Tasks for govs after Supreme Court verdict

The Supreme Court, the apex in the land, recently ruled, in quick succession, on the disputed governorship elections in some states of the federation. It was amid hope, fear and trepidation for some of the governors, a development that has given the people of the states to sort of renegotiate their pacts with the helmsmen, write Olakunle Maruf, Johnson Babajide, Isaac Shobayo and Kola Oyelere.

THE recent judgments by the Supreme Court on the gubernatorial tussles in some states have put to rest the legality of who won elections in all the states of the federation. The last batch of Supreme Court pronouncements over last year’s governorship elections came after the dust raised by that of Imo State had barely settled. Many people were still pondering over the verdict on the Imo governorship dispute which elevated the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Hope Uzodinma, who was returned fourth by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to number one after the nullification of the victory of Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

With the pronouncement on the last batch, the people of the states concerned have begun to express afresh their expectations from the governors.


Sokoto: Battle of boss and lieutenant

The case of Sokoto was initiated by the candidate of the APC and a former ally of Governor Aminu Tambuwal, Alhaji Ahmed Aliyu Sokoto, who, for over three years, was the deputy governor in the state.

The defection of the erstwhile deputy governor from the PDP paved the way for him to pick the ticket of the APC as its candidate in the 2019 governorship election.

Having defeated the APC candidate in the March 9 contest with a difference of 3,525 votes, Tambuwal and his party could not celebrate his victory as the cancelled votes were more than the margin between him and his runner up and the election was declared inconclusive.

In their efforts to win the top political position in the seat of Caliphate, the two major parties went back to drawing board, perfecting how to emerge victorious.

In the rescheduled election, scattered in 21 out of the 23 local government areas in the state, the parties tried their best possible to outsmart each other. In the end, it was Governor Tambuwal who emerged victorious with a margin of 342 votes.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, Aliyu Sokoto and his party rejected the result and vowed to get judgment through the judiciary.

The party eventually filed its case at the tribunal which it asked to cancel Tambuwal’s victory due to what it termed over voting and multiple voting in some polling units. APC also asked the tribunal to declare its candidate, Aliyu Sokoto, the authentic winner of the poll.

But the party lost the case at both the tribunal and Court of Appeal, where the appeal court judges dismissed all the six prayers of the appellant.

Not satisfied, the APC and its candidate headed for the Supreme Court where they believed justice would be done to their case.

Many people believe that the state had never witnessed the type of political tension that gripped it throughout the period of the proceedings, especially at the Supreme Court.

At a point, both parties resolved to prayers; while the loyalist of the governor gathered at the central Muslim prayer ground (Fako Eid), the APC and its supporters gathered at the popular Sultan Abubakar III central mosque.

The tension was so high in the state that most activities of government were affected. The battle was more intense, looking at the calibre of politicians involved in the struggle, as the two major political gladiators in the state were involved.

The camp of the APC was led by the immediate past governor and current chairman Senate Committee on Defence, Aliyu Wamakko, while the governor’s camp was led by another former fovernor and a former presidential candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Attahiru Bafarawa.

Few days to the day of judgment, the two camps were so confident of winning. While the APC said it had been able to prove its case in court, the PDP believed it won the election, irrespective of the ‘federal might’ being bandied about in the state.

While playing host to the governor when he paid him a courtesy visit at his palace the day after the judgment, Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appealed to all political gladiators in the state to set aside their differences and work together to achieve maximum benefits for the people of the state.

“There has never been a time in the history of our state that contentious politics almost crippled it like this one that was laid to rest by the Supreme Court,” the Sultan said, adding that the Caliphate distanced itself from politics.

He said he sued for peace, as “things have deteriorated significantly.”

He admonished all leaders in the state that they remain servants of the people. “All the people of the state are one for eternity. Power belongs to Allah. Anyone who gets it should be magnanimous and he who losses it must not drag unnecessarily,” he said.

He assured all parties that the Caliphate is home to them, adding that, “the Sultanate will continue to give advice, solicited or otherwise, to all the leaders in the state.”

Governor Tambuwal also seized the occasion to stretch a hand of fellowship to the opposition party. He called on the people of the state to remain united in pursuance of the collective good of all.

“We ask all the people of Sokoto, irrespective of party affiliation, to come and work closely with the government for further development of the state,” he said.

Reaffirming his administration’s commitment to the Caliphate, which he said had never wavered in its support for his government, the governor specifically harped on the Sultan’s dexterity in mobilising the populace to pray for peace and good governance at all times.

“We are grateful to Allah and His Eminence for his unflinching consistency in grassroots mobilisation of the people of Sokoto to pray fervently for peace and development.

“It is worthy of note that Your Eminence has been in the forefront of ensuring that the state remains united, despite all the myriads of political challenges, electoral hiccups and sundry litigations that have tugged at its stability,” Governor Tambuwal observed.

He assured that the government would still continue to place premium on societal reorientation, investment in education, health and every developmental stride possible.


What the people want

Meanwhile, residents of the state have been setting developmental target for the governor in his second term.

A resident of the town, Mallam Abdullahi Abduraheem, congratulated the governor on his victory at both the poll and the three stages of the judiciary. He urge him to put the celebration of his victory aside and face governance squarely, saying once the litigation was over, there should not be any obstacle to development.

He said, “I hope the governor and his team will realise that almost one year of his four-year tenure has gone. It is high time he started the implementation of his blueprint, in order to take the state to a higher level.

“We all know that when you have such a case before you, especially when considering the person you are battling with in the person of Senator Wamakko, a grassroots man, you must be disturbed.

“The litigation must definitely take a huge time and have negative effect on governance in the state. Our belief is that once all the legal issues have been resolved in favor of Governor Tambuwal, the next agenda for him is to move the state forward.

“He should remember that 2023 is around the corner and if he still wants to be relevant in Sokoto politics, he should continue with developmental projects. I believe he will perform well. When you look at his antecedent in politics, with his first term achievement, he will deliver.”

Also speaking, former secretary of the PDP caretaker committee in Kebbi State, Alhaji Yusuf Dingyadi, applauded the governor over his victory.

He described the governor as a cat with nine lives, saying “since his sojourn in politics, he has never lost in any election.”

Similarly, one of the aides of the governor, Honourable Ibrahim Magaji Gusau, urged him to go against all those who were alleged to have mismanaged the state’s resources in the past.

Gusau, who was speaking on a live radio programme of Garkuwa FM in Sokoto, monitored by our correspondent, praised the governor for the construction and equipped of the state university library, which he said the immediate-past administration voted fund for but did not do.

He advised Tambuwal to petition operatives of Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to probe the administration of Wamakko, saying a lot of questions needed to be answered by the administration.

Gusau also challenged Senator Wamakko to show the people of the state what he had done with his constituency allowances, enumerating part of the achievements of Governor Tambuwal as discovery of professionals as representatives of the people of the state, especially at the National Assembly.

However, some analysts have said that the governor needed to focus more on giving the dividends of democracy to the society, rather than embarking on probe. They urged the governor to consolidate on his achievement in order to pay back the people of the state who voted him into power positively.

They also commended Tambuwal for what they termed “special gift to civil servants,” with regard to the promise to pay the new minimum wage three days after his victory at the Supreme Court.

“I don’t believe in politics of victimisation or whatever. Let the governor forget whatever might have happened between him and other political parties. I believe that what he should focus on now is developmental projects which will go a long way in engraving his name in the hearts of Sokoto residents.

“All the calls for him to probe this and that person will only cause him distraction and eventually have a negative effect on his government,” said civil servant who craved anonymity.


Ortom and his people

In the case of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, it was an eight months of intense waiting and legal fireworks.

However, his victory at both the election and the apex court did not come to many as a surprise. In the build-up to the 2019 elections, majority of the people of Benue State had spoken with one voice and massively voted the governor for another term.

What actually worked in the favour of the governor is his ability to stand up to defend his people when the marauding Fulani herdsmen invaded the state and killed many people with hundreds of thousands displaced.

Reports revealed that before the signing into law the famous anti-open grazing bill, emissaries were sent to Ortom and he was promised a smooth sail on his re election journey, provided he jettisoned the law.

It was further gathered that when this failed, the same elements not only vowed to ease him out of the political scene, but also went as far as threatening to kill him. Despite all, Ortom was able to weather the storm.

Ortom’s first term in office was characterised by little achievement as well as non-payment of salaries and pensions. Primary school teachers were and are still owed about 10 months salary arrears, while civil servants are owed five months. With theese lapses of the government, the people of the state still embraced the Ortom-led administration, obviously for, at least, staking his neck for his people to live.


Benue people want new deal

Now that the litigation is over, the people of Benue State are waiting eagerly for a better life and fulfilled promises.

Former president of the Senate, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, while congratulating the governor on his victory, urged him to follow the recommendations made by the transition committee which he headed.

He said the committee had submitted its report and that a retreat was organised for its members and the state executive council members to rub minds. He expressed joy that Governor Ortom had started implementing some of the recommendations made for the political, social and economic development of the state.

He added that Governor Ortom has started implementing some of the recommendations his committee made on pension and salary payment by setting up the pension commission headed by a former head of service, Mr Terna Ahua.

A socio-political commentator and one-time Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, who went philosophical, said the victory of governor Ortom at the apex court was designed by God to enable him redeem his image.

Tsav said, “I congratulate Honourable Emmanuel Jime and his team for giving Samuel Ortom a good fight in his quest to reclaim his snatched mandate.

God Almighty has a reason for doing what he does.

“It is hoped that Governor Ortom will use this period as reformatory and corrective by using the remaining three years of his administration to correct his past mistakes which are monumental and disgusting.

“For instance, he should pay all salaries and pension arrears and reduce the suffering of our people. He should try to leave some legacy by embarking on people-oriented projects, repair of our roads and construction of new ones to link our towns and villages, like our neighbor, Nasarawa State.

“He should pay lesser attention to his farm and private businesses, in the interest of good governance, our people and humanity. Ortom has been a monumental failure, but we cannot fight against what God has decreed.”

A youth leader of Achusaa community in Makurdi, Sunny Iorkase, who applauded the manner the governor fought the insecurity occasioned by the Fulani herdsmen in the state urged him to create more jobs opportunities for the teeming youths in the state.

According to him, “this is another area to fight insecurity. An idle hand is the devil’s workshop. If the governor can pay more attention to the youths roaming the streets across the state, Benue will be a better place for us.”

Also lending his voice to the discourse, Tony Okpanachi, a civil servant in the state, called on the governor to pay more attention to payment of salary of workers in the state, “particularly, to clear the salary arrears and fill the vacancies existing in the civil service.”

According to him, “the civil service is short of staff we can hardly have workers in levels one to seven and this is due to the embargo placed on recruitment.

“The moment he lifts embargo on employment and give promotion to deserving workers, the governor is gradually writing his name in gold.”


Benue APC promises to fight another day

Meanwhile, the state chapter of the APC has conceded the defeat at the apex court with good faith as it said the outcome of the court process would rather spur it to prepare for 2023.

According to the acting publicity secretary of the party, James Orgunga, the poor performance of the governor would be an advantage to the party in the journey to 2023.

Orgunga said, “this is the time to rebuild the party. We cannot continue to wallow in defeat. Our support base is high and we know that failure is personal to the governor. He cannot achieve anything, if given a third term. Good dance steps are noted with the first. It is not only APC that lost, Benue has lost too.”

But the PDP wants the opposition party to embrace the government of the day.

Its chairman, John Ngbede, said the “PDP in Benue is delighted by this development which the party believes has opened a new vista for the Ortom-led administration to accelerate on its drive to move the state forward in terms of peace, security and development.

“Benue PDP believes that going forward, a new Benue is possible with the support of the people for the administration Governor Ortom.”

The governor himself had said that now that politics was over, he would not have any excuse to fail the people of the state. Whatever this assurance will bring will be seen in three years.


Residents task Lalong

With the pronouncement of the Supreme Court, the controversy over Governor Simon Lalong’s election too was over. In his reaction to the victory, Lalong said all along, he was never in doubt of the validity of his mandate, as he did not only campaign and engage all stakeholders, but also delivered on his campaign promises during the first tenure.

He said, “I again dedicate this victory to God and the people of Plateau State, irrespective of their political, social, religious or ethnic affiliations. The highest court in the land has stamped the mandate I was given and this means that our administration is now clear of litigation distractions. The time now is for governance and actualisation of our next level agenda encapsulated in our three-point vision of peace, security and good governance; infrastructural development and sustainable economic rebirth.”

He repeated his call to the opposition to join hands with him in developing the state and pursuing projects and programs that will promote lasting legacies for the people and asked the people to intensify prayers for the peace and stability of the state to enable rapid development to take place.

As expected, Lalong’s victory has continued to elicit comments from both members of the PDP and APC in the state.

Reacting to the development, the state chairman of the APC, Latep Dabang, who said the pronouncement of the apex court had affirmed the acceptability of the party and Governor Lalong by people of the state, maintained that the legacy projects of the administration that dot every nooks and crannies of the state would be given adequate attention and completed on time.

“In spite of the litigation, which took close to nine months, the governor did not allow himself to be distracted him in the course of pursuing his developmental projects. It was in the course of the litigation that urban roads within Jos/Bukuru metropolis were embarked upon and they are about to be completed.

“I want to tell the people of Plateau State that the judgment of the Supreme Court will further spur him to work harder,” he said.

The only opposition local government chairman among the 17 council chairmen in the state who is also the chairman of Langtang Local Government Area of the state, Dr. Ubandoma Joshua Laven, said in spite of the political difference between him, being a PDP member, and the governor, the latter had demonstrated maturity and understanding in leadership of the state.

Ubandoma, who also congratulated the governor on his victory, called on him to carry the opposition as he develops the state and pursue projects and programmes that will promote lasting legacies for the people.

He further said Lalong was doing well in providing dividends of democracy to the people of the state.

“Lalong has done well in developing the Northern senatorial zone, just like the immediate-past governor, Jonah Jang, did. I am appealing to him to shift some development to Southern Plateau,” he said.

Former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Honourable Istifanus Mwamsat, commended the governor for his legacy projects across the state, including those he inherited from the previous administration, but advised him to pay them adequate attention.

“To build on the legacy he inherited, especially in the area of security, he should expedite action and improve on the situation. We hope that he will be more on ground in the state than before. His primary assignment is Plateau State, because his chairmanship of Northern Governors Forum is taking much of his time. He needs to give Plateau more attention than the forum, because he is more accountable to the state than the forum,” he said.


Ganduje’s open arms

Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, on his part, said since the final judgment had been pronounced by the Supreme Court, it behooves on the opposition parties to join hands with him to move the state to a greater height.

He noted that it would be unwise for anybody to blame the PDP for challenging the election in court, saying the party had the right to.

According to him, “political tussle is inevitable in this world. But if a party eventually wins an election, the opposition should sheath their swords and face the development of the people. Political tussle is not peculiar to Kano or Nigeria only. It is all over the world. Even in the USA, there is such a political tussle where opposition will be fighting one another.”

The governor said this while answering questions from journalists after the judgment. He said it was time that all opposition should be kept aside to face the development of the state.

“So, in our case, since the Supreme Court has ruled in my favour, it is now time to sheath the sword and face our state. The issue of opposition and fighting each other is over. They took us to the court to exercise their right and nobody faults them on that. They took us to the appeal and supreme courts which have all declared me winner.

“It is now time for reconciliation. Let us come together to move kano forward. The free education policy is not for APC supporters only. It is for the people of Kano State. Also, security is for all. Therefore, I call all and sundry to come and join hands to achieve even development for our dear state.

“I have forgiven everybody and hope everybody will forgive me. Even the Kwankwasiyya faction of the PDP, I forgive them. I call on them to cooperate with me, because we are all children of democracy,” said Mr Ganduje.

The governor said that he would not rest on his oars in serving the people of the state.

“We are going to launch community policing very soon in Kano. Security is for the people of Kano State and we call on everyone to cooperate,” he said.

Meanwhile, a former PDP chairman in the state who recently defected to the APC, Mr Bichi, said their decision was unanimously taken to answer Governor Ganduje’s call to opposition parties and politicians to join hands with him in order to move the state to the next level.

“We believe in Governor Ganduje’s genuine commitment in developing our dear state. That is why, when he invited all opposition elements to join hands with him in moving the state forward, we resolved to come forward and contribute in developing the state,” he said.

Bichi emphasised that in his capacity as a former chairman of PDP and leader of Kwankwasiyya political group, “we are today answering the call of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Ganduje for an inclusive government.

“The infrastructural development we are seeing all over the state, other human-centred policies like free and compulsory primary and secondary education are some of the major reasons that informed our decision to come forward,” he said.

Also speaking, a former state chairman of the PDP, Senator Ado Doguwa, said they believed the administration of Ganduje would carry everybody along.

According to him, “as a true democrat who does not believe in winner takes all, Dr. Ganduje has declared his intention to reconcile with whoever is aggrieved in the interest of moving the state forward.”

He noted that what remained for the opposition was to answer the call and team up with him to form a formidable force and execute projects that would benefit the teeming masses of the state.

Speaking in the same vein, the state Commissioner for Rural and Community Development, Alhaji Ilyasu Musa Kwankwaso, said “I believe my brother, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, would graciously answer the call of the incumbent governor and join him in the course of moving the state ahead.”

However, a notable chieftain of the PDP who preferred anonymity said the party was studying what the governor said and that the party would likely get back to him at an appropriate time.

Some public commentators have called on the governor to move for an inclusive government that would incorporate members of the opposition.

The state Commissioner for Information, Comrade Muhammed Garba, said the state governor meant what he said with regard to call on the opposition to join his government.

Garba said incumbent governor was an humble man who believed in the interest of the state, hence, the need for all the citizens to rally round him to continue to execute laudable projects.

“You can see the seriousness of Governor Ganduje in the completion of two gigantic hospitals left by former Governor Ibrahim Shekarau. He has completed them and named one after President Buhari.

“He also declared free and compulsory education for all children of the state. Plan is on ground to integrate the almajiri into Western education, a move that will address the rampant cases of children roaming the streets.

“He has budgeted huge amounts to establish hospitals in the newly-created emirate councils. This will stop many people from coming to the ancient city of Kano for treatment. These are projects the governor is doing to make life more meaningful for people of the state.

“Therefore, there is need for other political parties to support him to achieve success for the entire citizenry,” he said.