By Abdallah el-Kurebe
PENULTIMATE Friday, the Supreme Court nullified the election of Kebbi State Governor Usman Saidu Dakingari of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The apex court also ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to conduct fresh governorship election in the state within 90 days from the date of the judgment.
The unanimous judgment of the court read by Justice Walter Onnoghen was hinged on the failure of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal, which had earlier upturned the decision of the Kebbi State Election Petition Tribunal,KSEPT, to have proffered reasons for its judgment.
The apex court noted that the Appeal Court had within 60 days from the date of filing the appeal to dispense with it: both in terms of the verdict and accompanying reasons.
The CPC had approached the tribunal on May 18 2011 challenging the election of Dakingari and his deputy on the ground that the election that brought them to office was not properly conducted and that the governor did not score the highest vote as claimed by INEC.
However, having failed to align with the 2010 Electoral Act and INEC manual, the KSEPT under the Chairmanship of Justice Mairo Labaran Muhammed, on November 13 2011, annulled the election. INEC had failed to produce the list of ballot papers allocated to all the 21 local government areas of the state.
Citing Section 140(1) (2) of the Electoral Act in nullifying the election, Justice Muhammed observed that: “The worst is that INEC cannot produce witnesses about the number of ballot papers and boxes allocated to all presiding officers in the state. We hereby make the election null and void in accordance to the prayers of the petitioners.”
Dissatisfied with the Tribunal’s ruling, Dakingari sought redress at the Sokoto Division of the Appeal Court.
The appellate court, which was presided over by Justice Amiru Sanusi , threw out the tribunal’s verdict, which ruled in favour of the CPC candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Gari Malam, thereby quashing the tribunal’s judgment and on December 29 2011, affirmed the election of Dakingari as governor.
But the Kebbi State CPC under the chairmanship of Alhaji Suleiman Nasiha Zuru would not agree with the verdict of the Appeal Court.
Hence, it approached the Supreme Court, which in a unanimous judgment by a 5_man panel of justices led by Justice Walter Onnoghen, nullified the Court of Appeal verdict, which had affirmed Dakingari as the winner of the April 26, 2011 polls.
The Supreme Court held that it was wrong for the appellate court to give its judgment within the constitutionally stipulated period for the determination of such cases, saying such action ipso_facto rendered the said judgment nugatory.
“It is obligatory for the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court to dispose an appeal within 60 days from the date of the decision being appealed, since section 285 (7) implies that both the decision and the reasons for that decision, must be completed within the stipulated time. Any decision without a reason is no decision at all. The judiciary has no option than to work within the time frame provided by the law,” Justice Onnoghen maintained in his lead judgment.
Typical of Nigeria’s political firmament, since the judgment, the CPC and the PDP, have returned to the trenches.
For the PDP, the rerun election, would also produce the party’s candidate as governor.
Disclosing this to Vanguard, the state PDP chairman, Mansir Shehu averred that for whatever number of times that elections are to hold in the state, that his party would emerge victorious.
“Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled but PDP will win any election fresh or rerun. For whatever number of times that elections are organised to be conducted in Kebbi state, PDP will always come out as the winner. The party under Dakingari has performed creditably. The people are happy with Dakingari administration”, Shehu stated.
On the other hand, CPC spokesperson in Kebbi, Abdullahi Zuru was of the view that PDP would only win the election in a flawed contest, adding CPC would win in a free and fair contest.
“under a free and fair election, CPC is the party to beat in Kebbi state. This time, unless elections are rigged, we shall be there,” he stated.
Principally, the CPC governorship candidate, Gari is believed to have the support of former governor of the state, Senator Adamu Aliero, who commands a sizeable number of supporters. However, Aliero is said to be a loyalist of former President Obasanjo.
With this perceived romance with Obasanjo and Aliero’s membership of the PDP, there is the possibility that the CPC may have crippled its chances of winning the rerun election.
Political developments in the ‘Land of Equity’ as Kebbi is also known, are such that the CPC is rather losing out, given that some of its major financiers have defected to the PDP.
For instance, two of the party’s known financiers, Hassan and Hussaini Suleiman Kangiwa have defected to the PDP.
They also pledged to support Dakingari in the rerun election.
Hassan it will be recalled, contested against Dakingari in 2007. The duo are said to enjoy support of the people of the state.
Meanwhile, the CPC has registered its reservation over an alleged secret meeting purported to have held in Abuja where the Acting Governor, Alhaji Aminu Musa Jega was said to have been handed a ‘forced code of conduct’ on how to manage the affairs of the state.
However, Observers have argued that Daikingari, stands a chance of returning to the government House.