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Zamfara’s painful election lesson

The Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division recently killed the joy that accompanied the National Assembly, governorship and House of Assembly elections in Zamfara State. In a ruling on the prolonged crises in the state’s All Progressives Congress [APC] chapter, the court agreed with the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] that there was no evidence that APC held a primary election in the state, hence the candidates generated by it for various elected political offices did not stand in the election.

Delivering the lead judgement which was concurred by Justices Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur, Justice Tom Yakubu held that the lower court which had earlier set aside INEC’s decision and approved the controversial primary election, failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.

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The Court of Appeal’s ruling was in respect of an appeal filed by Senator Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum [Downstream] and 129 others, which faulted the emergence of candidates from the APC faction loyal to Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar for the 2019 elections. It was the climax of the power play between the governor and the senator over control of the state party’s machinery. 

Reacting to the ruling, Senator Marafa said, “I have always believed that the Zamfara State High Court ruling was nothing but a black market judgement that can never stand legal scrutiny. The appeal court judgement has rekindled the fact that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. We are all living witnesses to the fact that the APC in Zamfara was unable to conduct primaries and couldn’t reach consensus due to the attitude of Yari, but the Zamfara State High Court judge ruled against the truth.The Appeal Court has done justice by throwing the judgment of the Zamfara High Court to the trash bin, where it rightly belongs. You can’t build on nothing. APC didn’t conduct primaries; they don’t therefore have candidates in the just concluded elections.”

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On his part, Governor Yari said in a statement that the judgment did not nullify the election conducted at all levels in the state. He said, “What the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division did … was setting aside the judgement by the Zamfara State High Court on the ground of examination of proofs of evidence. This has nothing to do with our elections. The Court has not in anyway tampered with our elections, as only a tribunal has the right to listen to issues arising from election matters.”

This interpretation of the court ruling soon fell apart when INEC withheld the Certificates of Return of all elected APC members in the state, including the governor-elect and MPs. They thereafter said they were appealing to the Supreme Court.

The confusion in Zamfara State APC is self-inflicted. It is the outcome of an unnecessary squabble and power play which led to the polarisation of the partyin the state. The crisis led to violence during the primary election in the state and officers sent from the national headquarters to conduct it could not do so.

Three separate election committees sent to the state to conduct the primaries were chased away, while the national working committee rejected the one conducted by the state Exco loyal to the governor. INEC also said its state office reported that no primaries took place.

This painful imbroglio in Zamfara State is a bitter lesson for the state APC, for Zamfara indigenes as a whole and for APC as a national ruling party. Politicians, aspirants, governors, national party leaders and other party leaders at all levels should all learn lessons from it. The reckless gambit by Governor Yari and his opponents, the arrogant disposition of Adams Oshiomhole and APC NWC and the aloofness of President Buhari while the imbroglio lasted, all contributed to bring Zamfara State to this position as the sorriest case of the 2019 election season.

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