THE Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress was hit by a legal Tsunami yesterday as the Supreme Court voided the election of all the party’s candidates elected into various offices in the just concluded general elections.
Affected by the judgment are the governor-elect, Alhaji Bello Matawalle; three senators-elect, namely Tijjani Yahaya (Zamfara North) Aliyu Bilbis (Zamfara Central) and the incumbent governor, Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara West).
Also to forfeit their mandates in the just concluded elections are seven House of Reps members-elect and 24 memberselect of the state’s House of Assembly.
A five-man panel of the Supreme Court, in a unanimous judgment yesterday, held that the APC in Zamfara State did not conduct valid primaries from which its candidates emerged.
The panel, led by Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Muhammad, held that the APC had no valid candidates for the elections.
It declared that the first runners-up, who scored the second highest votes and the required spread are winners.
Candidates of the APC had won all the seats contested, including the outgoing governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who won a senatorial seat, with candidates of the PDP emerging first runner-ups in most cases.
In the lead judgment by Justice Paul Galumje, the court upheld the earlier judgment by the Court of Appeal in Sokoto and dismiss the three appeals the affected APC candidates filed.
The Court of Appeal in Sokoto had, in its March 25, 2019 judgment, set aside the judgement of the High Court of Zamfara. The Appeal Court, Sokoto was of the view that the APC did not conduct valid primary elections for the last general elections, and as such had no candidate for any of the polls in the state.
Yesterday, Justice Galumje held that since the APC had no valid candidates, having not conducted valid primaries, the votes recorded by its candidates are wasted votes.
The judge said: “I find and hold that the 1st appellant (APC) never conducted primary elections. I come to the conclusion that this appeal, as constituted, has no merit.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the party
that had no candidate in the 2019 general elections cannot win.
“This makes all the votes credited to the candidates of the 1st appellant (APC) in the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State wasted votes.
“For that reason, it is hereby ordered that candidates of the parties other than the 1st appellant (APC), that polled the highest number of votes and the required spread, stand elected into the various offices contested for in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections.
“I award the cost of N10 million against the appellants in favour of the 1st to 140th respondents as well as the 180th respondents, and the cost shall be paid by the appellants.”
Justice Galumje warned politicians to always play by the rules, noting that “the democratic system in this country was borrowed from the United States of America.
“Those from whom we borrowed have forged ahead and developed into an economically viable nation,” he said.
The judge expressed disappointment that “for this our dear country” out of the ignorance or mischief of politicians, Nigeria continued to be held down.
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Justice Galumje cautioned that “if care is not taken, the class of politicians we have today will take this country back to the stone age, which will consume all of us.
“I urge all to always play the game according to the rules.”
Justices Muhammad, Olukayode Ariwoola, John Okoro and Uwani Abba-Aji, who were also members of the panel, agreed with the lead judgment.
Reacting to the judgement, lawyer to some respondents in the appeals, who
are mainly of the Senator Kabir Marafa faction of the Zamfara APC – Mike Ozekhome (SAN) – praised the Supreme Court for its decision.
Ozekhome said: “What the apex court has done today is to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and our democratic precepts.
“It shows that parties must maintain internal democracy and cannot whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily operate outside their constitution, guidelines, the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the country.
“The Supreme Court has redefined our jurisprudence, showing that when a party damages its primaries, it can never reap the proceeds of its illegalities.
“That is why and how the PDP that came second has today produced the governor, all Senators, all House of Representatives and House of Assembly candidates today in one fell swoop. “All Glory and full adoration belong to God.”
Judgment sweet, bitter, says Marafa
Reacting to the judgment yesterday, Zamfara Central senator and Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum, Senator Kabiru Marafa, regarded as the main brains behind the suit, described it as both sweet and bitter,. He reckoned, however, that it was a huge victory for democracy, Zamfara State and the country as a whole.
Marafa, in what he described as his “interim reaction” to the Supreme Court judgment, noted that “no matter how long, truth will always prevail over falsehood.”
Marafa said: “Today’s (yesterday’s) judgment is a victory for democracy, triumph of truth over falsehood and redeemer of the integrity of the judiciary.
“As we all know, the APC was unable to conduct primaries in Zamfara State, following (Abdulaziz) Yari’s thuggery and violent machinations.
“With this, lesson has been served that only strict adherence to rule of law and due process will take the country to the next level as being advocated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“This Judgment has shown that the President is religiously sincere with his non-interference stance on the functions of other arms of government.
“He has further endeared himself to Nigerians and the world for resisting all efforts by Abdulaziz Yari to force him to interfere in the judgment.”
Marafa urged his adversaries to take the judgment as the will of Allah and a lesson that only Allah, the Almighty, can crown a king.
Commending the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad for leading the Justices aright, he said that the judiciary remains the last hope of the common man.
Atiku, Dickson hail judgment
The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 presidential election, Atiku Abubakar, and Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, both hailed yesterday’s judgment in different statements yesterday.
Atiku, in a statement issued by his media adviser, Mr Paul Ibe, commended the judgment, saying it has upheld the rule of law and done justice by declaring the PDP as winner of the three categories of election.
“Nothing is as pleasing to the ears of believers as justice being served in the holy month of Ramadan, Atiku said. He commended the Lord Justices for putting aside the interests of the powerful and upholding the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians, adding, “God first, Nigeria second must be our priority as trustees of the people.
“When justice prevails, the people rejoice, chains are broken, freedom is multiplied and society is enriched,” the statement added. Atiku, whose election petition against President Muhammadu Buhari’s victory in the presidential election is pending be fore the Court of Appeal, expressed optimism on favourable judgement in the petition.
He commended the apex court for siding with justice and congratulated the governor-elect of the PDP, Mr. Bello Matawalle and the people of Zamfara.
He assured that the Zamfara people will finally have a government that will address the issues that have made life an ordeal in the state.
“The storm is over and peace and calm are coming to Zamfara.
“May God bless the Supreme Court of Nigeria. May God bless Zamfara State and may God bless Nigeria, now and forever,” the statement said.
Dickson on his part congratulated Dr. Bello Mohammed Mutawalle, who he said has become the governor-elect of Zamfara by virtue of the judgment.
In a statement by his Media Adviser, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, the governor also congratulated the leaders of the PDP and its supporters in Zamfara for their dedication, commitment and resilience, which culminated in the party’s eventual victory.
Governor Dickson, who is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, thanked the Judiciary for standing up to the expectations of all well-meaning Nigerians as an impartial arbiter of justice.
He said that it was rather reassuring and commendable for the judiciary to display such a high level of courage and professionalism, especially given the unusual times.
Congratulating Mutawalle, Dickson said: “I also commend the leaders of the PDP and the teeming supporters of the party in Zamfara for their dedication and resilience.
“And very importantly, I thank the Judiciary, once again, for standing up to the expectations of the well-meaning Nigerian public as a strong, impartial arbiter that could be trusted.
“This landmark judgment is victory for justice and indeed democracy in action.”
Oshiomhole mum on judgment as APC holds emergency NWC meeting
The national Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was in a sober mood yesterday as the news filtered in on the Supreme Court judgment sacking all its elected candidates in Zamfara State.
An emergency meeting of the National Working Committee presided over by the National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was summoned and lasted for about two hours without any statement from the party on the outcome.
An inaugural press conference by the new Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and Kebbi State governor, Atiku Bagudu, had to be called off as he led other governors on sympathy visit to Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, who was also affected by the judgment.
National officers of the party were seen discussing the development, with the Deputy National Chairman, South, Otumba Niyi Adebayo, heard saying, “It is a bad day for the party,” while the Organising Secretary, Emma Ibediro, was also heard saying, “Why won’t we agonise?”
Comrade Oshiomhole, who presided over the emergency meeting however left without saying anything to anxious newsmen who were waiting to get his reaction on the Zamfara judgment.
Reacting to the development, National Vice Chairman, South-South, Utufam Hilliard Eta, described the development as sad, saying, “It’s a sad day for every member of the APC. It’s a very sad day for us.”
Eta would however not agree that the party failed to manage the Zamfara situation well, saying: “I don’t think that the party mismanaged the crises in our Zamfara State chapter.
“We don’t have any option but to accept the judgement of the Supreme Court and go ahead and learn some lessons from it. That is what I can say for now.
“For me, I am a democrat. The issue of internal democracy is a serious problem in our country, but it is work in progress. We have made a lot of stride in the party.”