Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Kogi State Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Abuja has dismissed the petition filed by former Governor of the state, Idris Wada, challenging the declaration of Yahaya Bello of the All Progressives Congress as governor.
Bello replaced Abubakar Audu, who died before completion of the poll.
Audu was in clear lead as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was collating the results of the governorship election which held on November 21.
After his death, INEC declared the election inconclusive and asked the APC to name a replacement.
Bello was named the replacement, and he defeated Wada in the supplementary election that held on December 5.
However, Wada challenged the outcome at the tribunal chaired by Justice Halima Mohammed.
He alleged “gross irregularities,” and asked the tribunal to determine whether Bello was qualified to be declared governor-elect even though he did not take part in all the electoral processes that led to the supplementary poll.
The former Kogi governor said INEC contravened the electoral law by accepting to allow the APC to replace the late Audu with Bello.
He said Bello went into the supplementary election without a valid running-mate.
The running mate to the late Audu, James Faleke, had declined to run with Bello saying that as the deputy to the late Audu, the poll was technically concluded on November 21 and he should have been declared winner of the election.
The tribunal had earlier dismissed Faleke’s petition challenging Bello’s election on the grounds that he lacked the locus standi to challenge the process that produced Bello as the APC candidate.
The tribunal held that Bello’s nomination was in line with the Electoral Act and an internal affair of the APC and that Wada not being a member of the APC , had no right to challenge the process.
Wada, who was the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), had also prayed in his petition that the tribunal reject the nomination of Bello as a replacement for the late Audu because it was done outside the 21-day period allowed by the Electoral Act.
The tribunal said the 21-day period for the substitution of candidate did not apply in the matter since Bello “is a member of the APC and having come second in the primary election earlier conducted by the party.”
It further held that none of the parties provided materials to prove corrupt practices during the election, as corrupt practices were not established by evidence.
The tribunal further held that there was no merit in the entire petition to support the prayers sought.
“Having critically examined the conduct of the election, the petitioner has failed to prove his point. Bello is hereby declared winner,” the tribunal held.
Shortly after the tribunal’s decision, the immediate past Deputy Governor of Kogi State, Yomi Awoniyi addressed PDP’s supporters.
He urged them to remain calm and refuse to be provoked into violence.
Awoniyi said the party had absolute confidence in the judiciary and had therefore mandated its team of lawyers to appeal the judgment.
He assured the supporters that justice was on their side and also expressed the hope that on the long run, Justice would be done.
“We are not appealing to glorify ourselves. But to deepen the rule of law,” he added.