•Declare Tambuwal, others winners now –Lawyer
•No basis for re-run in six states
•Electoral Act inferior to Nigeria’s Constitution
Legal fireworks are imminent as some lawyers and politicians have faulted the Independent Electoral Commission’s declaration of elections inconclusive in Sokoto and five other states unconstitutional, urging the electoral umpire to announce leading candidates’ winner of the elections.
The electoral commission, on Tuesday declared the governorship election inconclusive in Kano, Bauchi, Benue, Plateau, Adamawa and Sokoto states, predicating its action on provisions of the Electoral Act 2010, (As Amended), and picked March 23 for a rerun in the affected states and ordered a rerun in some areas. The INEC’s National Commissioner in charge of Information and Voter Education, Mr. Festus Okoye, relied on Section 26 of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and Clause 47(e) of the Regulations and Guidelines of the Commission.
The Section says: “Where the margin of win between the two leading candidates is not in excess of the total number of registered voters of the polling unit(s) where the election was cancelled or not held, the returning officer shall decline to make a return until another poll has taken place in the affected polling unit(s) and the result incorporated into the existing one.”
In Sokoto State, the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship candidate, Hon. Aminu Tambuwal scored 489,558 as against the All Progressives Congress’ counterpart, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu’s 486,090, the former leading the latter with 3,468. Rejected votes was 30, 082 Similarly, the PDP governorship candidate in Kano State, Alhaji Abba Yusuf polled 1,014,474 while Governor Umar Ganduje of the APC garnered 987,819; the former leading by about 16,000; just as the APC candidate in Plateau State, Simon Lalong won with 583,255 votes while Jeremiah Useni of the PDP scored 538,826.
APC led by a margin of 44,929. Rejected votes in Plateau were 16,691. A prominent constitutional lawyer, who refused to be named because he is holding brief for one of the clients on one of the cases, described INEC’s fixing of rerun polls in the six states a violation of the Constitution, adding that the commission should have declared the leading candidates in the respective states winners.
The lawyer posited their declaration on Section 179 (2), and INEC’s action based on its Electoral Act cannot invalidate constitutional provisions, which is the grand num of the country, in conformity with Section 1 (3): “If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
Section 2 (2) says: “A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being two or more candidates – (a) he has the highest number of votes .cast at the election; and (b) He has not less than onequarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State.”
A group has also called for compliance with constitutional provisions on the issue. Leading a campaign #StandingByOurConstitution, #INECDontBendTheLaw and #ConstitutionIsSupreme, they said in particular: “Has Tambuwal’s PDP met with the above mentioned Constitutional requirements for one to be declared winner in the governorship election in Nigeria? Yes!
“How? (1) Tambuwal /PDP has the highest number of votes cast in election for the Sokoto State Governor and thereby fulfilled Constitutional provision as provided by Section 179(2)(a) where the constitution stated that the person must have scored the highest number of votes cast at the election. Tambuwal is leading with this result: PDP-489,558 APC-486,090. “(2) Again, Tambuwal has fulfilled Constitutional requirements as provided by section 179(2)(b) as it concerns get up to 25 per cent in the 2/3 of the LGAs in Sokoto State.
His votes spread across the LGAs of the state and thereby fulfilling the constitutional requirements for him to be declared winner.
“So why did INEC declare his supposed victory inconclusive, (a) INEC cited cancellation of 136 polling units for such reasons. Since Section 179(2) has been fulfilled, Onyia submitted that INEC’s inconclusiveness is already inconsequential because Tambuwal/PDP has fulfilled the constitutional requirements for him to be returned re-elected. “Some are citing Electoral Act to back INEC’s current stand in Sokoto forgetting that no law or act in Nigeria is superior to the content of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For example, Section 1(3) has destroyed effort of the INEC in their quest to insist on Inconclusiveness of the Sokoto State Governorship election. So what is INEC waiting from declaring Tambuwal?” it asked. Ikechukwu Onyia, a party chieftain in Anambra State said INEC should declare the leading governorship candidates winner for the same reason he announced the election President Muhammadu Buhari.
“In the presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari scored 15,191,847 votes, compared to Atiku Abubakar’s 11,262,978, and the margin between both votes was 3.9 million, while the number of votes cancelled was 5.5million, but Buhari was declared winner without a rerun. It is therefore amounts to double standards to order rerun in the current states,” he said.
In another instance, a National Vice Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, said INEC’s action in the state amounts to electoral fraud and selective application of the Act in collusion between the APC and INEC in order to subvert the will of the people.
“Why did they not make a universal application of the Act, but only where PDP is in the lead? In Ogun State, Dapo Abiodun, of the APC scored 241,670 votes to defeat Adekunle Akinlade of the APM who polled 222,153, leaving a margin of 19,517, whereas the number of cancelled votes is 25,670. Yet the Ogun governorship election was not declared inconclusive but given to APC?
The PDP had condemned INEC’s order for rerun, stating that the electoral body has become overtly partisan, surrendered its independence to the APC “and carried on as a compromised umpire with obnoxious impunity…” Speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, the party said it “has full intelligence of how INEC is acting on instructions from the Buhari Presidency and the APC in orchestrating unwholesome situations and declaring already concluded governorship elections in Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Plateau as well as other states as inconclusive, immediately it became obvious that the PDP was set to win.”
Olafeso added that elections in those states have been concluded and all the governorship candidates should be declared winner, otherwise, it will be a confirmation of suspicion that APC and INEC plotted to subvert the popular will of the people and with that President Muhammadu Buhari will go down in history as someone who presided over the most corrupt election in Nigeria.
He also called for the resignation of INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, because “he compromised and presided over a historically debased election, but I know that history will not be kind to him.” However, Chief Raph Uwazurike, Lagos lawyer and former President of Aki Ikenga said INEC still acted within the ambit of the law by declaring the election inconclusive at operational level, because it still has the jurisdiction. However, he added that INEC erred in law by what he described as “approbation and reprobation,” meaning selective application of the rules to suit the interest of particular political parties and candidates , as manifested in the governorship election Ogun State and the presidential elections.