In compliance with the judgement of the Supreme Court, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented certificates of return to the Zamfara state governor-elect, Bello Mohammed Matawalle, deputy governor-elect, three senators-elect and seven members of the House of Representatives-elect.
The Supreme Court had Friday declared as “wasted” all the votes for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the governorship, deputy governorship, Senate, House of Representatives and state House of Assembly elections in favour of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
And following the verdict, the INEC said it was ready to comply and issue certificates of return to all the elected candidates.
Speaking at the presentation of the certificates in Abuja Monday, INEC Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu said the commission “will no longer accept the submission of names of candidates by political parties under Section 31of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) unless there is evidence, monitored by the commission, of compliance with the provision of Section 87 of the Act.
“It is only after they (political parties) comply with this requirement of the law can their names be submitted to INEC under Section 31. We shall continue to work with the political parties to ensure strict compliance.”
This, he said, was in order to reduce the spate of litigation associated with them.
The INEC boss also said three other certificates of return were withdrawn in addition to the earlier 25, and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law.
He stated that with the Zamfara case, the number of court judgements arising from improper party primaries had risen to 64.
“I want to reiterate the importance of conducting proper primaries before elections in order to reduce the spate of litigation associated with them. At the moment, there are 809 pre-election cases pending in various courts across the country challenging the conduct of primaries by political parties for the 2019 general elections.
“This is clearly more than the total number of petitions currently before the various election petition tribunals nationwide challenging the outcome of the main elections.
“In our last update, the commission reported that 25 certificates of return had been withdrawn and issued to persons declared winners by courts of law. Since then, three more certificates have been withdrawn by court order. With the Zamfara case, the figure has now risen to 64.
“In addition, the commission is studying nine more judgements we were served in the last one week in which primary elections conducted by different political parties were upturned by the courts.”
Professor Yakubu stated that the Zamfara example was not the first pre-election case determined by the Supreme Court arising from the recent party primaries, saying the apex court had determined the case of Lere Federal Constituency in Kaduna state which the commission had already complied with and issued the certificate of return to the winner.
“It is therefore important to continue to emphasise to our political parties their obligation to conduct credible primaries for the nomination of candidates.
“Our democracy in particular and electoral process in general can never be virile unless political parties rise to the challenge of internal party democracy.
“It is in this context that the latest judgements of the Supreme Court are crucial steps in strengthening our electoral jurisprudence.”
On the November 16 governorship election in Bayelsa and Kogi states, the INEC chairman said, “let me once again remind political parties that we have exactly 171 days to the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections scheduled for 16 November, 2019.
“Party primaries are scheduled to be conducted between 2nd and 29th August, 2019. Let us make the two elections shining examples of internal democracy by the way the political parties conduct their primary elections. This will no doubt have a positive impact on the conduct of the proper elections.”
Muttawalle lauds Buhari
Responding, Zamfara Governor-elect Mattawalle commended President Muhammadu Buhari for not interfering in the judicial process, notwithstanding that the APC was at the centre as the ruling party.
Mattawalle said since the commencement of democracy in 1999, the state had not experienced good leadership, saying his leadership would usher in the first people-oriented administration.
A similar exercise holds in Gusau Friday where 24 certificates would be presented to winners of the state assembly elections.
Oshiomhole decries judgement
Meanwhile, APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, has said the party did not get justice on the Zamfara ruling.
Oshiomhole said rather than declaring APC votes wasted and PDP winners, the court would have ordered repeat elections.
He spoke briefly to journalists Monday at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, saying the only option left for his party was to approach the court of God for judgement.
He said: “How can you ask me how I feel if the people of Zamfara voted for APC in the manner that they did and the court says that those votes were wasted. Meanwhile, at the time those votes were cast, a High Court had ruled that those candidates were validly nominated.
“There is something that I learnt from Lord Denning, a famous British Supreme Court Justice that the law has to be interpreted taken into account the intention of the lawmakers, and try to deliver justice in its purest form.
“So, there is no justice when ground of technicalities you imposed on the people of Zamfara state, not just a man or a woman, but a whole party candidates from governor to Senate and others they didn’t elect.
“If the court thought we were wrong, the justice would have demanded that we repeat but you cannot use technicalities because we are in a democracy, there is nothing democratic when the court imposes strangers to govern a people. But we understand is that after the Supreme Court we can only go to the court of God. To that extent, we must obey the court but what we got in Zamfara is a judgement that didn’t translate to justice.”
When asked whether the party would sanction APC members who took the party to court in the state, Oshiomhole, however, declined comment.