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WAMAKKO'S MANY BATTLES

By NBF News
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•Wammakko & •Bafarawa & •Dingyada
Since his election as Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko has always been trapped in political webs, including the legal challenge of his tenure, which dragged up to the Supreme Court. To many political observers, who have been following the politics of Sokoto State, it is infested with intrigues, suspense and legal brickbats.

TUNDE OMOLEHIN chronicles his many battles.
The facts of the matter could be ascertained from the political intrigues witnessed since the advent of Fourth Republic in 1999 with notable politicians like former governor Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko and few other progressives that took the centre stage in politics on the platform of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP).

Going down memory lane, Wamakko's political fortune, according to some pundits, started in 1999 when he came out of retirement and joined politics. Wamakko, who many considered as a civil servant par excellence, had emerged as deputy governor under the Bafarawa administration.

During this period of deputyship, his influence, undiluted loyalty and commitment endeared him to Bafarawa. As a result of that, he was made to oversee the administration and finances of the 23 local government councils as a commissioner in charge between 1999 and 2004 as a way of 'compensation'.

This portfolio he held helped him to install his loyalists across the 23 local council areas.

However, toward the end of their second tenure, it was gathered that Bafarawa suddenly got wind of the plan of his deputy to succeed him as the next governor. He began to seek plans on how to thwart his efforts and even allegedly instigated the state House of Assembly members to impeach him from office.

By the end of 2006, the ANPP political crisis reached a climax, that made Wamakko relinquish the deputy governorship based on pressure and quit the government. Even before then, ANPP in the state was already polarised, with a faction geared toward making Wamakko a successor to his political boss, Bafarawa, at all cost.

Wamakko and his political sympathisers in ANPP had hijacked the party hierarchy at the state level and were apparently backed by the national secretariat of the party in Abuja under the leadership of the late Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.

This development, however, forced Bafarawa to found and register the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) and became its presidential candidate in the 2007 general elections. Not only that, he (Bafarawa) also made sure that his then Secretary to the State Government and political associate, Alhaji Maigari Muhammadu Dingyadi, clinched the party governorship ticket for the hot race.

Wamakko became ANPP standard bearer for the gubernatorial election while in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Barrister Mukthar Shagari, a minister in Obasanjo's administration resigned his position and emerged as the party's candidate.

Thereafter, Daily Sun gathered that former president Obasanjo was told that for the PDP to capture the state, a grassroots and popular candidate must be fielded by the party. This prompted the joint ticket of both Wamakko and Shagari at the last moment.

The political arrangement was believed to have been the only option that the PDP could uproot Bafarawa's powerful political structures.

After the poll, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Wamakko winner with 392,285 votes. He beat his closest rival and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) candidate, Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi, who garnered 296,419 votes.

The declaration by INEC, it was believed would bring an end to the electioneering process in the state for the 2007 political transition. But for the opposition, that was just a starting point for Wamakko's many battles.

The leading opposition party then (DPP) had headed to the electoral petitions tribunal set up to look into the irregularities that might arise in the course of the concluded governorship election in the state.

Though, DPP might not be the only political party that participated in the poll as it was noted that about 20 others were involved but the fact remains that DPP was the only opposition party that attempted to uproot the PDP that was backed by the central government.

At both the Election Tribunal and Court of Appeal Kaduna, it was petitioned that there was a case of dual sponsorship of one of the gubernatorial candidates. That in a certified copy of Form EC 4B (IV) of INEC filled by the affected candidate on February 12, 2007, two (2) parties – ANPP & PDP – were entered in the column reserved for the name of the sponsoring political party.

There were also issues bordering on same dual sponsorship and substitution. Wamakko had presented a letter to INEC Sokoto from the then National Secretary of PDP, Chief Ojo Madueke, dated February 5, 2007, substituting Mukhtar Shagari with Wamakko as the party's gubernatorial candidate.

When ANPP national scribe was invited by the Tribunal, the petitioner's claim was admitted that Wamakko was up to that February 5 a bonafide member of ANPP, having attended and signed the register of the ANPP meeting held in Abuja on February 8, 2007.

If PDP had substituted Shagari with Wamakko on February 5, why should the same Wamakko attend the ANPP meeting on February 8? It was thus contended that three days after the receipt of Madueke's letter, Wamakko was still enjoying dual party membership.

Another issue raised in the petition revolves around the deputy governorship; that on a certified copy of Form EC 4B of INEC, Wamakko entered the name of Senator Bello Jubril Gada as his deputy. However, in the section reserved for the name and signature of the deputy gubernatorial candidate, the name of Mukhtar Shagari was entered.

Other charge brought before the Tribunal was that Shagari did not undertake an oath to contest for the deputy governorship post, as prescribed by the 2006 Electoral Act. That Shagari claimed to have taken the Oath at Nasarawa State High Court in Lafia on February 12, 2007.

However, a certified copy of the receipt of payment made showed that Shagari undertook the oath on April 27, 2007. It was, therefore, contended the oath was taken some 2 weeks after the gubernatorial election, not before the election as required by Law.

The Court of Appeal Kaduna on April 11, 2008, gave a verdict on the election case, in which it was satisfied that Wamakko's nomination by PDP was a clear breach of Section 187 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 38 of the 2006 Electoral Act and the nomination of Shagari as deputy gubernatorial candidate was not in conformity with the 2006 Electoral Act. Thus, it was established that Wamakko had enjoyed dual party sponsorship, while Shagari falsely backdated the Oath of Contest document.

Accordingly, the Court nullified the election on the grounds of substantial irregularities and non-qualification of Wamakko and Shagari to contest the April 14, 2007 gubernatorial election. The Court showered much blame on INEC for allowing itself to be used by the ruling party in such shameful cover up. The Court further awarded a N50, 000 costs against the respondents.

It ordered that the Speaker of the State House of Assembly then, Alhaji Balarabe Salame be sworn in as acting governor pending a re-run election to be conducted within 90 days. Remarkably, the Court also ordered that only candidates and parties that participated in the annulled election were to contest the re-run election.

Though, both the INEC and PDP had insisted that Wamakko could contest the re-run election based on the Appeal Court order, DPP simply instituted a case at the Federal High Court Abuja demanding for the interpretation of the earlier Court of Appeal verdict on the matter and to issue an order disqualifying Wamakko and PDP from contesting the re-run election which INEC had scheduled for May 24, 2008.

On July 17, 2008 the Federal High Court rejected the DPP case for lack of jurisdiction and referred the matter to the superior court for consideration. Consequently, the DPP legal team moved to the Appeal Court Abuja but was later withdrawn after the re constituted courts of Appeal nationwide to look into all electoral cases that arose from the 2007 general elections by Justice Ayodele Salami.

Upon the conduct of rerun election, which DPP among other political parties participated, it was gathered that the DPP involvement in the exercise was to enable it get electoral grounds upon which it could challenge Wamakko and PDP at the tribunal once again.

This time around, it was a landslide victory for Aliyu Wamakko as he polled 562,395 votes and defeated Dingyadi who scored a paltry 124,046 votes, after the rerun. Many had expected that the newly elected government would be allowed to settle down for the business of governance.

Daily Sun gathered that, repeated calls made by Wamakko on his political rivals to join him in the onerous task of delivering good governance to the people of the state were turned down by his major rivals that include Attahiru Bafarawa, Muhammudu Dingyadi and Umaru Kwaboo, among others.

At this juncture, Dingyadi and his party returned to the Elections Petitions Tribunal on May 24, 2008 to challenge the results against Wamakko. The DPP presented two main issues to the Tribunal for determination with regards to the re-run election which is the matter in contention.

On February 18, 2009 the Election Tribunal passed its judgment, divided between Majority and Minority views. The majority judgment headed by Honourable Justices A.M. Haliru, B.E. Agbatah, and G.K. Kaigama, dismissed the petition.

On the question of jurisdiction and abuse of Court processes as canvassed by the respondents, a majority judgement of the Tribunal decided on the affirmative that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Also, the majority judgement decided that sitting on the same matter would amount on an abuse of court process, in view of the fact that a similar matter has been decided by the Federal High Court and on appeal at the Court of Appeal Abuja then seeking to know whether Wamakko was qualified to contest in the May 24, 2008 re-run election.

On the other hand, a dissenting decision of the other two members of the Tribunal disagreed with the majority decision on lack of jurisdiction to entertain the matter, citing section 145 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act 2006 which gives the Tribunal the jurisdiction to inquire into whether a person whose election was questioned at the time of the election was not qualified to contest the election; in this case the 24th May 2008 election in Sokoto State.

On the issue of abuse of Court process, the dissenting judgement also disagreed with the majority, as the issues before the Tribunal and those before the Federal High Court are radically different.

The Tribunal after the preliminary issues in the minority verdict of the two Justices Okonkwo and Ahamaije (JJ) went further to examine the issue of qualification of Wamakko to contest the May 24, 2008 election, which is the main issue in contention. According to them, by virtue of the Court of Appeal's decision which led to the re-run election, Aliyu Wamakko of the PDP was not qualified.

Opposition elements apparently backed by Bafarawa however stuck to their guns and dragged Wamakko to the appellate courts. At this stage, the legal tussle had gone messier with rains of petitions and counter allegations from the counsels engaged by both camps.

There were two appeals, one was before the Court of Appeal, Abuja and another before the Court of Appeal in Sokoto the decision of the Federal High Court Kaduna and Election Tribunal Sokoto on the construction or interpretation of the judgement of the Court of Appeal Kaduna. Some legal luminaries viewed it as confusing, chaotic and embarrassing to the nation's judicial system.

But based on a letter sent to the presiding judge of the Appeal Court in Sokoto, Justice Musa Dattijo Mohammed, the National Judicial Council (NJC) ordered the court to put the judgment on hold pending the determination of serious allegations levelled against him (Justice Mohammed) and president of the Appeal Court by Wamakko and Independent National Election Commission (INEC), filed through their respective attorneys, to the NJC. Judgement was therefore suspended indefinitely.

When the legal battle ended, Wamakko emerged victorious against all odds, courtesy of the Supreme Court intervention. Not only that, the former President of Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami was also cut in the web as he was forcefully retired from the service prematurely, though against public outcries.

At this juncture, oppositions could not go further in their battle as they have used all legal avenues unsuccessfully. Dingyagi and his party however resigned to fate. But for Wamakko's camp, it was a triumph well deserved as they rolled out their victorious drums.

But before the embattled Wamakko could settle down for governance, the expiration of his four years tenure was already at the doorstep, with oppositions within his party led by Senator Abubakar Umar Gada trying to scheme Wamakko out of his second term bid.

It took the intervention of the PDP national leadership through the pronouncement of its Zonal Vice Chairman, Ambassador Ibrahim Kazaure and the goodwill message by the Jigawa state governor, Sule Lamido to calm the situation being rumoured that he was in the bad books of President Goodluck Jonathan and in danger of being disqualified.

However, at the party primaries on 17th December, 2011, Wamakko literally came back from seeming political death to win a 100 per cent of the valid votes cast during the governorship primaries. The exercise was adjudged free and fair by the organiser and observers.

He easily coasted to victory against his two major challengers, Senator Abubakar Umar Gada and former Sports Minister, Yusuf Suleiman who boycotted the primaries apparently for the fear of defeat.

But, barely a month after this landslide victory, Wamakko's tenure was axed by the Supreme Court again with four sitting governors of Adamawa, Kogi, Bayelsa and Cross Rivers states. The court decision was based on what it described as 'illegal tenure elongation by the affected governors.

Though, the apex court decision could be described as a temporary setback to Wamakko, owning to the INEC declaration that all ongoing electoral process would be sustained. Then the former governor would no doubt be on his way to the troubled seat once again if he scales through opposition's hurdles after the governorship poll.

In his attestation on Wamakko, his Senior Special Adviser on Special Duties, Hon. Ahmed Kabiru in a chat with Daily Sun in Sokoto, described Wamakko as man of the people. 'He is a grassroots man and a listening leader and he will surely be re-elected for a second term…' He said.

For such, he said, it is not a surprise as people of the state will display loyalty and affections whenever the need arrives, adding that 'he has been with the down-trodden people right from day one even before he became governor. He is operating a government that respects the yearnings and aspirations of the people. Sokoto people would still love to vote him'.

Even since he was sworn-in on 29th May, 2007, Wamakko has been outstanding in the delivering of the desired dividend of democracy to the people. Daily Sun gathered that one of the unique features of his administration was his ability to be able to carry all and sundry along in a transparent manner in all of his programmes.

Some social pundits also said that Wamakko's administration focuses mainly on programmes that have direct benefits and impact on the people hence, ultimately reducing poverty and enhancing productivity. These programmes ranges from improved healthcare delivery, agriculture, education, poverty eradication and youth s empowerment among others capital projects executed since his inauguration.

Some reasons that Wamakko as part of his political calculations might have sold his political ideology to the downtrodden people popularly called 'Talakawa' in the northern states. These set of people believe to be the decider in any electioneering process at times chooses their own leader without the interference of godfathers.

Others also view that his respect for traditional institution in the state may have created an inroad into the mainstream of the state politics and made him (Wamakko) a household name among locals.

Even though, with the one day in court syndrome, another day out of court that has been trailing Wamakko's political career he has continued to hold the power behind Sokoto politics firmly since he emerged as governor in 2007 in spite of teeming oppositions against him.

But on other hand, opposition parties in the state seem to have relied on judiciary's decision to knock him out in their many bids to wrestle power from the embattled politician whose pre electoral pedigree name 'Sai Alu' has endeared him to many electorate in the state.