Opinion: Why Kogi Deserves Justice

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I know something good is about to happen in Kogi state come September 20th, 2016, when the honorable Justices of the Supreme Court will decide on the Kogi Gubernatorial elections. I have deliberately kept myself out of this commentary since the Elections Petitions Tribunal led by Justice Halima Mohammed ruled for Yahaya Bello. Initially, I thought Justice Halima Mohammed was a relative of Yahaya Bello. But I was wrong. She wasn’t even a distant relative, but she acted like she was, though. I will explain.

In her judgment, Justice Mohammed said that the fact that INEC declared the first election held on November 21, 2015, inconclusive meant no governor or deputy governor-elect had emerged. She also stated that all votes cast belong to political parties, “it is the political party, through the instrumentality of its candidate that runs for election.” Good point. But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) erred substantially by declaring that election inconclusive because the elections had already been won. I will also explain.

The Returning Officer in that election, Prof Emmanuel Kucha said Abubakar Audu of the All Progressives Congress scored 240,867 while Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party garnered 199,514 votes. He didn’t say, Yahaya Bello. He also stated that the margin of votes between Audu and Wada is 41,353, and the total number of registered voters in 91 polling units in 18 local government areas where elections were canceled is 49,953. And since the number of registered voters is higher than the margin between Audu of the APC and Wada of the PDP is lower. Therefore, the elections were inconclusive. To think this was said by a man of academic standing is mind boggling. I will also explain.

In the 91 polling units in question, INEC either by commission or omission decided to ignore the sacred fact that in elections, only voters with voter’s card are eligible to vote as stated in its 2015 election guidelines “A person shall be eligible to vote at an election conducted by the Commission if he/she is registered as a voter, and his/her name appears on the register of the electorate, and he/she presents a voter’s card at his/her polling unit.”

The number of people that collected voters card in the 91 polling units is about 26,000. And under this same INEC guidelines, only those 26,000 voters were eligible to vote in the event of a supplementary election. Now, if I do the math, Audu was leading with 41,353 and the combined votes in the 91 polling units across the 18 local government areas based on those that collected their PVCs is 26,000. Unless the INEC wants to tell us, that 26,000 is higher than 41,353.

I will go further, the APC in their wisdom accepted the pronouncement from INEC since the then standard bearer had died and he was not supposed to get the ticket in the first place. But he did because of his political structure and popularity. The APC went ahead and nominated Yahaya Bello instead the co-owner of the ticket. For whatever reason, that was a huge blunder and the height of injustice. I suppose someone somewhere didn’t realize the magnitude of efforts, time, resources, the energy that went into the campaigns by both Audu and Faleke to garner the 240,867 votes.

After the Tribunal ruling declaring Yahaya Bello governor, the case went to the Appeal Court. And guess what? In the wilderness, there was a lone voice that saw the injustice in the Kogi case. Justice Obande Festus Ogbuinya of the Court of Appeal Abuja gave a logical judgment. He said that the declaration of Bello as the duly elected governor of Kogi by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was in breach of section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010.

What did section 141 of the Electoral Act 2010 say? “An election tribunal or court, shall not under any circumstances, declare any person a winner at an election in which such a person has not fully participated in all the stages of the said election. The question is, did Yahaya Bello participate in all the stages of the election? The answer is a huge no. I will explain.

Yahaya Bello’s participation ended at the primaries where he came second after the late Abubakar Audu. And that was it. He was not a registered voter in Kogi state too. As a fact, INEC did confirm that Yahaya Bello didn’t transfer his voting rights to Kogi state having registered and collected his PVC in Abuja. So, technically; he is not a registered voter in Kogi state. The question is what does full participation in all the stages of an election mean? I will explain. The participation starts by buying the expression of interest form, and participating and winning the nomination of your party at the primaries. After that, your party submits your name to INEC and INEC, in turn, publishes your name. You are then supposed to campaign and participate in the election proper.

Let me digress a little; you can not give what you do not have. You can not also appreciate what you did not labor for. That is the situation of things in Kogi state as it stands. There are lots of policy misdirection, misplacement of priorities and cluelessness in governance. I stand to be corrected, if Yahaya Bello continues as governor, Kogi state will go back 50 years because they have turned governance into a huge joke. And it’s such a shame. I will give one example of the level of disenchantment in the state. During the Sallah celebrations, the governor in his wisdom had in his convoy hooded police officers with rifles. Do you know the implication of such? It means that those policemen have been licensed to shoot and kill that’s why they were hooded. If not, why would police men be hooded in the convoy of a governor who is supposed to be at home with his people? I will explain.

After months, the excuse has been screening of ghost workers in the state civil service. Workers are not paid. Instead, it’s either the governor is busy buying cars for his appointees or his chief of staff and commissioners are taking second wives. The only thing they have succeeded in doing well is giving themselves nicknames. It’s only in Kogi you will hear names like The White Lion, Adoza, Change Direction, Blueprint, etc. if you are truly a white lion, do you need a battalion of hooded policemen to escort you to the mosque?

I don’t have any grudge with Yahaya Bello, but I feel Kogi deserves more than what he has to offer. Aside owning a fleet of commercial buses, what administrative experience can he boast of? What is the excuse for not paying civil servants their salaries despite the bailout funds? What is the justification for the loan to buy cars for political appointees in the face of many other pressing needs in the state?

Now, back to the issue, as the honorable Justices of the Supreme Court rules, in this case, it is my earnest prayer that the anomalies in the Kogi election would be reversed, and justice served appropriately.  In my opinion, the rulings of the tribunal and appeal court are suspect.

My belief in the Supreme Court is unshaken because I know justice will be served in Kogi come 20th September because this is a constitutional matter and with the tendency of setting a dangerous precedence in the country if care is not taken. The Yahaya Bello candidacy violated many provisions of the INEC guidelines and the Electoral Act 2010. So for it to stand would be a greater injustice to even the unborn generation of Kogities.

– Joshua Ocheja wrote from Abuja

Credit: The Globe

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