LAGOS — The crisis emerging from the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the All Progressives Congress, APC’s candidate in the Kogi State governorship election last night took a new dimension as Mr James Faleke, late Audu’s running mate in the election formally asked the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to declare him winner of the election and name him governor-elect.
It was also learnt last night that the name of runner up in the APC governorship primary, Alhaji Yahaya Bello had been forwarded to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC as a replacement for Audu.
The running mate in the election, James Faleke, yesterday, raised strong objections to the development.
Faleke set his claim on the governorship in two letters to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and the APC on the fact that he had become governor-elect in the face of what he described as the unfortunate death of Audu. He thus cautioned his party not to fall into a trap set for it by INEC to field another candidate or go into a supplementary election.
His assertion was despite strong momentum in Abuja yesterday for Bello. Bello, it was learnt, was being projected by some elements in the party acting in concert with senior presidency officials.
Lobbyists root for Audu’s son
Meanwhile foot soldiers of the late Audu especially in the Igala-speaking Kogi East were also engaged in a strong lobby for his son, Mohammed Audu to replace the deceased politician on the ticket going into the supplementary election as ordered by INEC.
Audu’s votes died with him, says PDP; drags INEC to court
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on its part as exclusively reported by Vanguard yesterday, at the end of an emergency caucus on Wednesday night laid its claim to the governorship on the fact that Audu’s votes had died along with him.
National leadership of the PDP, also, yesterday, dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to the Federal High Court over last Saturday’s Kogi State gubernatorial election.
In an originating summons filed by its lead Counsel, Chris Uche, SAN, the PDP is asking the court to declare its candidate and governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada as the rightful winner of the election.
The summons read in part, “ We pray for the return of our candidate who at present polled majority of lawful votes and satisfies the constitutional requirements for return, or in the alternative a fresh poll without APC who at the moment cannot substitute their deceased candidate.”
Faleke writes INEC
Faleke’s two letters to INEC as exclusively obtained by Vanguard were directed by his lawyer, Chief Wole Olanikpekun, SAN.
In the letter to the INEC chairman, Faleke deposed among others that :
Although an unfortunate and saddening incident had occurred after the announcement of results of the election and subsequent pronouncement of INEC that the election was inconclusive.
The point must quickly be made that INEC’s wrong declaration of inconclusiveness of the election and ordering a supplementary election in 91 polling units was arrived at, according to the Returning Officer; on the basis that the number of cancelled votes outnumbered the number with which the candidate of APC led the candidate of the PDP.
With much respect to INEC and the highly distinguished chairman, the reasoning of INEC is non sequitur. While as at Monday 23, November 2015, INEC still insisted that it was not aware of Prince Abubakar Audu’s transition, however, INEC later on directed the APC to go and conduct another primary election to nominate its candidate for the supplementary election in 91 polling units. With much respect to INEC, this new directive as well, is unfounded, both legally and constitutionally.
It can also not be reasonably or rationally defended. Our client is of the opinion that INEC is inadvertently prompting an avoidable political and legal crisis. What INEC should do is to obey, respect and comply with the letter, spirit, intendment and tenor of the constitution, by not only declaring APC as the winner of the election, but by also declaring our client as Governor-elect.
May we draw Mr. Chairman’s attention to the clear and mandatory provision of section 68(1)(c) of the Electoral Act to the effect that any result declared by Returning Officer shall be final and binding, and can only be reviewed or upturned by an Election Tribunal. In effect, the results already announced by INEC are binding, not only on all the parties, but also on INEC itself.
We want to believe that INEC is not unaware of the binding decisions of our appellate courts on this issue.
Furthermore, by the provision of section 181(i) of the constitution, our client, who was the deputy governorship candidate or the associate of Prince Abubakar Audu at the already concluded election constitutionally and automatically becomes the governor-elect of the state.
With much respect, INEC has no discretion in this matter. May we advise, most humbly, that INEC should not confuse this situation with what is intended in section 33 of the Electoral Act because the situation on ground has nothing to do with changing or substitution of the name of a candidate before election. In fairness to INEC, it had already announced the results of the election, and as at the time it so did, it honestly claimed ignorance of the death of Prince Abubakar Audu.
In law and logic, no new candidate can inherit or be a beneficiary of the votes already cast, counted and declared by INEC before that candidate was nominated and purportedly sponsored.
Assuming without conceding that INEC is even right to order a supplementary election, the votes already cast, counted and declared on Saturday and Sunday, 21 and 22 November 2015 were votes for the joint constitutional ticket of Prince Abubakar Audu and our client.
Therefore, no new or supplementary candidate can hijack, aggregate, appropriate or inherit the said votes. Assuming further, without conceding that supplementary election in 91 polling units can hold as being suggested by INEC, it is our client who should be the automatic candidate of the party, since APC cannot conduct primary election for the supplementary election in 91 polling units.
Chairman sir, this is a rather simple and straight forward matter which does not need any delay, foot dragging or procrastination. It is a constitutional imperative.
Put in other way, INEC has a bounden duty to declare our client the winner of the election. Any attempt to conduct any supplementary election in any unit whatsoever and howsoever will amount to INEC breaching and flouting the constitution and our client would definitely challenge it.
…writes APC too
In the letter to the APC national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Olanipekun, again writing on behalf of Faleke rehearsed the same arguments as put forward to INEC, even as he added that the party should not allow itself to be distracted.
Concluding, he said:
“Arising from the foregoing, our client enjoins the APC not only to support him at actualising the mandate already given to the party under the joint ticket of himself and the late Prince Abubakar Audu, but to also distance itself from the ‘Greek gift’ offer being made by INEC, to wit, that it is allowing the APC to conduct a fresh primary election to nominate a candidate for a supplementary election in 91 polling units, where only about 25,000 PVCs are available; whereas the APC is already leading, by the announced results, with over 40,000 votes.”
APC out with Audu’s death — PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP in a statement confirming the deliberations of its national caucus insisted that the death of Audu, the APC’s running mate has inevitably put the party out of the governorship contest.
The party insists:
That with the death of its candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, the APC has legally crashed out of the governorship race as no known law or constitutional provision allows the substituting of candidates, once the ballot process has commenced.
That with the unfortunate death of Prince Abubakar Audu, the APC has no valid candidate in the election, leaving INEC with no other lawful option than to declare the PDP candidate, Capt. Idris Wada as the winner of the election.
The party also:
lNotes that the combined reading of the provisions of the constitution and Electoral Act does not in any war whatsoever support the substitution of candidates for election in the middle of the ballot process.
Notes that if APC is allowed to substitute its original candidate, then the party would have fielded two separate candidates in the same election, a scenario that is completely alien to our electoral laws and to any known democratic norms and practice world-over.
Observes that the APC, fully aware that it has no case before the law is now orchestrating confusion in the polity with a view to diverting attention from its glaring incompetence and failure of governance.
The party also demanded the immediate resignation of the chairman and all national commissioners of INEC and the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mallam Abubakar Malami for purportedly deliberately misleading INEC into arriving at the unconstitutional decision of allowing APC to substitute its candidate in the inconclusive election.
The PDP warned that the AGF, INEC and APC were creating a scenario where a loser in a primary will patiently wait for the winning candidate to finish election and then have him either poisoned or assassinated before the final collation of results.
Group asks INEC to reverse self
Meanwhile, a group, known as the Concerned Voters in Kogi State has called on INEC to reverse its stance that the governorship election was inconclusive.
Spokesperson of the group, Abdulkareem Jimoh also rejected the invitation by INEC to the APC to present another candidate to replace Audu, saying, “We reject in totality, the decision of INEC in declaring the election inconclusive.
This decision is not only unpopular, but it is against the natural law of justice and fairness, as the number of votes scored and recorded in the just concluded election gave APC a clear victory.
“It is on record that, in the disputed 91 units, only 35,785 voters collected their PVC and are eligible to vote as against the 49,000 registered voters, claimed by INEC.
“We want the electoral body to convince us, how the outstanding 35,785 eligible voters in the said 91 units could upturn the over 41,000 margin already recorded in favour of APC”.