Will CPC dethrone the ruling PDP in Kebbi?

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Birnin-Kebbi — The Supreme Court’s decision nullifying the election of the Kebbi State’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the April 2011 gubernatorial election, Alhaji Usman Saidu Nasamu Dakingari, has ushered in another phase in the political history of Nigeria.

Expectedly, key players in the state have been bracing up for another “thug of war” within the next 90 days for fresh election as stipulated by law.

In the context of Nigerian politics, many thought that the judgment would have been otherwise; not only because the former governor was said to be a product of “free and fair” election conducted by a body whose leadership has been adjudged to be of proven integrity, but also because the “mighty” PDP was believed to be a fortress to its members which many turn to in times of despair and pain. If it had failed none, Dakingari was an exception. Although charity begins at home, Kebbi as the home of the INEC chairman who vowed to give “the Giant of Africa” a credible election second to none.

At the wake of Dakingari’s victory, the leading opposition party in the state, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and its candidate in the April 26, 2011 governorship election in the state, Malam Abubakar Abubakar, had on May 18, 2011, challenged the victory of the ousted governor at the then Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Birnin-Kebbi with claims of irregularities.

Such irregularities, CPC claimed, were in the areas of multiple voting, ballot boxes stuffing, ballot boxes snatching, inconsistency between the total number of votes and number of eligible voters on the voters’ registers among others. Such irregularities and corrupt practices were also said to have substantially affected the election where in some places none of the candidates could be declared winner.

The then governorship tribunal had averred that the petitioners did not prove to its satisfaction the claims of irregularities. “Failure of the 4th respondent (INEC) to produce forms EC40A and EC40C in their prescribed statutory forms is fatal to the case of the respondents and substantially affected the results of the election as there was no evidence to show the distribution of ballot papers and boxes in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and Manual for Election Officials 2011 produced, published and distributed by 4th respondents in the whole of Kebbi State,” it said.

“From all evidence adduced and all materials placed before this tribunal, the only vital issue and/or bone of contention that affected the governorship election of 26-4-2011 in Kebbi State is the inability of INEC (4th respondent) to present evidence of actual and proper distribution of ballot papers and ballot boxes and other sensitive electoral materials for the conduct of the said election on 26-4-2011 to all polling units in Kebbi State,” the Chairman of the Tribunal, Justice Mairo Laraba Muhammad, had stated.

The judgment suffered a setback at the Court of Appeal which on December 29, 2011 set it aside and ruled in favour of the PDP, a development which led the CPC to head to the apex court which also upheld the judgment of the election petition tribunal at the weekend.

While setting-aside the appellate court’s verdict, the leading judge, Justice Walter Onnoghen  observed that the Appeal Court judgment of December 29, 2011, which allowed the appeals of Dakingari did not adduce reasons for this, either along with the decision or within the 14 days allowed for appeals, adding that the reason for the judgment which was eventually given on January 23, 2012, is not within the 60 days allowed the lower court to hear and determine election appeals as stipulated in Section 285 (7) of the Constitution.

“The judgment of the Court of Appeal in appeals no CA/EPT/GOV/31/2011 delivered on 29 December, 2011 and 23 January, 2012 is hereby set aside and in its place, the judgment of the Kebbi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in petition no: EPT/KB/GOV/1/2011 delivered on the 13th day of November, 2011 is hereby affirmed, subject to the variation that the ninety (90) days within which INEC is to conduct a fresh election into the office of Governor of Kebbi State shall commence to run from today, being the date of judgment,” the judge ruled.

The PDP, through the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prof. Rufai Alkali, said it has received “with great shock the verdict of the Supreme Court, which nullified the election of our governor in Kebbi State, Alhaji Saidu Dakingari”. Alkali further said: “The PDP is deeply touched by this temporary setback,” adding that it was deeply concerned with the trend of judgments some of which could breed unnecessary tension and instability.

In a swift reaction, the Special Assistant to the CPC governorship candidate, Abdullahi Idris Zuru, described the judgment as an act of God. “It has shown that it is only in Kebbi State that unprecedented, massive electoral fraud took place in the last election and the former governor of Kebbi State, Saidu Usman Dakingari was a product of electoral malpractice,” Zuru said.

“Mr. Dakingari has gone forever in the interest of peace, unity and development of the state so the issue of temporary setback does not arise,” the state Secretary of the CPC, Mohammed Jabbo Umar said, stressing that  his party has proved to be law abiding by seeing to the logical conclusion of its grievances through legal avenues. He also said that his party’s victory was hijacked by the PDP in the last election, pointing out that the party anticipated return verdict not re-run.

“We are ready to face PDP in the coming election, and as united party with the support of the people, we can defeat PDP as we did in the previous election but our mandate was stolen from us by the PDP.”

However, the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Alhaji Isa Assalafy, said they are committed more than ever before to win the ordered elections as convincing as they won the past one which, he said, was free and fair and a reflection of the will of the masses, adding that Saidu Usman Dakingari remains the only candidate of the party and the choice of the people of the state.

The chairman, Nasamu Two Terms Campaign organization in the state, Alhaji Amadu Nasani, said this time around, they will embark on massive campaign for the victory of the party’s candidate, Saidu Dakingari as, “the basis for the nullification was not electoral fraud but technicalities.”

Now that the line has been drawn for another titanic battle for the soul of Kebbi State, only time will tell if the opposition CPC will dethrone the ruling PDP government and break the jinx of  the “mighty.”

In : Politics