S’Court Imposed Strangers on Zamfara, Says Oshiomhole

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Adams Oshiomhole

• INEC pledges stricter implementation of electoral law

Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, yesterday faulted the judgment of the Supreme Court that ceded all elective positions in Zamfara State, earlier won by his party, to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He described the judgment, in which the apex court nullified the victory of APC candidates in the state in the last general election, as tantamount to handing over the state to strangers.

Oshiomhole lamented the judgment on the day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) handed over certificates of return to all PDP candidates in the state, including the governor-elect, Alhaji Bello Matawalle.

At the occasion, INEC said there were 809 pre-election cases pending in various courts nationwide, challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties for the 2019 general election, while the court has compelled the commission to withdraw 64 certificates of return.

Oshiomhole, who broke the party’s silence on last week’s Supreme Court judgment against his party, said APC did not get justice in the case.

He said the worse APC had expected was for the apex court to order for a repeat of the elections.

He told journalists, who had accosted him after a meeting of the APC National Working Committee in Abuja, that the only option left for the party was to approach the court of God for judgment.

When asked for his reaction to the judgment, Oshiomhole said: “How can you ask me how I feel if the people of Zamfara voted in the manner that they did and the court says that those votes were wasted? Meanwhile, at the time those votes were cast, a High Court had ruled that those candidates were validly nominated.

“Supreme Court had declared as waste all the votes for APC in the election of governor, Senate, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly in favour of the opposition PDP.

“There is something that I learnt from Lord Denning, a famous British Supreme Court Justice, that the law has to be interpreted taken into account the intention of the lawmakers, and try to deliver justice in its purest form.”

He added that as far as the party was concerned, there was no justice.

Oshiomhole added: “So, there is no justice when on the ground of technicalities, you imposed on the people of Zamfara State not just a man or a woman but a whole party’s candidates from governor to Senate and others that they didn’t elect.

“If the court thought we were wrong, then justice would have demanded that we repeat; but you cannot use technicalities because we are in a democracy. There is nothing democratic when court-imposed strangers to govern a people; but we understand that after the Supreme Court we can only go to the court of God. To that extent, we must obey the court. But what we got in Zamfara is a judgment that didn’t translate to justice.”

When pressed further on whether the party will sanction APC members in Zamfara, who took the party to court, that led to the Supreme Court nullifying all the elections of the party’s candidates, Oshiomhole, declined a comment.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court had held that the APC should not have participated in the election because it did not hold valid primaries to pick its candidates.

Justice Paul Adamu Galinji, who read the lead judgment, last Friday declared all votes cast for the APC as “wasted votes” and ordered that all parties with the second highest votes in the elections and the required spread, should be recognised as the duly elected candidates.

In line with the Supreme Court order, INEC, last Saturday, declared all PDP candidates in Zamfara State as winners of the governorship, National Assembly and House of Assembly elections.

INEC Pledges Stricter Implementation of Electoral Law

Meanwhile, INEC yesterday warned that it would no longer accept the submission of names of candidates by political parties under Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) unless there is evidence its officials monitored the primaries conducted by the various political parties, in compliance with the provision of Section 87 of the Act.

The Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission took the decision to forestall the recurrence of the present situation in which it had been forced to withdraw 64 certificates of return earlier issued to winners whose the court had nullified their candidacy.

Besides, the commission is awaiting the determination of 809 pre-election cases pending in various courts across the country, and whose judgments could affect its activities.

Yakubu spoke in Abuja during the presentation of certificates of return to governor-elect, deputy governor-elect, senators-elect and members-elect of the House of Representatives from Zamfara State.

He said the presentation of certificates of return to winners of any election conducted by INEC was a statutory responsibility required of the commission under Section 75 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

In compliance with the judgment of the Supreme Court, Yakubu presented 12 certificates of return to the governor-elect, deputy governor-elect, three senators-elect and seven members-elect of the House of Representatives.

He added that on Friday, 24 certificates of return would be presented in Gusau, Zamfara State capital, to winners of the state Assembly election.

The chairman reiterated the importance of conducting proper primaries before elections to reduce the spate of litigations associated with them.

Yakubu stated, “At the moment, there are 809 pre-election cases pending in various courts across the country challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties for the 2019 general elections.

‘’This is clearly more than the total number of petitions currently before the various election petition tribunals nationwide challenging the outcome of the main elections.

“In our last update, the commission reported that 25 certificates of return had been withdrawn and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law. Since then, three more certificates have been withdrawn by court order. With the Zamfara case, the figure has now risen to 64.

“In addition, the commission is studying nine more judgments we were served in the last one week in which primary elections conducted by different political parties were upturned by the courts.”

According to him, the Zamfara case is not the first pre-election case determined by the Supreme Court arising from the recent party primaries, stressing that the apex court had earlier determined the case of Lere Federal Constituency in Kaduna State, which the commission had already complied with and issued the certificate of return to the winner.

said it was therefore important to continue to emphasise to the political parties that their obligation to conduct credible primaries for the nomination of candidates, adding that the country’s democracy in particular and electoral process in general can never be virile unless political parties rise to the challenge of internal party democracy.

“It is in this context that the latest judgments of the Supreme Court are crucial steps in strengthening our electoral jurisprudence.

“Going forward, we will not accept the submission of names of candidates by political parties under Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) unless there is evidence, monitored by the commission, of compliance with the provision of Section 87 of the Act.

“Party members interested in contesting elections start as aspirants before they emerge as candidates through the democratic process of direct or indirect primaries enshrined in Section 87 of the Electoral Act.

“It is only after they comply with this requirement of the law can their names be submitted to INEC under Section 31. We shall continue to work with the political parties to ensure strict compliance,” Yakubu added.

Responding on behalf of the PDP candidates, Matawalle commended President Muhammadu Buhari for not interfering in the judicial process during the legal tussle despite his party, APC, losing to the PDP.

He also commended INEC for ensuring equality, fairness and level playing ground for all political players in the state.