In the midst of rising political tension in Sokoto, the Appeal Court sitting in the state put on hold last week the judgment in the governorship case between the candidate of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi and Governor Aliyu Wamakko of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This followed petitions to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and subsequent directive by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, that further action in the case be suspended pending the determination of the allegations against the judges.
Among the allegations was that the President of the Court of Appeal was unduly influencing the proceedings of the panel. One of the petitions was by the Principal Solicitor to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Yahaya Mahmood and another by Alfred N. Agu, Solicitor to Governor Aliyu Wamakko.
Many in the state think the suspension of judgment was cogent since the petition bordered on their integrity. But some allege that the whole idea behind the petition to the NJC was to pervert justice to serve certain interests.
However, for now, attention has been shifted to the issue of petition and until that is resolved, the governorship tussle hangs. But the question is for how long would that be?
The present tussle has lingered since 2008 after the re-run election that saw Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko re-emerging as governor.
The DPP candidate in the May 24 2008 re-run governorship election in the state Dingyadi insists that since the Appeal Court that nullified the 2007 Sokoto governorship election declared that Wamakko was not qualified to contest as at April 2007 when general elections were held, it meant he was not eligible to contest the re-run election.
After its sitting on the case on January 18, 2010 the Court of Appeal in Sokoto had reserved Judgment to a later date. Throughout the period that the judgment date remained unknown, there were no obvious political tantrums over the case. But since penultimate week when the court fixed February 24, 2010 to give its verdict, Sokoto had been engulfed in disturbing political commotion.
Even as the court was yet to give its verdict in the case, speculations were rife that the judgment might have leaked.
While some members of the DPP were allegedly celebrating victory, the governor’s camp was on edge. The strong confidence and buoyancy purportedly exhibited by one side as against the pessimism and glumness said to have overwhelmed the other left many wondering if the parties had already seen the judgment.
The subsequent smear campaigns, allegations and counter allegations between the PDP and DPP caused apprehension among the citizens who remained bothered by the tensed political atmosphere.
While the DPP accused the PDP of resorting to violence, intimidation, media war and campaign of calumny in order to create fear and chaos in the state for the judgment to be halted, the PDP said it discovered plans by the DPP to grab power by force or cause chaos that would lead to the declaration of State of Emergency in Sokoto even as it also alleged that part of DPP’s plans was to use influential traditional rulers to penetrate the Appeal Court judges to accept N1billion to write a judgement that should give power to the DPP.
Even as the police assured of adequate security of lives and property as well as level playing ground for all politicians, many in the state were worried that the state may be thrown into violence by the charged political atmosphere brought to bear on the state by the affected parties.
With that situation, many in the state decided that on the Day of verdict, that is Wednesday February 24,they will remain at home while their children will not also go to school to avoid being victims of any ugly situation which may trail the Judgement, if delivered.
However, on the eve of the Wednesday judgment day, there was an air of confusion as to whether the case would hold or not following the petition to the Chief Justice of Nigeria over it.
There were rumours that the court might sit very early on the crucial day to deliver the judgment, but no one was certain whether the Appeal Court judges would abide by or disregard the directive of the CJN that they put further action on the Appeal on hold pending the determination of the allegations against them.
Before 7am on the fateful day security was tightened along major roads leading to the court even as strict identification procedure was observed before anyone was allowed into the court room.
The court started the case at 10am and concluded it in one hour. As the presiding judge, Justice Musa Dattijo spoke, it was not apparent what the court’s decision would be until towards the end of the sitting.
Justice Dattijo stated, “We sat on January 18, 2010 over this appeal and heard counsels to both parties. We adjourned for judgement on the appeal and the judgement is ready. But on the 19th of February 2010, we were served with a letter from the Chief Justice of Nigeria and Chairman of the Nigeria Judicial Commission following a petition which alleges that the President of the Court of Appeal influences the decision of the panel. I will listen to both counsels in order to chart a way forward.”
It was after the counsel had made their submissions for and against the delivering of judgement on that day that the five–man panel announced the resolution to stay action on further proceedings having considered their personal integrity.
For now, people in the state are waiting for the outcome of the petition. However, emphasis has remained that justice should be allowed to take its course.