The Court of Appeal in an unanimous decision/judgment handed down on Thursday the 31st day of December,2015 dismissed in toto the petition of Senator Aisha Alhassan of All Progressive Congress (APC) and upheld the election and return of Gov. Darius Dickson Ishaku of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the duly elected Governor of Taraba State.
In a lead judgment delivered by Abdu Aboki, PJCA, the court held inter-alia I am of the firm view that from all the arguments of all the parties to this Appeal and the spectrum of the statutory and legal authorities relied upon, all the legal controversy concerning the qualification or otherwise of Mr Darius Ishaku to contest the gubernatorial election for Taraba state in the election conducted by INEC on 11th and 25th April,2015 can be resolved by a close examination of Sections 177(C) and 182(1) constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) which provides.
177 – A person shall be qualified for election to the office of governor of a state if he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.
The Supreme Court in a number of cases has examined and pronounced on the meaning and implication of Section 177(C) and 182(1) of the 1999 constitution.
In PDP Vs. INEC (2014)17 NWLR (pt 1437) 525 at 559-560 per Okoro JSC said;
“As I mentioned earlier, a person who wishes to challenge the election on the basis that the winner was not qualified to contest the election has umbrage in Section 138(1) (a) of the Electoral Act. That is to say, where a person failed to take the advantage of Section 31(5) and (6) supra in the High Court he can still approach the Election Tribunal under Section 138(1) (a) thereof. Section 177 of the constitution of Nigeria sets out conditions a person must meet to be qualified to be a governor of the state.
A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a state if:-
- ) He is a citizen of Nigeria by birth.
- ) He has attained the age of 35 years.
- ) He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.
- ) He has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent.
Again, Section 182 of the said constitution provides for disqualification of a candidate seeking the office of Governor. It is my view that where it is alleged that a person is or was not qualified to contest election to the office of Governor as envisaged by Section 138 (1) (a) of the Electoral Act, it is Sections 177 and 182 of the constitution of Nigeria that are being contemplated.
There is no dispute whatsoever in this case that Aisha Jumai Alhassan and APC are not saying that Mr. Darius Ishaku is not a member of a political party. By the pleadings of the parties to this Appeal, Mr. Darius Ishaku is a member of PDP.
The Court of Appeal also faulted Aisha Alhassan and APC for challenging the PDP primaries on the basis of Section 85 of the Electoral Act when INEC for whose benefit Section 85 of the Electoral Act was enacted never complained about the PDP candidate, the court of Appeal could not see any reason why Aisha Alhassan and APC would be complaining loudly when INEC decided to fold its arms.
If there is any breach or failure to give INEC the required 21 days, that will not be headache or problem of Aisha Alhassan and APC because their civil rights and obligation cannot be said to have been affected thereby. They have no locus standi in the matter.
The Court of Appeal held further that by the clear provision of Section 87 (1) (9) of the Electoral Act, the only person who can complain of improper or misconduct of party primaries of a political party is INEC and the aspirant who participated in the Gubernatorial primary election in PDP at which Mr Darius Ishaku emerged as a candidate of PDP for the April 11th 2015 Governorship election in Taraba State.
Aisha Alhassan and APC are not right or correct to contend that Mr Darius Ishaku was not duly sponsored by his political party as required by Section 177(C) of the 1999 constitution.
The court held further that whether the primary election of a party was done right or otherwise cannot be subject of an election petition based on the Supreme Court decision in Njideka Ezekiwe Vs. Nwawulu ᾲ ors (2010)7SCM 56 at 77 per Onnoghen JSC.
The Court of Appeal further stated that all evidence before the tribunal pointed to the fact that Mr Darius Ishaku was duly sponsored by PDP and INEC received and acted on Mr Darius Ishaku’s nomination and sponsorship from PDP. INEC did not at any time raise any issue or query to PDP with regard to the nomination and sponsorship of Mr Darius Ishaku.
The Court of Appeal further stated that PW2 an INEC staff who testified as a witness for Aisha Alhassan and APC, under cross examination from Kanu Agabi SAN, the said PW2 stated that the facts stated in paragraphs 3 and 4 of Aisha’s petition were true and correct. The said paragraphs are reproduced below:
Paragraph 3- Mr Darius Ishaku is a member of the People’s Democratic Party and was its candidate in the Taraba State Gubernatorial held on the 11th and 25th of April, 2015.
Paragraph 4– The PDP is a duly registered political party and sponsor of Mr. Darius Ishaku.
This fatal admission by Aisha Alhassan and APC that Mr Darius Ishaku actually satisfied the provisions of Section 177 (C) of the 1999 constitution and the above paragraphs 3 and 4 of the petition constitute admission against interest pursuant to Sections 20 and 21 of the Evidence Act.
The oral and documentary evidence before the trial Tribunal positively established that Mr. Darius Ishaku is a member of PDP and was duly nominated and sponsored by PDP.
The Court of Appeal stated that the cases relied upon by Aisha and APC which are Abubakar Wambai Vs. Kizzaya Donatus and also Dangana Vs. Usman (2013) 6 NWLR (PT 1349) 50 are not relevant in the instant case because in Abubakar Wambai Vs. Kizzaya Donatus the dispute of party primaries was between members of the same party each claiming to be nominated and sponsored by the party (CPC). Also, the facts of Dangana Vs. Usman are not in all fours with Aisha’s petition.
The Court of Appeal stated that Aisha Alhassan and APC have no right to challenge the primary election which produced Mr. Darius Ishaku as PDP flag-bearer since none of them is a member of PDP.
The Supreme Court in Hope Uzodinma Vs. Osita Izunao ᾲ ors (2011) 17 NWLR (PT. 1275) at 60 Rhodes-Vivor JSC stated:
“The nomination of a candidate to contest an election is the sole responsibility of the political party concerned. The Courts do not have jurisdiction to decide who should be sponsored by any political party as its candidate in the election”.
Also the Supreme Court in Gwede Vs INEC ᾲ ors (2014) 18NWLR (pt 1438) 56 at 93 Onnogen JSC said:
“However the law is settled that the issue of nomination or sponsorship of an election candidate remains within the domestic affairs of the political party and the courts have no jurisdiction to nominate a candidate for any political party.”
Also, Galadima JSC in the same case said:
“It has been quite settled that the nomination or sponsorship of a candidate is within the domestic affair of a political party, and the courts do not interfere readily.”
The Court of Appeal then stated, I have no doubt in my mind that Mr. Darius Ishaku from the facts before the trial tribunal was at the time of the election duly qualified to contest for the Office of Governor of Taraba state having been sponsored by PDP and thereby satisfied the Provisions of Section 177(C) of the 1999 Constitution.
A party must be consistent in proving its case. The pleading and evidence led by Aisha Alhassan and APC admitted that Mr. Darius Ishaku was duly nominated and sponsored to contest for the Office of the Governor of Taraba state.
Issues 4, 6, and 7 are thus resolved in favor of Mr. Darius Ishaku.
Issue 5 was also settled for Mr. Darius Ishaku because the Tribunal failed to evaluate or review the evidence of the 51 witnesses that Mr. Darius Ishaku called and this amounts to a denial of fair hearing which is very fundamental.
The Court of Appeal also resolved issues 9 and 10 in favor of Mr. Darius Ishaku. The Court of Appeal held that based on Section 140 (2) of the Electoral Act, the Tribunal was wrong to have declared Aisha Alhassan the winner of the election. The case of Aisha Alhassan is wrong because, under Section 140 of the Electoral Act, she did not ask for fresh election across the state assuming without conceding that if her ground of seeking to disqualify Mr. Darius Ishaku had succeeded, the court would have nullified the election and ordered for a fresh election across the state.
Having not asked for a relief of fresh election across the state, the court cannot give her what she never asked for as decided by the Supreme Court in Agbaje Vs INEC ᾲ ors (2015) LPELR-25 651.
The Court of Appeal on the whole, set aside the judgment of the Tribunal in its entirety and made the following important orders:-
- The election and return of Mr. Darius Ishaku as the Governor of Taraba state in the elections of 11th and 25th April 2015 is at this moment upheld and sustained.
- The certificate of return issued to Mr. Darius Ishaku by INEC remains valid.
- The petition of Aisha Alhassan and APC is hereby dismissed in toto.
- There will be no order as to costs.
Going through this it can be clearly seen that all the citations that Aisha and the APC are holding unto varies from their reference of argument. Governor Darius Dickson Ishaku was duly elected according to both the Electoral Act and the Nigerian constitution.
Proof this wrong if you still think that Aisha has a case to appeal to the Supreme Court.