Godwin Tsa, Abuja and Mohammed Munirat Nasir, Gusau
The Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the All Progressives Congress (APC) has no valid candidates in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections and accordingly declared all the votes credited to the party wasted.
In a unanimous judgement, the apex court upheld the decision of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal to the effect that the APC did not conduct valid primary elections to nominate candidates for any elective position in the state.
As a result, several parts of Zamfara have erupted in jubilation following the Supreme Court judgement which voided APC primaries in the state. The people, mostly youths were jubilating round major towns and cities of the state, driving round in cars and on motorcycles, bearing the posters of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which came second in the February and March elections in the state.
Most of those who spoke to Saturday Sun described the Supreme Court verdict as victory for the rule of law which will serve as deterrent to other leaders who impose candidates on the people.
A musician-turned-politician and PDP candidate for Anka/Talata Mafara federal constituency, Kabiru Muhammad described the verdict as the best considering the fact that he was robbed of victory during the National Assembly elections.
APC factional chairman in Zamfara State loyal to Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa, described the verdict as a positive development for democracy in the country.
“Though the Supreme Court verdict gave the party with the second highest votes victory but we are happy because it is now obvious that supremacy of the party stands above imposition”, he said.
A statement by the PDP governorship candidate, Matawale campaign organisation called on the people of the state to be law abiding in their celebrations.
“Today’s decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in Abuja is a great testimony that truth and patience will always excel. We at the Matawalle Campaign Organization wish to extend our gratitude to the Almighty Allah and the entire people of Zamfara State especially the PDP supporters for their patience and good conduct while the court judgment lasted”, he said.
The five-member panel of justices, in a unanimous judgment on Friday, held that the party in the state failed to conduct primaries in accordance with the party’s rules. The panel of Justices of the Supreme Court led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Tanko Muhammad held that the APC has no candidate and cannot be declared a winner of the election. Consequently, the court ordered that candidates of parties with the highest number of valid votes cast with the required spread stands elected in the various political offices in Zamfara State. The judgment principally centres on the governorship, State House of Assembly and the National Assembly elections conducted in Zamfara State on February 23 and March 11, 2019. Consequently, no fewer than 36 elected APC members have lost their positions by virture of the judgment.
APC candidates, including the outgoing governor of the Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, who was elected to the Senate, had won most of the offices contested in the 2019 elections with the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidates, placing first runners-up in the polls. By this unanimous judgement, all candidates of the APC that won elections in Zamfara State, including its governor-elect, Mukhtar Idris, have been sacked. Justice Paul Galinje who read the lead judgment of the apex court maintained that the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the APC did not field any eligible candidate in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State. The court consequently dismissed all the appeals bordering on the APC crisis in Zamfara State for lacking in merit. Justice Galinje, in his judgment awarded a cost of N10 million against the APC.
“I find that the lower court was right in holding that there were no primary elections in Zamfara State. The appeal had no merit and it should be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed. The party that has no candidate cannot be declared a winner of the election. Therefore, all votes that are credited to such party is deemed as wasted votes. Candidates of parties with the highest number of valid votes cast with the required spread stands elected in Zamfara”, the Supreme Court held.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has admonished politicians to always play the game by the rules and not to engage in acts capable of taking the country back to the Stone Age. Justice Galinje who gave the admonition specifically charged politicians to always respect the constitution of their various political parties rather than resorting to self-help. The dismissed appeals were a direct fallout of the judgment of the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal that set aside the judgment delivered by the Zamfara High Court allowing the APC to field candidates in the 2019 elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, in October last year, said it would not allow the APC to field candidates in Zamfara because the party failed to conduct primaries before the deadline stipulated.
However, a High Court sitting in Gusau, Zamfara, ruled that the ruling APC actually conducted primaries in the state and should be allowed to present candidates for the electoral contest.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum and Bayelsa State governor, Henry Seriake Dickson, has congratulated the party’s candidate in Zamfara , Bello Mutawalle on the Supreme Court judgement, which affirmed him the winner of the March 28 governorship poll in the state.
In a statement issued by his media office, yesterday, Dickson also congratulated PDP national chairman, Uche Secondus and other leaders , as well supporters of the opposition party in Zamfara for their resilience and commitment to the party.
The governor lauded the judiciary for displaying high level of courage , professionalism and serving as an impartial arbiter, noting that the judgment of the apex court on the Zamfara governorship tussle was victory for justice and democracy in action. I hereby congratulate the gubernatorial candidate òf the Peoples Democratic Party in Zamfara State, Dr. Bello Mohammed Mutawalle, on his victory at the Supreme Court whose ruling returned him as the winner of the gubernatorial election in the state. I also commend the leaders of the PDP and the teeming supporters of the party in Zamfara for their dedication and resilience.
“And very importantly, I thank the Judiciary, once again, for standing up to the expectations of the well-meaning Nigerian public as a strong, impartial arbiter that could be trusted. This landmark judgment is a victory for justice and indeed democracy in action,” Dickson stated.