By Femi Olugbemi
As the Kogi Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja moves close to ending the Pre-Hearing Session, Deputy Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ) in the November 21, Governorship election in Kogi State, Hon James Faleke who is one of the petitioners has forwarded a list of some basic issues central to his petition to the Tribunal for determination.
In a correspondence which was also served on the Independent National Electoral Commission ( INEC ) 1st Respondent and Yahaya Bello(2nd Respondent) respectively, Faleke urged the tribunal to “ determine whether upon a careful reading and application of the clear provisions of sections 1(2), 179(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria” among others, whether INEC should have declared the election inconclusive instead of announcing Prince Abubakar Audu and his Deputy, Hon James Faleke as winners. Section179(2a&b) of the constitution states as follows : “ A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a state shall be deemed to have been elected where,there being two or more candidates -(a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and(b) he has not less than one quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two thirds of all the Local Governnment Areas of the state “.
Section 187 (1) of the constitution on the other hand sas “ in any election to which the foregoing provisions of thispart of the chapter relate, a candidate for the office of the Governor of a state shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor, who is to occupy the office of the Deputy Governor, and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of the Deputy Governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as Governor in accordance with the said provisions “.
According to him, it was pertinent for the tribunal to also determine whether section 181 (1) of the constitution was not relevant to the Kogi scenario where the candidate died after election. The Section states that “if a person duly elected as Governor dies before taking and subscribing to oath of allegiance and oath of office or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, the person elected with him as Deputy Governor shall be sworn in as Governor and he shall nominate a new Deputy Governor who shall be appointed by the Governor with the approval of a simple majority of the House of Assembly of the state”.
Hon Faleke told the tribunal that it would have to also determine whether by virtues of sections 1 (2), 179 (2) of the constitution and sections 27, 69, and 75 of the Electoral Act 2011(as Amended ), the results declared by INEC on November 22, 2015 had not already produced a winner and that refusing to announce the winner by “ declaring the said election inconclusive is not altogether unconstitutional and illegal”.
He said the tribunal should rely on section 187 (1) of the constitution to determine whether Yahaya Bello was qualified to contest election to the office of the Governor of Kogi State on December 5, 2015. In his words:” Can the votes legitimately cast for the joint ticket of late Prince Abubakar Audu and the petitioner(Faleke ) in the Governorship election of November 21, 2015 be transferred to the 2nd Respondent(Yahaya Bello?”.
He asked the tribunal whether Alhaji Bello “can constitutionally and statutorilyassume office as Governor of Kogi State pursuant to a supplementary election conducted in 91 polling units of Kogi State on December 5, 2015”.
Hon Faleke went ahead to ask the tribunal whether the the return of Yahaya Bello as Governor of Kogi State by INEC on or about December 5,2015 was not “altogether unconstitutional, illegal, null and void”.
He said it was important for the tribunal to determine whether Yahaya Bello not being a registered voter in Kogi State was qualified to vote and be voted for and also whether notwithstanding the provisions of section 187 (1) of the constitution, he(Bello) was qualified to be declared winner of the December 5, 2015 election even when he ran without Deputy.
It will be recalled that INEC had announced that the APC duo of Prince Abubakar Audu and Hon James Faleke scored 241,000 votes in the November 21, 2015 Governorship election in Kogi State to beat their closest rivals of Captain Idris Wada and Yomi Awoniyi of the PDP who polled 199,000 votes plus by 41,000 votes but went ahead to declare the election inconclusive.