GOVERNOR Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, will now heave a sigh of relieve, as the Supreme Court, on Tuesday, dismissed all the appeals challenging his election in the 2015 governorship election held in the state.
A seven-member panel of justices of the apex court, headed by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, in an unanimous judgment, upheld the concurrent judgments of the Kogi State governorship election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal, which affirmed Bello’s election.
The court dismissed appeals that were lodged by the immediate past governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada (retd) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and that of the erstwhile running mate to late Prince Abubakar Audu, Honourable James Faleke.
The African Democratic Party (ADC) and the Labour Party also had their appeals against Bello’s election dismissed by the court, having also lost in their their appeals at the Appeal Court and their petitions seeking to upturn Bello’s election at the Tribunal.
Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, who delivered the lead judgment in Faleke’s appeal, said “having considered the submissions of parties in the appeal, I found out that the appeal lacks merit and it is accordingly dismissed.”
The court, however, held that reasons for arriving at its decision would be given on Friday, September 30.
Similarly, the apex court held that the appeal by the immediate governor of the state, Captain Wada lacked merit and it was consequently dismissed and reasons would also be given on September 30.
While the appeal by the ADC was dismissed by the court for lacking in merit, the Labour Party’s appeal was dismissed on the ground of incompetency and Friday, September 30, was also slated to give reasons for the judgment.
It will be recalled that the Justice Jummai Hannatu-Sankey-led panel of the appellate court held that the appeals against Bello’s election lacked merit and accordingly dismissed them.
Whereas the panel was unanimous in their decision that Faleke’s appeal lacked substance, however, in a dissenting judgment, a member of the panel, Justice Ita George Mbaba, upheld Wada’s appeal and voided the Certificate of Return that was issued to Governor Bello by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
Justice Mbaba disagreed with the declaration of Bello as duly elected governor, saying there was no evidence that he participated in all stages of the governorship election that held in Kogi State, last year.
He maintained that INEC acted in breach of section 141 of the Electoral Act when it declared Bello, who only participated in the December 5, 2015 supplementary poll, as duly elected governor of the state.
Nevertheless, four other members of the panel, while upholding judgment of the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that previously affirmed Bello’s election, said they were convinced that Wada’s appeal ought to be dismissed for want of merit.
Justice Mojeed Owoade, who read the lead judgment, held that INEC acted properly when it merged all the votes that Audu garnered before his death and the ones Bello got after the supplementary poll, to return candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as winner of the governorship election.
The court stressed that the issue of nomination of candidate for an election was an internal affair of a political party, a duty it said the APC duly discharged.
The appellate court held that Faleke, who was nominated as running mate to late Audu after the APC had concluded it governorship primaries, could not claim to be the candidate of the party or deemed to have been elected as Kogi State governor, since he did not participate in the primaries as required by law.
It held that Faleke’s argument that electorates voted for a joint-ticket between him and Audu had no place in law, since section 122 of the Constitution made it clear that it was a political party that could canvass for votes and be voted for.
It said the votes belonged to the APC and, by extension, to the candidate it sponsored for the election, adding that Faleke could not by virtue of sections 181(1) and 179(2) of the Constitution step in as the governorship candidate of the APC upon Audu’s death.
Verdict, honour to democracy —Bello
Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, declared his victory at the Supreme Court as a “big honour to democracy.”
The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr Kingsley Fanwo, after the apex ourt affirmed his election, said the judgment had reconfirmed the hand of God in Kogi affairs.
He said: “The landmark judgment of the Supreme Court today, which affirmed Bello’s election is a watershed in the annals of electoral jurisprudence and constitutional law in the country. It was a long walk to victory which will reshape our constitution of the nation.
“Governor Bello had remained humble and magnanimous in victory. He has called on those who contended with him to join him in building a greater Kogi State.
“The governor has said the victory belongs to all Kogi people, who believe in transforming Kogi State from a potentially great state to a really great state. He is committed to serving the people and making the state the centre of excellence and the cynosure of all eyes.”
He warned supporters against “unbridled” celebration, saying the moment was a challenge to all Kogi residents to reflect on how to make the state great.
The governor said he would continue to pursue his cardinal goals of improving education, reinventing health care, boosting infrastructural development, as well as raising the capacity of the state citizens to reinvigorate the economy.
No regret challenging Bello’s victory —Faleke
The deputy governorship candidate in the November 21, 2015 governorship election in Kogi State, Mr James Faleke, has said he had no regret challenging the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the election inconclusive.
He said he took the step in good faith to protect the interest of the over 240,000 electorates that voted for the Audu/Faleke ticket in that election.
According to the Director of Media and Publicity of the Audu/Faleke campaign group, Honourable Duro Meseko, it would amount to a betrayal of the sacred trust of the people who reposed implicit confidence in the Audu/Faleke ticket not to have defended the sanctity of their vote up till the Apex court level.
He said: “We have heard the judgment handed down by the Supreme Court jurists, upholding Bello as governor. We shall wait for the full text of the judgment to know why they came to that conclusion. But let it be stated here that we have no regret challenging the declaration of our election as inconclusive by the INEC.”
Honourable Faleke said as a lawmaker, he would be glad to read details of the judgment so as to “know which areas of our nation’s jurisprudence requires urgent review.”
He urged all his supporters to remain calm, peaceful and law-abiding, while thanking them for their support and perseverance all through the court proceedings.