ON KOGI “INCONCLUSIVE” ELECTIONS AND OTHER MATTERS
Depending on one's political persuasions, many stayed glued to their radio or television stations in anticipation of the declaration of the much-anticipated election result in Kogi on November, 21. The social media was awash with all manner of projections about who the eventual winner of the gubernatorial election will be between two political gladiators Idris Wada of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and Abubakar Audu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As important as the election seem, it was, and still, my view that Kogites have must be the most unfortunate people having to choose the lesser between two evils. So, having followed the campaigns of both candidates as objectively as I could, I posted my verdict on the election on my Facebook profile that APC's Audu stood 51 per cent chance of winning a “closely contested election” some days to the Day of Decision. It only appeared to me that Audu's chances keeps increasing as the polling day approaching; with Wada, the incumbent governor, progressively declining!
I was in the middle of my reply to Jude Ndukwe's article, “Kogi Governorship Election: Avoiding Nigeria's Costly Mistake” (published in The Premium Times), almost immediately when Audu must have been declared the winner of the election, when I had to go out to see the “El Classico”, a match between two most successful Spanish (if not the World's) football Clubs- Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. I need not remind the “Galaticos” as Madrid fans call themselves, the 4-0 trashing by Barca. All that turned to a labour of love when the election was declared “inconclusive” by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and the death of the leading candidate (at least going by the rigorous psephological analyses of the result so far) the same day. It appeared events simply overtook all pre-election matters to deal with other unexpected issues these have thrown up.
In parenthesis, Jude Ndukwe, must look beyond his obvious ethno-political views and look at issues more factually. He argued, “Kogi State made a mistake by voting for APC at the presidential election thinking that APC was a credible alternative, having seen that APC is only a shadow of what it paints itself to be, it would amount to political suicide and avoidable self-destruct that would leave an indelible mark of regrets and sadness in the lives of the people if they make the same mistake a second time. It is always better to prevent the flood with the umbrella than waste resources, time and energy trying to sweep it away with forlorn-looking brooms”.
One is not then in doubt about this young man's loyalty. He probably didn't support or vote for President Buhari during the March election, so he should learn to live with the consequences of his own choice. Those that voted Buhari did so for a reason, and that is for him to keep the yams safe from the rampaging goats; recover the lands invaded by the locus; to “witch-hunt” the witches that now boldly devour the community in the daytime and to allow the farmer to reap bountiful harvests, including his goats. If President Buhari is doing this satisfactorily then no one made a “mistake” as Ndukwe will want some gullible elements amongst us to believe!
As far as I am concerned, Ndukwe's tone throughout the article sounded like the badly beaten boxer who some minutes ago received a knock-out and struggling to recover. Having turned himself to Wada's campaign manager with his write-up (mark you, I did not support Audu like I said earlier) he is either doing his best to sincerely blow the trumpet of his own ignorance loudly or he is simply been mischievous!
Let us leave pre-election matters for now, and consider the other issues brought up after the election. Since the APC's candidate died at almost the same period INEC was announcing the election as “inconclusive”, legal and constitutional issues arose.
I must admit I am not a lawyer, neither do I lay claims to the technicalities of the law. I will be looking at the issues not as “technically” as the lawyers will do, but from political standpoint. There has been no shortage of legal position(s) on the matter. I will do my best to look at all of them in their merits. Let us forget about INEC's initial decision to declare the election “inconclusive” for now.
The first position, common among PDP supporters, is that since Audu died before the conclusion of the election, the party candidate, Wada, should be declared the winner. This must be a strange legal interpretation because, the fact that a candidate, who has a running mate dies, does not automatically translates into the next “leading” candidate been declared the winner. Let us assume the election under dispute were to be, say, Senatorial election where there is no running mate, this argument may look more tenable!
Let us take the second position as canvassed by some factions of the APC. This group relying on that since Section 181 of the 1999 Constitution maintains that since technically the “Supplementary” election can at best be described as a “mere formality”, the running mate to late Audu, Mr James Abiodun Faleke should naturally “carry on the flag”. This group argued that INEC erred by not declaring Audu Governor-elect, which would have made things easier for Faleke to have stepped into his shoes.
As nice as this position looks on the surface, it comes with some obvious flaws. First, before he died, Audu was yet to be declared “Governor-elect” by the Electoral body so the question of Faleke declaring himself “Governor-elect” by virtue of the fact that Audu was “leading” before he died is out of place. Second, there are more technical issues concerning party politics than just simplifying the whole thing into Falake “stepping” into Audu's shoes. If the APC falls for this simple trap, then it may as well not have fielded any candidate for Kogi polls at all!
I made this last statement because in making this error, the opposition can easily go to court (and win), this time not to contest the fact that APC won the election, but faulty presentation and substitution of candidates. Let us take a moment to agree, albeit in principle, that it is that simple in this case. The APC has submitted, Faleke' name originally to INEC as Deputy Governorship candidate. That cannot change mid-way through the process, save Faleke himself must be ready to submit himself through a rigorous process of party primaries. True, he was nominated by Audu as his running mate, a constitutional provision, but since he did not participate in the primaries, he is ineligible at this time to be declared Governor-elect, except the APC thinks otherwise.
We must not fall for the argument that Faleke participated in the primaries indirectly while Audu participated directly. This argument holds no water because nowhere in the constitution or Electoral Act, is it explicitly provided for that the Deputy Governorship candidate must participate in party primaries.
That leads me to the third point I want to make-it is political parties, not candidates that actually contests elections. Strange as this point looks, it is the fact. The 1999 Constitution has no provision for independent candidacy. In fact, in the letters and spirit, it is against such. This was why in the case of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi vs. Independent Electoral Commission & Ors (2) Celestine Omehia (3) Peoples Democratic Party (2008), now popularly known as Amaechi v Omehia, proves this fact. The APC and the APC alone can nominate or substitute its candidate for an election in which it is participating. Woe unto Faleke if he fails to get the Courts to get INEC to declare him winner. Woe also unto Yahaya Bello (the new APC candidate for the “supplementary” election) if Faleke withdraws and he has no running mate!
It is a given that INEC must have acted in error by declaring the election “inconclusive” in the first instance. With about 49,000 votes remaining, it is our considered view that the APC has satisfied the Constitutional requirements of one-quarter of votes in all the 21 Local Governments Areas in the State who also has the highest number of votes. The Chief Returning Officer, Professor Emmanuel Kucha, can at best the described as just too officious. We say this in the light of the fact that it is almost, if not impossible using the electoral patterns in all the areas in the state, difficult for either party to achieve near 100 per cent of the remaining votes. Let us forget the fact that only a little over 25,000 voters have the legal voting instrument-the Permanent Voter Card (PVCs)- in the remaining polling units.
We also maintain that the Attorney-General of the Federation(AGF), Abubakar Malami, should have sought proper interpretation of Section 181 of the 1999 Constitution and Sections 33-35 of the Electoral Act from the Supreme Court before giving a public advice to INEC to request the APC to substitute its candidate. This makes the situation more complex and pre-emptive.
It is our considered view that however the case goes; it will surely expand the scope of electoral discussions in this country. It is definitely yet to begin!
***Olalekan Waheed ADIGUN is a political risk analyst and an independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria.