Opinion: Unity Of Purpose Needed In Kogi State

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By Sunday Adigun

Prior to the recent decision of the Court of Appeal reaffirming the election of the Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, political observers with keen interest have not failed to note the unrelenting and sustained onslaught in a section of the media on the revered judges of the Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal for ‘daring’ to do what justice demanded.

Reading through some of the articles, and even in some extreme cases, editorial comments on the Election Tribunal ruling, one could easily see that some unseen hands had busied themselves attempting to use the media platform to manipulate public opinion just as they tried to call the integrity of the governor and the respected Tribunal judges to question. Cleverly disguised as right to freedom of expression, authors of these articles descended on the governor in an attempt to make him look like he is the bad guy. But that is far from the truth which is that the man won fair and square in a political contest supervised by a disinterested umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

It was clear from these reports and media interventions that the anti-Yahaya Bello campaigners will stop at nothing to stand logic on its head by constantly pummelling the Tribunal’s judgement as if it was a piece of ruling from hell and should therefore be discarded by the Appeal Court.

We saw this kind of scenario play out in a number of instances before, where politicians who had lost out at elections resorted to the use of media platforms to pressurise and intimidate the judiciary to get unmerited judgements particularly where they didn’t get the chance to compromise the judges through the usual underhand methods.

In their desperation to harass the judiciary to submit to their wishes, they deployed the services of some so called legal ‘experts’ to do a serial interpretation of the Tribunal ruling discrediting same as if they alone understood the letters and spirit of the constitution and the Electoral Act better than the judges whose jobs have to do with handling such matters.

It was therefore not surprising that these people have continued to react angrily to the Appeal Court’s judgement that reaffirmed Governor Bello, as duly nominated and validly elected.

One would have expected that every genuine stake holder in Kogi State, should by now rally around the young governor in order to fast-track the much needed development which for decades, has eluded the state due to the fact that it had been cornered by political jobbers and infamous godfathers.

Rather, what we are seeing from the opponents are posturing of bitterness, even after the governor had magnanimously extended the olive branch to all who might be aggrieved one way or the other in the whole affair. While it is expected that the judicial fireworks may, ultimately, get to the Supreme Court, it is however important to clarify that the issues before the court are not as complex as some people try to present them. The Supreme Court will not and cannot be expected to search for extraneous reasons outside what the two lower courts had decided while considering the merit or otherwise of Hon James Faleke’s petition challenging Yahaya Bello’s election.

Section 141 of the Electoral Act clearly covers Alhaji Yahaya Bello in the sense that not only did he participate in the primary of the Kogi State All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship primary, he went on to participate in the supplementary election to conclude the entire process which begun with the primary. His main challenger did not participate in the primaries but was only nominated as a running mate by another candidate after the primary election in which Bello was a runner-up.

It was sound political judgment on the part of the APC leadership to have presented Bello as the substitute to Prince Abubakar Audu who unfortunately died before the gubernatorial elections could be concluded in November 2015. Doing otherwise would have exposed the party to attacks by the opposition. So, drafting Bello who came second in the APC governorship primaries was devoid of sentiment as it was an accurate political decision that reflected the reality on ground.

And the APC acted within the purview of Section 33 of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) which empowers a political party to substitute a candidate in the case of death before or in course of an election.

This case is clearly different from that of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Bonnie Haruna, the governorship candidate and his deputy, respectively, in the gubernatorial elections of Adamawa State in 1999. In this instant case, the elections had been concluded and Atiku declared the winner.

But before he could be sworn-in, he had been appointed as the vice-presidential running mate to former President Olusegun Obasanjo who had emerged as the presidential flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This paved the way for Bonnie Haruna to take over the mantle of leadership of Adamawa State as the governor-elect.

One would therefore urge those who are yet to come to terms with the reality of Yahaya Bello as the current leader of Kogi politics by virtue of his being governor to tarry a while and rethink their moves in the overall interest of the state. The hand of God has manifested in what has happened, and as a people who claim to be religious, it behoves on all to embrace the man with open heart so that Kogi can witness transformation and progress it very much needs after years of misrule.

Sunday Adigun, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lokoja

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