As the Supreme Court finally brings to an end the Kogi governorship tussles, Tuesday, there is palpable anxiety in the air.
The question on the lips of everyone is: will Yayaya Bello remain the
Governor of the state? Will the court order a new election or will the former Governor, Idris Wada continue asked to continue in office?
The trouble started when the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate in the November 21, 2015 election, Alhaji Abubakar Audu, suddenly died in the middle of the inconclusive election.
Before his death, he was leading the then Governor, Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Caught in the web of phenomenon not witnessed in the political history of the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) asked APC to nominate another candidate to replace Audu’s candidacy for the re-run election.
But James Faleke, who was Audu’s running mate in the inconclusive election, said he ought to be the automatic replacement for Audu. The party thought otherwise. Instead, it picked Bello, who came second in the party’s primaries. And on conclusion of the rerun election, Bello was declared governor elect and subsequently sworn in as the Governor
of Kogi State in January 2016.
Faleke had gone to court.
Meanwhile, Wada, who was Audu’s main opponent also laid claim to the governorship, arguing being the person who scored second highest votes should be declared the winner.
At the Kogi State Election Tribunal, the request of the duo, Wada
and Faleke, were turned down. They had proceeded to the Appeal Court.
The appellate court also refused to grant them their request.
In a unanimous judgment by a five-member panel of justices read by Justice Jummai Sankey on August 4, 2016, the Appeal Court had upheld the verdict of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja, which dismissed Faleke’s petition.
But in Wada’s appeal, Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya gave a dissenting judgment cancelling the election of Bello on the grounds that he was not validly nominated for the election following Audu’s death and he failed to nominate a running mate before the election.
He ordered the withdrawal of the governor’s certificate of return and the conduct of a fresh election in the state.
Not satisfied both Wada and Faleke had proceeded to the apex court to lodge appeals, hoping that the Supreme Court would upturn the judgments of the lower courts in their favour.
Meanwhile, reports coming in say supporters of the three major parties in the litigations, Wada, Faleke and Governor Bello, have moved to Abuja and are expecting the judgment to be in their favour.
Some members of Bello’s cabinet have also moved to Abuja in solidarity with their boss and in the hope that he will carry the day. The movement to Abuja has paralysed government activities in the state.
But despite the confidence being exuded in the three camps, there is palpable fear as none can be sure of what the outcome will be.
Governor Bello’s Special Adviser on Media and Strategy, Abdulmalik Abdulkareem, said they were not shaken by the impending judgment.
“We are not shaken, we know that the rule of law will take its course, God willing, we are set to make a legal record that will become a precedent. The Nigerian legal system is developing and we are happy that our case is adding impetus to the Nigerian judiciary,” he said.
According to him, since there are no new issues raised, the governors camp is not in any way jittery over the judgment. “It is not true that the entire government machinery moved to Abuja, it is usual that when the governor is out of town, a few officials are with him, he is
working, he has been attending meetings, so it is not true that he is in Abuja because of the judgment.”
Wada is also expecting to carry the day. Speaking through his Special Adviser, Media and Strategy, Jacob Edi, the former governor restated his belief in the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court.
“We expect to win the case, we have always had confidence in the judiciary and we have kept advancing to the last stage, that is why we are at the Supreme Court. The judiciary is the ultimate for the common man.
“The framers of the constitution are aware that at every stage of the case newer interpretations will come up. We believe that the Supreme Court will look deeper into the case, particularly with the minority judgment. Whatever decision taken will deepen democracy as the case is novel; it will be a landmark judgment. We have confidence in the
independence of the Supreme Court”.