In Nigeria today, the government at the centre has apportioned to itself the role of law maker and law breaker, depending on the scenario that suits its purpose. Notably among its meddlesomeness is the APC-led Federal Government’sundue interferencein the affairs of Kogi State. This can be seen in the cases of the Kogi gubernatorial election and the State House of Assembly crisis.
In the case of the gubernatorial election, through the government’s manipulation, a position contrary to the advice of INEC’s legal consortium was canvassed and imposed on the judiciary. The legal consortium painstakingly combed through incontrovertible and unambiguous Supreme Court decisions and relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria to advice the INEC on the way forward. Contained as part of their submissions are thus: On the validity of the then running mate of Audu, they cited as follows: In PDP vs INEC (2001) the Supreme Court described the relationship between a candidate for governor of a state and his deputy as “joint and inseparable”. In their words, “They swim and sink together at the stage of contesting the election. The gubernatorial candidate cannot stand for the election without a running mate and vice versa.”
On the same judgment, the Supreme Court has this to say about the death of a candidate for governor before being declared elected: “during the first stage, if the gubernatorial candidate dies or withdraws from the election or is permanently incapacitated, there has to be a fresh nomination of both gubernatorial candidate and his running mate because the latter gets disqualified by reason of the death, withdrawal or incapacity.”
On the ownership of votes, they cited as follows: In CPC vsOmbugadu (2013) the Supreme Court described the implication of an amendment to the Electoral Act 2010 which introduced Section 141. They held that by this new provision, the cliché that it is the political party that contests election which originated from the determination by the Supreme Court in AmaechiVs INEC (2008) has been reversed. It held that “parties do not contest , win or lose directly; they do so by the candidates they sponsor and before a person can be returned as elected by a tribunal or court, the person must have fully participated in all the stages of the election starting from nomination to the actual voting.” Suffice it to say that the very reason why section 141 was introduced was to prevent a repeat of the Amaechi/Omehia scenario in Rivers State in 2007.
It out rightly discourages vote inheritance. In the same judgment in 2013, it also said “the sole purpose of a party’s primary election is the emergence of one of the contestants as the party’s candidate at the election.” In other words, once a candidate is nominated, that primary has already accomplished its purpose and summarily becomes inactive and extinguished.
Unfortunately, INEC succumbed to their position. They opted for “substitution of candidate” rather than a fresh election, as suggested by their legal team.
On the supplementary election, the existence of James AbiodunFaleke, then running mate to the late AbubakarAudu, did not deter their plot. CaptIdris Wada, the established runner-up in the pre-inconclusive election was also jettisoned in their calculations. Instead,Yahaya Bello was freshly nominated to replace Audu as the APC candidate, with a disgruntled Faleke foisted as his running mate despite his public withdrawal.
This decision led to the emergence of Yahaya Bello as the governor of Kogi State, and since then there have been all sorts of legal and political rancour to ascertain the legality of the current governor.
As if this undue interference was not enough, the government’s agent – a high ranking minister, chose to usurp the powers of the National Assembly in the crisis in Kogi State House of Assembly, where five members of the 25-man assembly impeached the Speaker of the House.
Even the contentious Governors Forum election that pitched former President Goodluck Jonathan against RotimiAmaechi was not as blatantly flawed as that of the Kogi State Assembly.
The House of Representatives, having relied on Section 11(4) of the 1999 Constitution, took over the functions of the Kogi State House of Assembly to avoid a full blown crisis in the state. The Senate concurred with the resolution and asked the police to seal the Assembly complex.
Unfortunately, the minister mocked the National Assembly by advising the Inspector-General of Police to disregard the federal law makers’ decision to seal the Kogi State House of Assembly, saying the legislative body erred in its resolution.
In this situation, the said minister had apportioned the powers of law making to himself, as not even the Supreme Court has the powers to reverse provisions in the Nigerian Constitution. Subsequently, the crises have continued to date, despite a Federal High Court Judgment reversing the purported impeachment by the five-man House of Assembly.
Apart from these scenarios, several blatant disregards of the laws of our land have further put our nation at the risk of ‘Sustainable Executive Rascality’. It has also called into question the supremacy of the executive over the legislative and judiciary.
In the case of Kogi, the Supreme Court should assert itself else the current unconstitutional and illegal hostage taking by the minister would further deepen the discontent in the nation.
Essien writes from Uyo.