The Supreme Court’s ruling on the 2019 governorship, national and state assembly elections in Zamfara state is a vindication of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s position, Blueprint reports.
The apex court Friday ruled that the participation of the ruling All Progressives Congress in the aforementioned elections was illegal and therefore declared the votes garnered by the party in the exercise as ‘wasted.’
Also, the court ordered the commission to recognise the runners-up as the winners in all the positions contested.
The positions include that of the governor, deputy governor, three senatorial seats, seven in the House of Representatives and 24 state assembly seats.
And in compliance, INEC declared the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidates as duly elected and accordingly presented them with the certificates of return.
INEC’s earlier stance
Following glaring irregularities that characterised APC primaries, the commission rejected the party’s nominations on the ground that it did not conduct the exercise within the stipulated time.
Reacting to the judgement, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said the ruling vindicated the commission’s earlier position.
He said following the rejection, the APC and other stakeholders approached the court which ordered “the commission to include the APC on the ballot for the governorship, national assembly and state assembly elections, which the commission complied with.”
On how the commission was vindicated, the INEC boss in a statement in Abuja said, “however, since the elections were completed, a Court of Appeal judgement and now a Supreme Court judgement have determined that the APC did not conduct valid primaries for the elections in question. In its judgement delivered on 24th May 2019, the Supreme Court, having determined that the APC did not conduct valid primaries, said that the votes cast for the party in all the elections in question were “wasted” and ordered the commission to recognise the runners-up as the winners.”
The statement also advised political parties to guard against impunity and ensure due process in their activities.
“I wish to seize this opportunity to draw the attention of all stakeholders, but particularly the political parties, to the implications of the Supreme Court judgement on the Zamfara matter.
“It is clear that properly conducted party primaries are cardinal to the proper internal functioning of political parties, the electoral process and our democratic system at large. Therefore, political parties must take very seriously the conduct of primaries according to all extant rules, including the monitoring of the processes by INEC to avoid a repeat of the Zamfara experience.”
Lawyers hail judgement
Senior lawyers and prominent members of the inner bar Sunday hailed the Supreme Court’s judgement which invalidated the victories of the APC in Zamfara state.
The lawyers, including Mr. Mike Ozekhome, Mr. Femi Falana and Mr. Israel Okunade Olorundare, all Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), spoke at separate times and locations with Blueprint.
They said the judgement was not only brilliant and consistent with its earlier decision in Rivers case but also a tonic for the sustenance of democratic process in Nigeria.
In his reaction, Mr. Olorundare said: “I totally support the judgement of the Supreme Court on this matter. What the Supreme Court said in that judgment was that the ruling APC did not do primaries; that it merely selected candidates and simply wrote results for them which is not allowed by the 1999 constitution and the Electoral Act.
“The law is that parties must do primaries before they can field candidates for election which APC didn’t do. It was so evident that there was no primary because even within the political party itself, there was protest and resistance. I think what the Supreme Court did by that judgement was just to breathe sanity into the political system.
“You will recall that the Supreme Court did the same thing in the case of Rivers state when it told the erring party that: ‘Look, from what is before us, you have no candidate.’ So, I think what the Supreme Court is trying to do is to be consistent and to restate that the rule of law must be complied with at every stage of election in the country.
“Although at poll, the ruling APC won but the Supreme Court is saying having not complied with the law that there must be primary election and not selection before the election proper, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand. It can’t stand in the eyes of the law.”
Also reacting, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Falana said, “The judgement is a good development. It is in line with the principle of internal democracy. It will go a long way to promote internal democracy in political parties in the country.
“A situation in which a political godfather wants to decide who becomes the governor in a state, who represents the state at the two chambers of the National Assembly and the state assembly is not democratic. This is a lesson for the ruling party and all political parties in the country. Honestly, that is the only way to sustain democratic process.”
In a similar reaction, Mr. Ozekhome, who incidentally settled the brief in the case said “What the apex court has done today is to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and our democratic precepts. It shows that parties must maintain internal democracy and cannot whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily operate outside their Constitution, guidelines, the Electoral Act and the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court has redefined our jurisprudence, showing that when a party damages its primaries, it can never reap the proceeds of its illegalities.
“That is why and how the PDP that came second has today produced the governor, all senators, all House of Representatives and House of Assembly candidates today in one fell swoop. All Glory and full adoration belong to God.”