as required by law.

The panel, headed by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, in the judgment, delivered by Justice Paul Adamu Galinji, ordered candidates of other political parties that came second to take over as the duly elected contestants.

Similar fate befell the Rivers State APC, where all its candidates were stepped down by law courts due to the failure of the party to legally nominate candidates (hold valid primaries) for all elective offices in the state; hence they were excluded from the polls.

The apex court, in its verdict, upheld the judgment of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct any valid primary election and as such had no candidates for any of the elections in the state.Justice Galinji described the votes polled by the “APC candidates” in the elections as wasted, adding that the party and the candidates with the second highest votes and the spread in the various elections were the valid winners.

With the judgment, the APC has lost the governorship, national and state Assemblies elections conducted in Zamfara State to the opposition PDP.

Two factions of the party, led by Senator Kabiru Marafa and Governor Abdul’aziz Yari, respectively, had locked horns in supremacy battle over who controls the soul of the party in the state. Their irreconcilable differences denied the party valid primary elections for sponsorship of candidates, as required by law.

Its supposed candidate in the governorship election, Mukhtar Shehu Idris, and Senators Kaura Tijani Yahaya (Zamfara North), Aliyu Ikra Bilbis (Zamfara Central) and Yari (Zamfara West) are among those affected by the apex court verdict.Since the judgment, it has been celebration galore within the APC-G8 group, led by Senator Kabiru Marafa, and other relevant stakeholders in the state.

In his reaction to the verdict, the PDP candidate and invariably the new governor-elect, Alhaji Bello Matawalle, has commended Nigeria’s judiciary for standing up to the truth in the discharge of its responsibilities.In a statement signed by one of his aides, Mallam Umar Mohammed, Matawalle said: “The judgment is a testimony that the judiciary has remained fair in the discharge of its responsibilities.

“l wish to congratulate the people of Zamfara State, especially PDP supporters, for remaining peaceful and orderly throughout the time we were seeking redress in the courts.“I want to assure you that we will not fail in this confidence reposed in us and l want to appeal to all people in the state to continue to be law-abiding as we transit into the new government.”

The state Deputy Governor, who is also a member of the G8 group, Mallam Ibrahim Wakkala, expressed gratitude to Allah, saying he was highly delighted with the judgment. Speaking through his Chief Press Secretary, Yusuf Idris, Wakkala congratulated the state chapter of the PDP on the outcome of the court process, saying that G8 group would support the PDP government to ensure quick development in the state.

When contacted, an aide of Governor Abdulaziz Yari on Social Media, Alhaji Dahiru Samaila, declined comment on the matter, saying it is a party affair and its leadership in the state party was in Abuja and would likely issue a statement on the judgment.  

In his reaction, a member of the State House of Assembly, Mansur Ahmad Bungudu, described the ruling as another resounding victory for democracy and rule of law and has further strengthened the importance of engaging party’s stakeholders at every level of electioneering process.

While congratulating the PDP and Matawalle, he enjoined other parties in the country to learn from the Zamfara APC debacle, particularly state governors, who feel they have all the resources and security personnel to manipulate elections. Also reacting, a philanthropist, Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, expressed happiness with the judgment, saying northern governors, who she described as power strugglers, need to learn from the Zamfara case and respect the rule of law at all times.

“I am so excited with the judgment. May Allah bless all the Justices that took part in this judgment. Really, the judiciary has once again lived up to this expectation by restoring sanity in our democratic process,” she said.A civil servant in the state, who craved anonymity, while congratulating the people of the state, prayed for Allah to make the verdict a way of ending insurgency and bad governance in the state.

“I hope the incoming government will prioritise people’s needs, especially in the area of security, education, health and creation of enabling environment for employment and entrepreneurship, as these sectors are pillars of development.”He appealed to the incoming government to urgently consider those displaced by insurgency and provide necessary support to them, adding: “This will serve a lesson for any leader that fails to recognise and prioritise the need of his people, especially security.”

A PDP campaign coordinator in the Maru Council in the governorship election, Alhaji Aliyu Ibrahim Banaga, described the judgment as a great morale booster to the party, expressing confidence that the PDP would bring solid development to the state. He revealed that just one hour after the judgment, he had received over 100 callers rejoicing with him on the victory of his party.

Early this month, Yari inaugurated a 77-member transition committee for the formal handing over and swearing in ceremony of the incoming government on May 29. The governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Abdullahi Shinkafi, said the committee was to ensure successful transition to the incoming administration with accurate data of government business from June 2011 to May 29. The committee has been working tirelessly to ensure a facelift at the Gusau Trade Fair complex venue for the formal handing over to the incoming administration.