By Ibrahim Bello
The re-run of the Sokoto governorship elections of May 24, 2008 was won by Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko, the Peopleâ€™s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate. He defeated his Democratic peopleâ€™s Party (DPP) opponent, Magari Dingyadi, with an unimaginable margin.
Wamakko polled a massive 562,395 votes, while DPPâ€™s Maigari Dingyadi scored a meager 124,046 votes. Maigariâ€™s supporters shrunk radically compared to the one he had in April 14, 2007, while that of PDP and Wamakko increased. So if there were any conclusions to be drawn from the contest, it is that it was won fair and square.
From that result, it was obvious that the people had seen through the scheme of their former governor, Attahiru Bafarawa. What Bafarawa wanted, was to install his stooge, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, in order to cover up his tracks and to domesticate Sokoto people within the domains of his unpopular tyranny. On that fateful election day, the people of Sokoto State rather than cooperate with Bafarawa, decided to give him the final boot.
It probably would have been different for Dingyadi however, if the DPP candidate had not allowed himself, in spite of his education, to be eclipsed by Bafarawa. But the DPP never fights and runs away; it fights to the end. What it did was to return to the judgment of Justice Bulkachuwa who annulled the election the first time and called for a re-run, where they found an opening. In her Judgment, Bulkachuwa had declared that as at the time of the first election which took place on April 14, Wamakko had not met the requirement for contesting elections under the PDP umbrella but argued that since he had proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he was a beneficiary of the same waiver that other governors were enjoying, he could re-contest the election along with all those whose names appeared on Form EC8.
The DPP is again revisiting the Bulkachuwa judgment because of the mention in her analysis that Wamakko was not qualified to contest the 2007 election, even though the desirendi or conclusion of the judgment empowered everybody on Form EC8 to vie for governorship of Sokoto State.
Is it possible for one to consider the part against the whole? Justice Bello Gusau said a resounding no when he argued that â€œin any judgment it is the conclusion that bears weight and not the analysis preceding the conclusion of the judgment.â€ But undeterred, the DPP sought an interpretation of the judgment before the Federal High Court which declined to hear the case because it was coming from a superior court.
By this time, then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi was undertaking his farewell trips to all courts within his jurisdiction and thus allowed the case to lie fallow from 2008 until close to a year. We learnt that by the time he handed over his office to Ayo Isa Salami, he hardly made any mention of the Sokoto governorship tussle which was pending but instead left the matter to Salami to deal with his own way. But compared to Justice Abdullahi, Justice Isa Ayo Salami is too wet behind the ear. â€œHe might have been a brilliant judicial officer but he is a naÃ¯ve administratorâ€, said one of the judges that spoke under conditions of anonymity.
â€œThe first thing any experienced judge does on assumption of duties in a new office is to review the pending cases and identify those with serious social implications, which he would then seek the adviser of his predecessor on what to do,â€ revealed a retired jurist, Bello Gusau.
But Salami was drawn into dusting up that case by certain key players in the tussle, including Atiku Abubakar, Muhammadu Buhari and Bafarawa, who were by then in the new initiative, the National Democratic Movement. To say that Justice Salami was overzealous in taking decisions on the matter is like trying to reinvent the wheel because he immersed himself in the case and would have to fight the battle of his life to redeem his career based on the false steps he had initially taken regarding the Sokoto governorship tussle. First, because by the time he took over the Court of Appeal the previous president had increased the number of Courts of Appeal with one in Sokoto, Salami assigned the case to the Sokoto Division which had three sitting judges. But he nominated and sent in another two judges to Sokoto to hear the arguments and give judgment on the matter.
On hearing this, the PDP, on its part, fired the first salvo, in the form of a petition, accusing the two new judges of compromising with the litigant. It however did not mention the extent of inducement in its petition. While waiting for Justice Salami to decide whether to hear the petition or not, the PDP began to hear rumors of a bigger form of compromise this time involving the President of the Court of Appeal himself, Justice Isa Ayo Salami. So they sent him a reminder on their petition. â€œDisdainfully,â€ according to the Media Adviser to Wamako, Alhaji Sani Umar, â€œJustice Salami then fixed a date for the petition to be heard. But guess what, the petition was to be heard simultaneously as the judgment on the substantive case was being given.â€
This decision did not only alarm the Sokoto people but heightened the PDPâ€™s resolution that they would not be fairly treated by this court. They thus fired a second salvo, this time a petition to the Chief Justice of the Federation and the National Judicial council. Both the CJN and the NJC were already looking at the social implications of this judgment, should it go the wrong way.
In fact they had already seen the lacuna that a court of coordinate jurisdiction cannot hear a case from a sister court so it wrote that the judgment be deferred until the petitions were addressed. But even to deliver the letter to the president of the Court of Appeal was like shoving a camel through the eye of the needle. He was eventually traced to his Ifelodun Local Government where he had escaped to in order not to be served until the adjudication of the case. But he was served. However, an attempt was made by this group of judicial to go ahead and give judgment in spite of the stay order from the CJN. â€œThis is a new case of insubordination that is unprecedented and I know it is going to have its casualties very soonâ€ said Gusau.
The desperation to proceed with a matter that has been put in abeyance by the CJN was unwrapped by Alhaji Umaru Dahiru, a senator and a friend who had gone to Salami to get to the root of his lack of consideration for the principles of fair play in this particular case. In their presence, he muttered that â€œthe first judgment was faulty in the first place.â€ Although this does not mean that a coordinate court could still hear the case, it gave Salami away as having an agenda. Earlier, Justice Dahiru Abdullahi who was to chair the judgment had excused himself from the case when he saw the magnitude of lack of confidence in the judgment by the PDP. But Salami would still go ahead if allowed to do so.
In the days that followed the log jam eminent jurists have been cautioning on the sanctity of the judiciary as the last hope of the common man. Many people believe that if left in the hands of miscreants, too much justice will be miscarried and this will tip the cart.