By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Levinus Nwabughiogu & Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA— The refusal of the All Progressives Congress, APC’s, erstwhile deputy governorship candidate in the last election in Kogi State, Mr. James Faleke, to be the running mate to the new candidate, Yahaya Bello, in this weekend’s governorship supplementary election has put his party and the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in a quandary.
Vanguard learnt that INEC was procedurally incapable of acting on the letter submitted by Faleke to withdraw himself from the supplementary election as running mate to Bello, indicating that his name is still penned as running mate to Bello.
Faleke had on Tuesday written INEC demanding the removal of his name as the running mate to Alhaji Yahaya Bello in this Saturday’s supplementary election.
Having earlier written the commission and consequently filed a case at a Federal High Court, Abuja requesting to be declared as governor-elect, Faleke had also rejected the option of being Mr Bello’s running mate.
Vanguard checks revealed that Faleke’s second letter to the commission is defective on the grounds that only his party has the locus standi to present such letter to INEC.
Section 35 of the 2010 Electoral Act(as amended) states that: “A candidate may withdraw his candidature by notice in writing signed by him and delivered by himself to the political party that nominated him for the election and the political party shall convey such withdrawal to the commission not later than 45 days to the election.”
Aside from the 45-day timeline which has elapsed, the APC as at press time was said to have continued mounting pressure on Faleke to withdraw his threat to quit the party.
Negotiations still ongoing
Contacted on the issue, National Chairman of the party, Chief John Oyegun, told Vanguard that negotiations were still ongoing.
Mr. Bello’s adoption at the meeting of the National Working Committee of the party followed the death of the former governorship candidate, Abubakar Audu, on November 22.
The party immediately forwarded his name to INEC as replacement for Mr. Audu and that of Mr. Faleke as his running mate.
However, when contacted on phone, Director in charge of Voter Education, Publicity, Civil Society and Gender Liaison, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzi said he could not confirm INEC’s receipt of the letter.
He said if the letter gets to INEC, the commission would look at it and know how to go about it before Saturday’s polls.
In Kogi, speculations are rife that should Faleke make good his threat to quit the party, Bello would choose his long-time ally, George Olumoroti as his running-mate.
Wada knows fate on Friday
Meanwhile, the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, yesterday, fixed Friday to determine whether in view of section 181 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, the INEC ought to conduct a fresh governorship election in Kogi State.
In its bid to speedily resolve all the legal issues that were thrown up by the death of the former governorship candidate of the APC, Abubakar Audu, the court, yesterday, consolidated four separate suits challenging the legality of the supplementary election scheduled to take place in Kogi state on Saturday.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who presided over the four suits, yesterday, said there was need for the court to expeditiously determine the issues, “so that INEC will not conduct the election under a grave shadow of doubt as to the legal or constitutional validity.”
Whereas one of the suits was lodged before the court by Kogi State governor, Captain Idris Wada (retd), the second suit was filed by the governorship candidate of the People for Democratic Change, PDC, in the state, Hon. Emmanuel Daikwo.
Likewise, a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Usman, a House of Reps member for Ahiazu Ezinaihitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State, Hon. Rafael Igbokwe, and an electorate from Omala Local Government Area in Abelijukolo Ife of Eche ward in Kogi State, Mr. Stephen Wada Omaye, filed the two remaining suits
Issues for determination
Upon consolidation of the suits yesterday, the plaintiffs, led by Wada’s lawyer, Mr. Goddy Uche, SAN, distilled out three principal legal issues for the court to determine on Friday.
They want the court to go ahead and determine: “Whether having regard to the provisions of sections 31(1)(2)(4)(5)(6)(7) and (8), 33, 34, 36, 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, as well as sections 178-181 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, INEC, can lawfully conduct a second/supplementary election into the office of Governor of Kogi State on December 5, 2015, or any other date at all let alone accepting the nomination/substitution by the APC of any candidate on the basis of votes computed and credited to the deceased candidate of the APC when the new or substitute candidate was not part of the original election.
Wada specifically prayed the court to determine “whether in view of the provisions of section 179 (2) (3)(4)(5) of the constitution, and other enabling provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, and having regard to the doctrine of necessity, the plaintiff being the only surviving candidate with the major lawful votes cast at the Kogi State governorship election held on November 21, 2015, ought not to be declared and returned by the INEC as the winner of the election, having secured not less than one-quarter of the votes cast in two-thirds of all the Local Government Areas in Kogi State.”
Justice Kolawole, yesterday, gave all the parties 48 hours to file and exchange their final written addresses, saying they should return on Thursday to adopt their processes to enable the court to deliver judgement on the matter on Friday.
Meantime, though both INEC and the Attorney General of the Federation were represented in court yesterday, there was no legal representation for the APC, which was equally cited as a defendant in the suit.
Uche, SAN, told the court that effort by his client to serve the originating processes on APC at its secretariat in Abuja failed on Monday as a result of a free-for-all that was going on between three different factions of the party.
Faleke goes to court
In another development, the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the November 21 election in Kogi State, Mr. James Faleke, yesterday, approached the high court, demanding that he should be declared the governor-elect.
Faleke, in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/977/2015, which he filed through a consortium of lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN and Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, insisted that contrary to the claim by the electoral body, the Kogi State governorship election was conclusive.
He is seeking 16 principal reliefs from the court, among which include, “A declaration that by the express provisions of sections 179 (2) (a) and (b) and 187(1) of the constitution, a person who is nominated as an associate of a candidate for the office of governor of a state is duly elected deputy governor of a state when the candidate for the office of the governor scores the highest number of votes at the election and also scored not less than one quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-third of all the local government areas in the state.
“A declaration that by the combined reading of sections 179 (2)(a) and (b) and 181(1) of the constitution, upon the death of a person duly elected as the governor of a state, the person elected with him as deputy-governor is to be sworn in as the governor of the state.”
Faleke also urged the court to declare that the results declared by INEC following the November 21 governorship election in Kogi State, produced a governor-elect of the state in accordance with the express provisions of section 179(2)(a) and (b) of the constitution.
He argued that the results INEC declared after the election clearly produced him as the Deputy-Governor elect of Kogi State.