Kogi’s Theatre Of The Absurd by Barr. Abiodun Kolawale

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Kogi State is living up to its acquired reputation as the Guinea pig of modern Nigerian politics and law. We do not need to go far to provide proofs of this fame. It is first on many fronts. The first state where a governorship election was annulled by a tribunal and upheld by an Appeal Court. The first state to be ruled by an acting governor. The first state to go through a rerun poll. You will also recall that it holds the record as the only state where two persons were sworn into office one as governor and the other as acting governor the same day. Even as you read this, two persons are most probably still laying claims to the speakership of the sHouse of Assembly! And the mother of all oddities? Hold your breath. The first state to produce a supplementary governor-elect, a strange phenomenon under the Nigerian law and customs or any other constitution known to mankind.

Now, the state governorship election may have come, but ironically, it has refused to go. The election was first conducted on Saturday, 21st November, last year. As the votes started pouring in, and collation got underway, it was clear that Prince Abubakar Audu, then candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was coasting home to victory. The man was leading his closest rival, Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with about 41,000 votes having polled a salivating 240,000 votes to Wada’s paltry 199,000 votes. However, a legal technicality prevented his victory from being announced on the spot.

Some 49,000 votes, a little more than the margin of victory were still outstanding. The Electoral Act, which moderates the conduct of all elections into public office in Nigeria, makes it mandatory that the yet to participate 49,000 registered voters must not be disenfranchised. Consequently, the Returning Officer invoked this legal provision and declared the election inconclusive. A new date for the conclusion was yet to be announced when the news of Audu’s death filtered in.

The unfortunate participation or meddlesomeness of death in an affair that is solely and legally for the living has thrown the state into a political conundrum. As expected, since Audu’s demise, things have not remained the same in Kogi’s political turf. The APC, the party under which the late Prince was winning the election, came in to claim all the votes leaving none for his rattled political patrimony. From a shaky start, the party went to its archive and awarded the disputed votes to Alh. Yahaya Bello, an enterprising young politician, who came second in the primary that produced the fallen Audu. Fortunately, it had an ally in a restive and partisan Attorney General and Minister of Justice who admonished the party to bring a new candidate in the middle of an election.

The supplementary poll held on Saturday 5th December, 2015. It was a walk over for Bello. He shored up the APC total votes to about 247,000 with his 6,000 supplementary votes and thus became the first person in humanity to win public office on the strength of a make up election. As it is, he is now awaiting his inauguration come January 27. But the prospects are not all radiant.

More than 10 different interest groups and individuals have approached the courts and the State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Lokoja to test the validity of his status. Prominent among those who have approached the judiciary for solution to the impasse are James Abiodun Faleke the running mate to the late Audu, Governor Wada and candidate of the Labour Party in the election, Philip Omeiza Salawu. Others are candidate of the Progressive People’s Alliance (PPA), Enesi Emmanuel Ozigi and Ebun Adegoruwa, a Lagos-based lawyer and social activist.

It will then appear that Bello’s governorship is imperiled from the start. Faleke is feeling terribly short changed by his party and INEC. He is urging the judiciary to compel INEC to declare him winner of the election since he was on a ‘joint ticket’ with Audu. In his opinion, the supplementary election was completely unnecessary and an illegality. Although the APC retained his name as running mate to Bello, he has thrown the offer to the dogs, describing Bello as an impostor. He will stop at nothing to defend his rights.

Last week, the Lagos-based federal lawmaker opened another chapter in his determination to claim the mandate from Bello. The Audu/Faleke Campaign Organisation alleged that Bello is not a registered voter in Kogi State and therefore not eligible to be voted for. Spokesperson of the group, Duro Meseko at a press conference in Lokoja, disclosed that they were in possession of the Certified True Copy of the voters register displayed and used for the election and that Bello’s name was not on it. He argued that Bello did not have a valid Permanent Voters Card (PVC) for the election in which he has been declared winner. He accused Bello of making subterranean moves to collect the PVC through the back door in Abuja.

The Electoral Act is very assertive on the aberration in Kogi. A man who is not qualified to vote in an election is certainly not in position to demand for the votes of others. Beyond the law, it is morally despicable and mad judgement for a man to benefit from a situation he is legally barred from participating in.

– Barr. Abiodun Kolawale


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