Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Taraba Election Tribunal ruling: A call for eyes on Akwa Ibom

Taraba Election Tribunal ruling: A call for eyes on Akwa Ibom


The ruling of the Taraba State Election Petitions Tribunal, which invalidated the election of Darius Ishaku as governor in the April 11 election and handed the governorship to Aisha Alhassan, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, has merely confirmed what is public knowledge, namely, the grand plan by the APC to ensure the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is reduced to a vegetable state that would render it a weak opposition.

In a judgment that has continually being queried even by legal experts, the tribunal declared Ishaku’s election null and void, not because he did not win majority of votes cast; not because of irregularities during the election, but because he was not purportedly not properly nominated by his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). 
The tribunal’s ruling is just one of the many contradictions, inconsistencies and double standards that have characterized the APC led administration since it came into existence, and even exposed its hypocrisy. It is coming not quite long after the Benue Election Petitions Tribunal upheld the election of Samuel Ortom of the APC as governor, overlooking the same reason for which Ishaku’s election has been annulled.

Ortom was a member of the PDP and actually participated in the party’s primaries, which he lost to Terhemen Tarzoor. While he was slugging it out in the PDP, Senator George Akume frustrated all efforts to conduct the APC primaries, dangling the governorship ticket before Ortom, if only he would defect from PDP. 

Ortom defected when he could not secure the PDP ticket.
When the APC gathered all the aspirants on its platform in Abuja and asked them to elect a candidate from among themselves, Emmanuel Jime, a former member of the House of Representatives, emerged the consensus candidate. But with the intervention of party personalities, the party fielded Ortom, not Jime.

The cases in Taraba and Benue share some similarities, but quite strangely, different endings. The PDP in Taraba said it moved its primaries to Abuja, away from Jalingo, the state capital, for security reasons (the same reason the tribunal gave for moving its sitting from the state to Abuja). The APC in Benue chose the federal capital, not Markudi, the state capital, for a meeting of aspirants to choose its candidate, for no justifiable reason. If Ishaku’s election cannot stand because he was not properly nominated by his party, the PDP, then Nigerians need to be told why Ortom’s election was upheld, even when he was not properly nominated by the APC. There must certainly be a reason why the same law applies differently, depending on who is at the receiving end or, more succinctly put, the party that is benefiting from it and the one that is losing.

The ruling of the Taraba election tribunal must be viewed against the background of the now familiar proclivity by the opposition to use the courts to achieve, through the back door, what it cannot achieve through the ballot box. The case of Kayode Fayemi, who became governor of Ekiti State through the instrumentality of the courts on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, easily comes to mind. Quite curiously, after the first term, the man who was supposed to have been the popular choice, in the estimation of the appeal court, couldn’t secure the mandate of the same people for a second term. In a most scandalous manner, an appeal court had to cancel elections in a whole senatorial district to pave way for Rauf Aregbesola to become governor of Oshun State after he lost at the polling station.

It is the same scenario that the APC wants played out in Akwa Ibom, where its candidate, Umana Okon Umana, lost to Udom Emmanuel of the PDP. The party hopes that it can take advantage of its brazenly cozy relationship with the courts to achieve the uphill task of winning in a state with a history of conservatism. It is instructive that apart from a senatorial election in Edo State and the governorship election in Abia, tribunal rulings have so far weighed heavily in favour of APC. If the PDP in the previous dispensation had the kind of close ties that APC is currently having with the judiciary and security services, its propaganda machine would have been revved into action to cry blue murder. 

When Goodluck Jonathan had a meeting with Atahiru Jega, erstwhile INEC chairman shortly before the elections, Lai Mohammed, the party’s publicity secretary, raised the alarm, imputing political meaning into the meeting, conveniently ignoring the fact that Jonathan was the president, and therefore, meeting the chief election umpire was merely a routine exercise.

Unlike the cases in Ekiti and Osun, Umana is not asking to be declared winner of the election, because he knows that with 89,865 votes compared to Udom’s 996,071, no form of manipulation in the courts can add up the numbers to give him victory. With the nullification of elections in 18 out of the 31 local government areas of the state, the governor is still left with about half the number of votes he received on April 11.

The APC candidate’s demand for an outright cancellation of the election is premised on the hope that with the leverage of judicial favoritism, use of federal might through INEC and the security services, he can secure enough votes to enable the courts give him the governorship, when he petitions against an Udom whose victory is as sure as the rising sun – just as the ACN did.  The Gestapo-like invasion of the Akwa Ibom Government House by operatives of the Department of State Security, with a government in place, for which no official explanation has been given till date, is just a pointer to what to expect if an election is held in the state today, whether a re-run or fresh election. 

The common boast among leaders of the APC in the state after the controversial tribunal ruling is that when what they describe as a tsunami is over, the state will cease to be what it used to be. This optimism, though misplaced, cannot be ignored, if it is considered that one day before the ruling of the election tribunal, a national newspaper and some online publications had correctly predicted that a re-run would be ordered in some local government areas. True to the prediction 24 hours earlier, the tribunal ordered a re-run in 18 local government areas.

The world is watching with bated breath to see how the election case in Akwa Ibom will end. It is one election that will either reinforce the belief in the credibility of the Buhari administration “Change” or erode it.

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