KADUNA GUBER: WHEN CPC OPTIMISM CRASHED AT THE JUDICIAL ALTAR
For keen watchers of political events in Kaduna State, and for veteran reporters grounded in the coverage of election petitions in Nigeria, the triumph of Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa of Kaduna State, at the election tribunal recently, did not come as a surprise.
From day one when the petition against the governor was filed, up to the pre-hearing stage, the governor's challenger, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, gubernatorial candidate, Haruna Sa'eed Kajuru, Daily Sun learnt, did not show any 'strong sign' that he was desirous of unseating the governor through legal means.
This is so because as the proceedings in the case between former Kaduna governor, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and his opponent, who incidentally is of the CPC and current Senator representing Kaduna North Senatorial district, Yusuf Datti, have proved, there were ballot box stuffing during the elections in Kaduna, just as there were several 'unsigned and unstamped' votes in most polling units, all of which were used to return candidates as winners during the April 28 rescheduled Governorship/State Assembly elections and Senatorial elections in the state.
But it takes only a good petitioner and sound legal minds to prove some of these allegations. However, while Kajuru is accusing Yakowa of election rigging, he did not join the PDP, which is the political party that provided the platform for Yakowa to run for the governorship, as a party, in the suit.
Daily Sun gathered authoritatively that, it would be difficult to prove allegation of rigging against a candidate, without joining the party that sponsored the candidate as a party in the suit, except of course if the candidate was one of those caught in the act.
This, Daily Sun further learnt is so, because, the agents, who may have perpetrated the alleged rigging, are agents of the political party sponsoring the candidate, and not necessarily agents of the candidate. And where a party is not joined in a petition, it becomes difficult leading evidence against such a party.
Apart from the issue of not joining the PDP, as a necessary party in the petition, the issue of bringing in Forensic Experts to examine the ballot papers, dealt a fatal blow to the petitioners' case, as the Forensic Experts, the petitioners claimed they employed, later told the tribunal during cross examination that they possess no requisite qualification to qualify as Forensic Experts. All these, were brought to bear in deciding the fate of Kajuru, even though he has since given indication that he would be challenging the verdict at the Appeal Court, describing the tribunal's verdict as a 'miscarriage of justice.'
Delivering the judgment, which lasted for four hours, amidst tight security, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Garba Kwajafa noted that since the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were not joined in the petition by the petitioners, all allegations relating to them should be expunged from the proceedings since it is not party to the case and therefore could not be called to defend itself of any allegation.
Kwajafa, also overruled the 'forensic experts' brought before the tribunal as witnesses, saying that the 'experts' were not qualified to be called so because, 'They were concerned with mere recounting of votes that does not involve any expertise; it is only the court that can do the recounting if such votes are declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission.'
The tribunal also ruled that the documents tendered through the bar by the petitioner's Counsel, Adebayo Adeniyi (SAN) were merely dumped on the tribunal as the Counsel did not call any witness to substantiate the document and to explain what they are meant for.
Citing several cases that were decided in favour of the tribunal's position, the tribunal said that it was not the responsibility of the tribunal to analyze the documents that were not supported by oral evidence which should have explained what they were, as it further noted that neither the INEC, polling agents, returning officers nor any other persons were called to testify or adopt the document, as such they could not form parts of the documentary evidences before the tribunal.
The tribunal chairman further noted since the makers of the documents were not called to testify, the documents tendered from the bar by counsel to the petitioner has no 'evidential value as their purpose was not established.'
He also cited relevant cases to support the tribunal's decision, saying that 'any document admitted and to be considered must be such that have value by virtue of analysis,' adding that the court could not proceed to examine the document and therefore should also be expunged from the records of the tribunal.
The tribunal further held that the fact that the petitioners did not plead the document in both their petition and the list of documents made, admitting and examining the document would amount to an exercise in futility, since the documents are irrelevant to the case.
In expunging the evidence of the three 'experts' called by the petitioners, the tribunal held that by the definition of the word expert, the three witnesses did not qualify to be called experts in the case as 'all they were concerned with was the recounting of the votes cast and the declaring of Haruna Sa'eed (CPC candidate) as winner of the election.'
The tribunal also averred that the evidences tendered by the three witnesses were never pleaded in the petition as part of the documents to be tendered; pointing out that what the petitioners pleaded was to 'subject the ballot papers to forensic analysis and to tender the forensic analyses and chart.'
Justice Kwajafa noted that Counsel are bound by their pleadings and would not allow what was not pleaded as it would amount to over burdening the opponent, adding that since the petitioners pleaded forensic and hand writing analysis, they could not tender any other document and therefore ordered that the documents be discarded as 'they lacked evidential value,' thus dismissing Kajuru's petition and upholding the election of Yakowa, as duly elected and returned, as Kaduna State governor.
But in a swift reaction, Kajuru said, 'we have seen what the tribunal has done and we know that they have compromised, we know that they have erred, we know that the judgment was well decided ahead of today, and so you can see the pattern of the presentation was very clear.'We are going to follow up because we know what their claims have been before, through minor ruling during the case and we prepared adequately for the case, without delay we will not allow this miscarriage of justice to continue unabated, we will continue to pursue the case. We will move on and Insha Allah, the victory will come back.
'I urge my supporters to remain law abiding and comport themselves in a mature manner. We are moving to the next level to appeal the judgment,' he said. However, in his own reaction, Governor Yakowa called on his opponent to join hands with him in building Kaduna State, saying 'I believe Sa'eed has a lot to offer in the development of Kaduna State. The tribunal judgment is surely a confirmation of what happened in the April governorship election and I have nothing to say than to call on my opponents, my brother and good friend, Haruna Sa'eed Kajuru to join hands with me, so that we can build Kaduna State together.
'I believe Haruna Sa'eed has a lot to offer this government in terms of advice for us to take Kaduna State to the next level.'At this point, I want to call on the people of Kaduna State to be peaceful and continue to pray for the progress of the state. In fact, at this point we have to intensify our prayer, because it is with peace and prayer that we can achieve progress,' Yakowa added. Only time will tell, if the Appeal Court will return a verdict, different from that delivered by the tribunal.