John Adams, Minna
History, they say is “the record of past events,” and by last Monday, history repeated itself as the senator representing Niger East, David Umoru, was declared by the court as the party’s candidate that ought to have been presented for the February 2019 National Assembly election in the state.
He had to wait for the court to claim his mandate as the duly elected senator. This is the second time the embattled lawmaker will be reclaiming his mandate through the court to make it to the Senate.
In 2014, Umoru challenged the outcome of a senatorial by-election that produced the former deputy governor of the state, Dr. Nuhu Shem Zagbayi to fill the vacuum occasioned by the death of the former holder of the office, Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta.
After a protracted legal battle, which went up to the Appeal Court, the election of Zagbayi was nullified and Senator Umoru was declared the winner.
This time, Senator Umoru had contested the primaries of the All Progressives Congress (APC). He wants to return to the Senate. However, after the controversial October 2, 2018 APC primaries, where Sani Musa was declared winner, Senator Umoru approached the Abuja High Court, presided over by Justice Giwa Ogunbanjo to seek for the disqualification of his challenger, Sani Musa on the ground that the primary election was characterised by irregularities and violence.
In approaching the court, the lawmaker told his supporters that as a firm believer in the judiciary, he would reclaim his mandate, and therefore appealed to them to remain calm. But by the verdict was delivered by the Abuja Court, Umoru’s hope was dashed. His opponent at the primaries was handed victory.
Unsatisfied, he approached the Appeal Court in Abuja. And by last Monday, the court restored his hope and declared him the authentic candidate of the APC for Niger East in the February 23 National Assembly election.
The judgment threw the entire senatorial district into wide jubilation, as the people appear to have waited patiently for this to happen. The lawmaker’s supporters, including women and children took to the streets across the nine local government areas of the senatorial district to celebrate what they described as “the triumph of the people’s mandate”.
The celebrations climaxed in the jubilant supporters gathering at the residence of the lawmaker to express their solidarity to him, describing as the “symbol of hope” to the entire Niger East.
After the February 7 verdict, which nullified the candidature of Senator Umoru, and gave victory to Alhaji Sani Musa, there has been disquiet within the entire senatorial district.
The atmosphere was further charged when the news of the eventual substitution of the name of Umoru with that of Musa by the National headquarters of the party in compliance with the Abuja Court ruling, filtered into Niger State.
The entire political activities within the ruling party in the senatorial district came to its lowest ebb, making the atmosphere looking like a grave yard. But for the prompt intervention of the lawmaker, the APC would have lost the election, following threat by the electorate to vote against the party in the general election, since according them, Umoru was their “favorite candidate going by his quality representation” at the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
The senator who sensed danger ahead of the elections with the discordant voices from people, quickly embarked on a campaign tour of the entire nine local government areas that constitute the senatorial district to appeal to the people to vote for the party (APC) as he was sure of reclaiming his mandate at the Appeal Court. He told the people that the first step was to ensure that the party wins the election if not whatever the outcome of the court judgment would be of no effect.
His efforts eventually salvaged the situation and the party won the senatorial election. However, one week after the election, the National headquarters of party filed an appeal against the Abuja Federal High Court’s ruling, seeking for, among other things, the setting aside of the decision of the court which declared Sani Musa as the party’s candidate for the February 23 National Assembly election.
The party, in the appeal filed by its counsel, S. I Ameh SAN, complained against the whole decision of the Federal High Court, Abuja on 10 grounds and sought for five reliefs.
According to notice of appeal papers by the party, Mohammed Sani Musa, INEC and David Umoru were listed as 1st, 2ndand 3rd respondents respectively in the case where APC disowned Sani Musa as its candidate in the senatorial election.
The court consequently declared the incumbent, Umoru as the duly elected candidate of the APC, making him a third time senator at the red chamber.
In a judgment read by Justice Stephen Adah, the appellate court set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on the grounds that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter having become statute barred by law.
To this end, Justice Adah directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Umoru with a Certificate of Return.
Daily Sun recalls that Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo had in February dismissed the preliminary objection by Umoru’s counsel, Chris Osuagwu, to the effect that the suit by Sani Musa was outside 14 days stipulated by the law on pre-election matters.
Osuagwu had submitted that the primary election was conducted on October 2, 2018, while the petition was filed at the court on October 26, 2018, which was outside the 14 days stipulated by the law.
Umoru’s counsel further contends that the primary of October 2, 2018, was cancelled by the APC for irregularities while the party conducted a fresh one on October 5, 2018, which he (Umoru) won.
From last Monday, it has been celebration galore across the senatorial zone by the people who have continued to express their gratitude to God for the victory of the senator whom they described as the symbol of struggle for the emancipation of the people of Niger East.
They recall for instance that in the last four years, about 250 indigent students from the zone have benefitted from scholarship at all levels of education introduced by the lawmaker.
The scholarship which covers students from the zone in any tertiary institution across the country is being coordinated by Senator David Umoru Center for Development Initiatives. They enjoy tuition fees all through the duration of their studies.
In addition to the above, 10 law students are selected annually from the senatorial zone and awarded scholarship to the Law School with all fees paid under the scholarship programme.
The empowerment programme of the lawmaker, it was gathered was also extended to women and widows in the senatorial district, with over 400 of them so far as beneficiaries of different skills acquisition programme.
Out of this number, about 250 of them were said to have been trained in tailoring and given sewing machines to enable them carry out their trade on their own, Daily Sun further gathered.
During one of their visits to the lawmaker’s residence, the supporters, who defied the scorching sun of Minna, trooped out in their hundreds, singing and dancing all through the day.
From one speaker to another, they all submitted that the lawmaker remained their best representative so far in Abuja.
Speaking on the development, Mallam Usman Idris, the youth leader of Zagzaga community in Munya Local Government Area of the state, described the triumph of Senator Umoru at the Appeal Court as a big relieve for the area.
“We cannot forget in a hurry the role the senator played when the entire zone was under siege from armed bandits. Without his efforts, our people would have been wiped out by now. If the people are not sleeping, he is not sleeping. He is our hope and that is why we were very sad when they tried to manipulate the process to steal his mandate. But we thank God that the will of people prevailed at last,” the youth leader said.
On his part, Senator Umoru while addressing the enthusiastic crowd at his residence, expressed appreciation to God and the supporters whom he said stood by him during the legal battle.
He assured them of quality representation at the Senate, reminding them that whatever was meant for them as dividends of democracy will surely be given to them.
He said the judgment has vindicated him, stressing that the conspiracy against him to stop him from returning to the National Assembly has failed.