President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said the loss of the “strategically important” states of Kano and Plateau would have been a “major blow” had the Supreme Court verdict, which affirmed the elections of Governors Abdullahi Ganduje and Simon Lalong gone otherwise. “I am glad this tortuous journey has ended in favour of the party and our governors. APC won the states and has proved it in court. It would have been a major blow if strategically important states like Kano and Plateau are lost,” Buhari said in a statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu.
In an apparent reaction to the nationwide protest by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the apex court ruling, which sacked former Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha in favor of Senator Hope Uzodinma, he said: “It has now become standard procedure for the opposition to challenge any poll or judgment that does not return its candidates. Election is good when they win; the opposite is the case if someone else emerges. But that is not the way it works. Democracy is not only about who wins or who loses, but also about the process. In disparaging every unfavourable result or judgment, they disparage the entire system.”
The APC also described the protest by the PDP as “reckless”, “insensitive”, “irresponsible” and “contemptuous.” In a statement by its national publicity secretary, Lanre Issa-Onilu, the party said: “We know that the PDP will find justice served by our courts very hard to swallow because it has become accustomed to crooked manipulation of due process to its benefit and at the expense of the entire system. Weaning it from this bad modus operandi has proven difficult if not impossible. Every time the PDP loses in court, it declares the decision suspect and our democracy on life support.
“As our records show, APC has lost several seats in the Senate, House of Representatives and State Houses of Assembly across the country. Many have offered real confusion as the decisions departed from our knowledge of our electoral laws. Yet, we have carried ourselves with candour and dignity even in defeat. It is against this backdrop that we find the reckless and insensitive actions by the PDP in reaction to the judgment of the apex court regarding Imo State very irresponsible and indeed contemptuous.”
The PDP’s nationwide peaceful protests ended in Abuja yesterday. PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus led the march alongside former Anambra State Governor Peter Obi, who was also the party’s vice presidential candidate in the February 23 presidential election. Other PDP leaders who joined in the protest are Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe, former Imo State Governor Achike Udenwa, and some House of Representatives members including Chinda Kingsley and Obinna Chidoka.
The demonstration, which took off from Legacy House, Maitama, moved to Eagle Square at the Federal Secretariat and terminated in front of the National Assembly. The #SaveTheJudiciary protesters took to the streets of Abuja, demanding a reversal of the Supreme Court judgment on the Imo governorship election. Similar protests took place on Sunday in some states of the federation including Ogun, Taraba, Gombe, Abia and Kaduna.
Addressing the protesters at the Eagle Square, Secondus said: “We are a nation governed by law. Therefore, all we are seeking today is for our very highly respected jurists at the highest court of the land to revisit and reverse the Imo State judgment because we believe that the figures are not adding up.” On his part, Obi said: “I am appealing to the judiciary to save this country. What happened in Imo State is enough to kill our democracy. Let us ensure that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. APC, please, do not kill this democracy.”
Reacting to his victory at the Supreme Court, Ganduje called on the opposition party to accept the verdict in good faith and join hands in building the state. “Let me call on our opposition to rather come and join us to move the state forward. We have a lot of developmental projects on ground, and more are coming,” the governor said in a statement issued by his chief press secretary, Abba Anwar.
The PDP candidate, Abba Kabiru Yusuf, however expressed disappointment at the verdict. A statement by his spokesman, Sanusi Bature Dawakin-Tofa, said: “Considering the overwhelming evidence presented by the eminent team of experienced lawyers, one cannot imagine how these agents of tyranny and undemocratic principles joined hands to rob the good people of Kano of their mandate. We have seen the worst of what they can do. They should await the judgment of the Almighty Allah, which they cannot avoid,” he added.
Lalong, who is also the chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, said his victory at the apex court had challenged him to build enduring legacies in the service of the state. He said: “The highest court in the land has stamped the mandate I was given and this means that our administration is now clear of litigation distractions. The time now is for governance and actualisation of our next level agenda encapsulated in our three-point vision of peace, security and good governance; infrastructural development and sustainable economic rebirth.”
Bauchi State Governor Bala Mohammed, on his part, said his victory at the Supreme Court reaffirmed his faith in Nigeria’s judicial system. He told the people of the state “who voted” for him “unanimously” that he would “consider them without any differences.” He also invited the former governor Mohammed Abubakar, to join him in delivering good governance and consolidating on the “projects he (Mohammed) failed to execute.”
There was a sigh of relief in the camps of the PDP and the ruling APC as their governors retained their seats. Four matters including Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi and Plateau were decided and in a unanimous judgment, the election of the four governors were validated by the apex court as the appellants failed to prove allegations of malpractice and substantial non-compliance to electoral guidelines. The Supreme Court on Tuesday also affirmed the election of Samuel Ortom as Governor of Benue State. The apex court also dismissed the appeal seeking the sack of Ahmadu Fintiri as Governor of Adamawa State.
Immediate past governor of Adamawa state, and APC candidate in the March 9 governorship election, Senator Bindo Jibrilla, is challenging the emergence of Fintiri as winner of the poll. Delivering judgement in the appeal, a seven member panel of Justices of the apex court, however held that the appellants failed to prove the claim of over-voting on which their case was predicated on. The apex court in the judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed Dattijo accordingly dismissed the appeal and affirmed the concurrent judgments of the lower courts which held that Fintiri was duly elected as Governor of Adamawa State.
Following the last week’s removal of former Imo State Governor Emeka Ihedioha by the apex court, there had been tension in the camps of governors whose cases were yet to be decided. Consequently, party loyalists and parties in the suits besieged the court. However, heavy deployment of security officials at the entrances to the court premises helped in controlling the crowed.
In a related development, the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed the suit instituted by the candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Natasha Akpoti, against Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello.
Akpoti had prayed the court to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to accept Bello as APC candidate in the November 16, 2019 election in the state on the ground that he registered twice in breach of the Electoral Act. She had also prayed the court to stop APC from presenting Bello as its governorship candidate.
Delivering judgment, Justice Inyang Ekwo said: “No litigant can create a civil action out of a criminal offence. The penalty for double registration is one year of imprisonment or N100,000 fine or both as the case may be. This denies the court jurisdiction to entertain the suit. This court therefore makes an order striking out the suit,” the judge ruled.