Zamfara elections: Hanging in the balance
It started as minor disagreement between two factions in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but has become a big issue that might continue to haunt the party for a long time to come. Governor Abdulaziz Yari and a group led by Senator Kabiru Marafa could not agree on the mode of primaries after the party leadership at Abuja ordered that state chapters could adopt direct, indirect and consensus in their primaries.
Now, following the judgment of the appellate court disregarding the primary conducted by the Yari faction, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has placed on hold the presentation of Certificates of Return to Muktar Idris, the state Governor-elect, as well as state Assembly members-elect.
According to the commission, it has now been served with a copy of the court judgment. Consequently, the presentation of Certificates of Return for the Zamfara governorship and State House of Assembly elections scheduled for Wednesday, March 27, 2019 has been suspended, the Commission explained.
Prior to that, Counsel to Senator Kabiru Marafa and 141 others, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), had called on the Commission to withhold the Certificate of Return of all candidates of the party in the state, in view of the Court of Appeal’s judgment that nullified their primary election. Ozekhome also urged INEC to ignore claims by Zamfara State government that the judgment of the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division has nothing to do with primary elections of the All Progressives Congress, which held on October 7, 2018.
According to Ozekhome, the Zamfara State government was erroneously sitting as an appellate court on its own case by claiming that the judgment had nothing to do with the election.
Consequently, he said: “It goes without saying and indeed follows as the night follows the day, that everything that was founded on the said flawed APC primaries was null, void and of no effect whatsoever.“This is because the very pillar on which it rested has now legally collapsed by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division. The foregoing is in accord with law and simple logic as it is naturally impossible to place something on nothing and expect it to stand; it must collapse like a pack of cards.
“To situate the aforesaid development in its true legal perspective, it follows that all the candidates of the APC who purportedly participated in the National and State Assembly elections held on March 9, 2019, were never candidates in the eye of the law.“We beseech INEC most earnestly to note therefore that there is absolutely no legal basis for any of the APC candidates that allegedly emerged victorious from the said sham elections to be issued with any certificate of return,” the senior lawyer added.
But in a quick response, Counsel to the APC, Magaji Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) said, the Court of Appeal did not make such an order in its judgment. Mahmud faulted the decision of INEC to withhold the APC candidates’ certificates of return on the ground of letter written to the commission by counsel to the Appellants.
In a letter dated March 26, 2019, written on behalf of the governor-elect and 38 others to the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Mahmoud said, “It’s bad practice for counsel to resort to letter writing, thus misleading a responsible organisation like the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by twisting facts.
He further stated: “We wish to state that issues of law of this nature are regulated by an order of court or court of law and not by the opinion of counsel via a mere letter from chambers.The Counsel hinted that the Zamfara State chapter of the party, the governor-elect and other winners of the 2019 general elections are resolved to approach the Supreme Court for a final resolution of the crisis.
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