Eminent lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), has said the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) plotted a coup against the Nigerian constitution by declaring Yahaya Bello as the Kogi State Governor.
Olanipekun, who is the counsel to James Faleke, the petitioner, told the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja that his client was the rightful person for the governorship seat.
“What INEC did in the state on November 22, 2015, by substituting a stranger (Yahaya Bello) for a substantive candidate (Faleke) in an election that was already concluded is a coup against the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Olanipekun submitted.
He cited sections 179(2) and 181(1) of the Constitution to buttress his submission that INEC’s decision to declare the election inconclusive was a coup against the constitution.
Section179 (2a&b ) states: “A candidate for an election to the office of the governor of a state shall be deemed to have been duly elected, where being two or more candidates, he has the highest number of votes cast at the election and he has not less than one quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two thirds of all the local government areas of the state,” while section 181(1) 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.”
Olanipekun emphasised the supremacy of the constitution declaring: “My Lord, the spirit and letters of the constitution is self-executory, and it is like the rock of Gibraltar that cannot be moved. Indeed, no single word in the constitution is a waste! So, INEC has no discretion with regards to sections 179 and 181 respectively at all.”
On whether the petitioner, Faleke, has a locus standi to approach the tribunal, Olanipekun submitted that the petitioner indeed was a candidate who has the locus in view of section 187 of the constitution. He referred to the case of CPC VS INEC where the then President Umaru Yar’Adua and his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, were jointly sued, adding that if Jonathan as Vice President was not a candidate, he would not have been joined in the suit.
He further urged the tribunal to discountenance the argument of the respondents that votes in an election belong to political parties and not candidates. Citing a recent Supreme Court ruling, Olanipekun said: “Parties only sponsor candidates but candidates stand for elections. The law has moved from the era of Chibuike Amaechi (former Rivers State Governor). We are now in a new testament.”