Constituents receive Senator Aidoko’s sack with subdued relief
It was a day of mixed feelings for stakeholders in Kogi East Senatorial district over the sack of its representative in the Senate. In one breath they expressed relief, in another they were full of apprehensions over the conflicting judgments from the courts regarding who occupies the senatorial seat after three years of the current 8th National Assembly.
At the last count, Kogi East has known more than three different claimants of the seat at the Red Chamber. That was the confusing state of the senate seat when the Federal High Court handed a quit notice on the last occupant, Senator Attai Aidoko.
With hands akimbo, some of the stakeholders told The Guardian it was a big relief that the confusion has run full circle with the definite judgment sealing Aidoko’s fate.
They recalled with pain how the dethroned Senator exploited the wavering judiciary to hang on in the Senate right from the 6th plenary, without winning the actual election.
But last Wednesday, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in its ruling ordered the Senator to vacate the seat. In his Aidoko’s place, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who handed down the ruling ordered the immediate swearing in of Air Marshall Isaac Alfa (rtd), also of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Delivering the judgment in the pre-election suit, Justice Kolawole held that Aidoko was not validly nominated by the PDP for the March 2015 National Assembly election, even as he also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately withdraw the certificate of return issued to Aidoko in 2015.
While the court tasked INEC to issue a fresh certificate of return to Alfa, the authentic winner of the December 7, 2014 primary of the party, it ordered the Clerk of the National Assembly to withdraw all privileges accorded to Aidoko.
Justice Kolawole condemned the way the PDP subverted the result of its primary, stressing that the documents presented by the defendants were of no probate value for any court of law to rely on.
He asserted that Aidoko’s purported nomination was an exercise in futility designed to rob the plaintiff of his victory at the primary, pointing out that it was obvious from the “totality of the evidence that Sheidu Idoma was the Returning Officer for the senatorial election, and not Umar Sanusi.”
The presiding judge added that key witnesses, in their statements on oath, corroborated the position, stressing that the fact that the sacked senator refused to call his agent at the primary, Farouk Adejo, left a credibility gap on his path.
The jurist had earlier dismissed the preliminary objection raised by Aidoko, maintaining that challenging the court’s jurisdiction was an abuse of court process, since the issue of jurisdiction had earlier been resolved at the Appeal and Apex courts against the deposed senator.
Evidence tendered by Alfa showed that he actually scored 129 votes against Aidoko’s 101 to emerge winner of the primary, but while submitting the list of candidates to INEC, PDP curiously substituted Alfa with Senator Aidoko. The court subsequently awarded N750, 000 cost against Aidoko and the PDP.
Litigations over the senatorial seat started in 2015, shortly after INEC withdrew the certificate of return from the first wrongful occupant, Senator Abdulrahman Abubakar of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Abubakar was dismissed, when the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Lokoja, ruled that he was not qualified to contest the election. This prompted a re-run in which Abubakar and his party, APC, were barred from taking part.
Air Marshal Isaac Alfa of PDP emerged winner of the re-run, but an Appeal Court discharged him in 2016, while Senator Atai Aidoko was sworn in in his stead. But, on the 18th of December 2017, a Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja pronounced the Kogi East Senatorial seat vacant, which declaration was to enable Aidoko and Alfa to return to court in order to determine the authentic occupant on the grounds that it was pre-election matter.
However, while rejecting the story as “satanic and fake news,” Senator Aidoko continued appearing in the Red Chamber. Nonetheless, last Wednesday Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court Abuja, averred that there was a misrepresentation of candidates by PDP during its primary in December 2014.
Some stakeholders spoke to The Guardian on the implication of the ruling. A constitutional lawyer, Mr. Joel Usman, praised the judgment, saying it would encourage internal democracy, even as he expressed the fear that Air-Vice Marshal Alfa may not be able to resume sitting in the 8th Senate in view of the slow nature of Nigeria judicial system.
Usman disclosed that the sacked Senator might explore all available opportunities to delay the conclusion of the matter, since he has indicated the desire to challenge the judgment at the Court of Appeal.
On his part, another constitutional lawyer based in Lokoja, Mr. William Aliwo, said if reports in the media is anything to go by, it means there is more definite order from the court now than has ever been.
“A definite order of the court that somebody should vacate and another person should be sworn in,” he declared.
On fears that the Senate may delay the swearing-in of Senator Alfa, the lawyer said it is a definite order, which is immediate, adding: “When the judgment order gets to the Senate they would have no choice than to obey. For Kogi East it is not yet Uhuru.”
But contrary to the summations of lawyers, a group, under the aegis of Kogi East Agenda, described the Appeal Court judgment, which reinstated Senator Attai Aidoko as a distraction to the zone in the first place.
The group said Aidoko had no political relevance in the region, noting that he was just a political liability in the senatorial district and not good enough to speak for its people.
In a statement by its general secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Sani Omale, the group urged the Supreme Court to pass a verdict that will tally with the aspirations and desires of the people of the state, as democratically expressed in the PDP primary election that produced Senator Isaac Alfa as the party’s candidate.
Also, the PDP vice chairman for Lokoja Local Government Council, Alhaji Danladi Abubakar, said the victory is for the people of Kogi East and Kogi State in general, having lingered in court since 2015.
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