Raging succession crisis in Kogi

  • Bello not validly nominated
  • APC denies Faleke electoral mandate

By SUNDAY ODIBASHI


THE lingering crisis which emanated from the November 21, 2015 inconclusive and December 5, 2015 supplementary governorship elections in Kogi State following the death of Prince Abubakar Audu, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), may degenerate into succession crisis, this week, as the tenure of Governor Idris Wada ends on Tuesday, January 26 and a new Governor of the Kogi State is expected to be inaugurated on Wednesday, January 27, 2016. The succession crisis is a manifest of the inherent contradictions in the decision of APC leaders to replace late Prince Audu with Yaya Bello after the demise of Audu in early hours of Sunday, November 22, 2015; the day the APC candidate had unofficially won the Saturday, November 21, 2015, governorship election, which was later the same day, declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). APC leaders had brought in Bello into the election, retaining James Abiodun Faleke as Deputy Governorship candidate after Faleke had in a joint ticket with late Audu unofficially won the governorship election on November 21.

Faleke, a member of the National Assembly representing Ikeja Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, had protested the controversial decision of the APC leaders, insisting on succeeding Audu while a new deputy governor would be nominated.

Generally, death of Audu at that particular stage of the governorship election created obvious constitutional controversy which required judicial interpretation before the INEC could proceed with the election. The circumstances the November 21, 2015, governorship election was declared inconclusive further compounded the controversy. Neither INEC nor APC leaders resolved the controversies before proceeding to the supplementary election on Saturday, December 5, 2015. In that supplementary election, INEC declared Yaya Bello winner, Governor-elect and ‘inheritor of late Audu’s victory,’ whereas Bello was not in the race from the beginning.

National Daily gathered that APC leaders are divided over Bello and Faleke, in addition to the mix-up over ‘ownership’ of votes cast at an election or the bonafide contestant in an election. Those who believe that election mandate belongs to the political party support the decision of APC leaders to nominate Yaya Bello to inherit the votes won by the joint ticket of late Audu/Faleke in the November 21, 2015 election after the death of Audu. Some others believe that individuals contest elections while the political party provides the platform for campaigns and mobilization for votes, thus, they believe that the mandate after the death of Audu belongs to Faleke.

t the time the November 21 governorship election was declared inconclusive, the Audu/Faleke joint ticket of the APC had unofficially won with 204, 877 votes, while Wada of the PDP had 199,514 votes in the results from 21 local government areas.

The Returning Officer, Professor Immanuel Kucha, Vice Chancellor, University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Benue State, had declared the election inconclusive on the argument that the number of votes with which APC candidate defeated the PDP candidate was less than the number of registered voters in the 91 polling units where elections were cancelled.
Apparently, in the Saturday, December 5, 2015 supplementary election held in 91 polling units across 18 local government areas, Faleke declined participation as deputy governorship candidate. Thus, Bello went into that election without a deputy governorship candidate.

Subsequently, in the supplementary election result, Professor Kucha declared the APC candidate had 6,885 votes, bringing the total votes to 247,752, after the 240,857 votes in the November 21 election. The PDP candidate had 5,363, making a total of 204,877, after the 199, 514 votes on November 21.

Faleke has continued to insist on being governorship candidate and benefactor of the victory in the Audu/Falake joint ticket while Wada is also seeking to be declared winner as the runner-up in the election the APC candidate could not complete.

The debate that all elections in Nigeria are political party’s elections deepens the succession crisis in Kogi State. Universally, political parties are custodians of votes cast in elections; party stakeholders give election tickets to aspirants through democratic contest.

The irony is that the constitution prescribes that individuals contests elections but “as members of political parties.” Political parties do not stand as candidates but individuals who are party members. In nominating candidates, political parties consider the political capital of individual aspirants for elections.

Accordingly, Section 177 of the amended 1999 Constitution of Nigeria succinctly stipulates that, “a person shall be qualified for election to the Office of Governor of a state if (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.” Constitutionally, it is a person who emerges as a candidate that qualifies for election not political party. So, votes cast at elections are for the candidate, though the political party provided the platform for the contest. Even section 221 of the constitution also gives credence to this prescription.

The APC may be facing more complicated succession crisis if the party leaders fail to find urgent political solution to the Faleke/Bello impasse. This is so because the provisions of section 187 may turn the table against the party in favour of the PDP. Section 187(1), making inferences from Section 186, clearly stipulates that, “in any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this chapter relates, a candidate for the office of Governor of a State shall not be deemed to have been validly nominated for such office unless he nominates another candidate as his associate for his running for the office of Governor, who is to occupy the office of Deputy Governor; and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Deputy Governor if the candidate who nominated him is duly elected as Governor in accordance with the said provisions.”

Bello went into that election without nominating a Deputy Governorship candidate who contested with him. This puts a big question mark on the validity of Bello’s nomination.
The APC is certainly at crossroads of managing its electoral victory in Kogi State. As citizens resident in the state await inauguration of a new governor by the State Chief Judge on January 27, will the APC replace Faleke with another deputy governor who did not contest election? Will Yaya Bello be sworn into office without a deputy governor? If Faleke insists on not accepting the office of the Deputy Governor, only the PDP candidate would have fulfilled the provisions of Section 187(1) of the constitution.

Some have argued that replacing a candidate is a pre-election and not post-election matter. They declared that, “replacing a candidate after an election, except on the condition of death, is not known to Nigerian laws.”

These stakeholders further observed that the number of persons who collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) in the polling units where elections were canceled in the election on November 21 Governorship Election were 38,000 while 25,000 were accredited in the December 5 supplementary polls. They argued that the figures were less than the winning margin in the November 21 election that would have made the election concluded.

It is believed that if this argument is subscribed to, APC leaders may have Section 181(1) as their escape route to restore Faleke and clinch to power.

However, who takes over the leadership of the state this week is an issues that can only be determined by the court.

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