Lawyers disagree over absence of running mate to Kogi APC’s candidate
WITH yet another constitutional dilemma for the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the absence of a deputy governorship candidate to replace Mr. James Faleke to contest with its substitute governorship candidate, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in Saturday’s Kogi State Supplementary election, lawyers are examining the issues it has thrown up.
Some senior lawyers contacted by The Guardian expressed their views on the implication of this developments, especially the withdrawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the entire process.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria(SAN) Mr. Norrison Quakers said the election would hold because the umpire had fixed the supplementary election and announced that the reason the extra polls were being fixed was because the main election was inconclusive.
“From all indications, indeed a winner has emerged. PDP walking out of the election will be doing so at its own peril because as a party, it must be seen to have participated in the election, particularly as regards the main election.
The supplementary election is being conducted based on what the umpire said, an outcome of an inconclusive election. So the supplementary election is one that the umpire can organise under the electoral act. So what the umpire has done is in furtherance of its statutory powers”, he stated.
For the former head of chambers in Gani Fawehinmi and Co. , Mr. Ugwuzor Adindu, PDP’s withdrawal would in no way affect the election.
He noted that the PDP participated in the election on November 21, 2015, adding that the supplementary election would be a continuation of the earlier one.
“So withdrawing at this stage is too late. It cannot affect the outcome of that election if everything falls into place.
Whether APC has a problem or not notwithstanding, is a different thing. They will be bound by whatever that comes out of the Saturday election”, he said.
Another senior lawyer, Mr. Charles Nmakwe said his understanding was that the PDP was saying that those they started the election with were not those they were fielding now for the supplementary election. According to him, the supplementary election is an offshoot of the first election.
He said: “And if what they said in the first election, wrongly or rightly, that it was inconclusive and INEC needs to conduct supplementary election for 91 wards, those who began the race at first instance ought to be those who will continue the race up to determination.
“So that’s very logical. But when somebody else began the race at the first instance, and it was declared inconclusive, midway then someone brings in a new person, can the new person be a beneficiary of the votes that endure for the first person?”
Another Lagos lawyer, Mr. Chidi Nkwocha said even though there was no clear-cut provision in the constitution and there was no judicial pronouncement or interpretation in respect of what had happened in Kogi, the PDP could not withdraw from the race, adding that its withdrawal would have no implication on the outcome.
“ If PDP decides to withdraw, I don’t know where they are deriving such precedent. They should conclude the election because INEC said they want to conclude the election. Their withdrawal does not have any effect on the election because they started the election. They contested. It is a rerun and not a fresh election.”
Meanwhile, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Federal House of Representatives, Omale Hassan Atayoma, yesterday blamed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the Kogi governorship election debacle.
In a related development, Coalition of Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria (COCSOIN) has called on the Prof. Mohmood Yakubu-led INEC to either declare PDP candidate in the inconclusive election, Idris Wada winner, or conduct a fresh rerun of the polls.
“I do not see how in one single election APC will field two candidates and two running mates and expect the law to back them. It is my view that APC as it stands now is not having a valid candidate for the Kogi supplementary elections,” he said.
Speaking with reporters at the National Assembly, Atayoma who recently won an appeal against his election to represent Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro Federal Constituency of the state yesterday described the stalemate in Kogi governorship elections as contrived, saying it was wrong to bring “somebody who had campaigned for PDP and declared for the SDP as gubernatorial candidate, as the one to be submitted to the INEC as APC candidate
“Why didn’t INEC declare the result and declare a winner of the election? That is the confusion we have.” If INEC had gone ahead to declare the winner, and Audu dies, Faleke would have taken over. To the best of my knowledge Faleke is the heir to the throne,” Atayoma said.
He argued that the presentation of Yahaya Bello as APC candidate was a wrong decision, adding that the position should have been given to Faleke “so that there would be no grudges.”
According to COCSOIN at a press conference addressed by its spokesman Mr. Uzoh Ifeanyi in Abuja yesterday, the logical position that INEC ought to have taken was to declare Wada, who was trailing Audu in terms of votes, as the winner.
“In the alternative, INEC should conduct a rerun since Audu’s votes and other benefits as a candidate in the poll had gone with him,” Ifeanyi said.
He said the position adopted by INEC to the effect that APC could substitute its candidate at this point was unknown to law, citing Section 179 of the 1999 constitution to buttress his submissions.
The group argued that based on the provisions of Section 179, a rerun shall be between two leading candidates in an election but that since APC’s candidate was no more, and the Electoral Act gives conditions and a time frame for a candidate to be substituted, the next leading candidate, who in this case is Wada should be declared winner of the polls.