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The Taraba State Governorship Case as it Relates to Recent Decisions of the Supreme Court.

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the State governorship election in Taraba state in which Gov. Darius Ishaku of PDP was returned as the duly elected governor by INEC, Sen. Aisha Alhassan of APC and All Progressive Congress, A.P.C. had approached the Election Petitions Tribunal to challenge the election of Gov. Darius Ishaku of P.D.P.

Sen. Aisha Alhassan and APC predicated their petition on the following grounds viz:-Ishaku-Alhassan-300x225

(a) That the 1st Respondent was at the time of the election not qualified to contest for the Office of Governor of  Taraba State, having not been sponsored by a political party, a condition precedent under the provisions of the   Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 [as amended]

(b) That the election and return of Gov. Darius was invalid by reason of substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and approved guidelines and Regulations for the Conduct of 2015 General Elections, and Manual for Election Officials 2015 which non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election.

(c) That the election and return of Gov. Darius was invalid by reason of corrupt practices which vitiated the election.

(d) That contrary to result declared by INEC, the governor indeed won majority of lawful votes cast and satisfied the mandatory constitutional threshold and spread across the Local Government Areas of Taraba State and ought to have been declared winner and returned as the duty elected Governor of Taraba State at the 11th April and 25th April 2015 election.

Curiously and contrary to Sen. Aisha Alhassan’s ground ‘A’ she pleaded in paragraph 3 and 4 of her petition thus:-

Para 3:- The 1st Respondent (Arc. Darius Ishaku) is a member of the Peoples Democratic Party and was its candidate in the Taraba State Governorship held on the 11th and 26th April, 2015.
Para 4:- The 2nd Respondent (P.D.P) is a duly registered political party and sponsored the 1st Respondent (Arc. Darius Ishaku).

On the strength of the pleadings and evidence of the parties before the Tribunal, the Tribunal made findings of facts that Sen. Aisha Alhassan and A.P.C. were unable to establish electoral irregularities or over voting and accordingly could not sustain the other three grounds in Sen. Aisha Alhassan’s petition.

However, against established principles of Law, the Tribunal hinged its decision on Sen. Aisha Alhassan’s ground ‘A’ which had to do with party Primaries which is purely a domestic or internal affair of a political party immune from third or non-party member interference. The judgment of the Tribunal was widely condemned and was eventually set aside by the Court of Appeal on 31st December 2015.
In setting aside the Tribunal judgment, Justice Abdu Aboki held inter-alia:

“I am of the view that from all 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 the Appellant (Arc. Darius Ishaku) to the 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) of the 1999 Constitution which provides
177 “…..A person shall be qualified for election of the office of the governor of a state if:

(a)………………………………………………

(b)……………………………………………..

(c) He is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.

(d)…………………………………………….

Section 182 of the 1999 Constitution deals with factors that disqualifies a person from contesting for the office of a Governor. None of those factors are present in the instant case under review. The Court of Appeal relied on various decisions of the Supreme Court including the cases of Sen. Julius Uche vs Dr. Emmanuel Onuwe (2011) 417 NWLR (Pt.1275) at 60, where the Court stated that:

“The nomination of a candidate to contest 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 an election.”

See also Gwede vs INEC (2014) 18 NWLR (pt. 1438) 56 at 93 per Onnoghen JSC.

ZAMFARA CASE
Similarly, in the recent Supreme Court judgment delivered on 8th January,
2016 in the case of Mahmud Shinkafi vs Abdulazeez Yari (unreported) SC.907/2015, the Supreme Court stated that by the provision of section 87(9) of the Electoral Act , only one person has locus standi to challenge the nomination of a candidate for an election.

The court held inter-alia…
“Only an ASPIRANT at the primary election is permitted by section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, 2010 to challenge the selection or nomination of a person for an elective office. Apart from an aspirant who took part in the primary election no other person is authorized to file an action to challenge the selection or nomination of a candidate by a political party for an election”.

In giving this decision the Supreme Court relied on its earlier decision in Daniel vs. INEC (2015) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1463) 113 at 155.

The Supreme Court held further that where a party have not breached any of the provisions of section 177 of the 1999 Constitutions and is not also affected by any of the provisions in section 182 (1) of the 1999 Constitution, then such a person  eminently qualifies to contest an election into the office of the governor of a state. Section 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act cannot disqualify him.

BENUE CASE
Again on this vexed issue of nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for an election by his political party, the Supreme Court on January, 2016 in the case between Prince Terhemen Tarzoor Vs Ortom Samuel (unreported) SC 928/2015 held that party Primaries are domestic affairs of the political party.

Justice Sylvester Ngwuta held interalia;
…….”Primary elections are in-house matters of a political party. A non-member of the party has no locus to raise the issue and no member of the party who was not an ASPIRANT can raise the issue. See section 87 (9) (a) of the Electoral Act, 2010″…….

The Court also relied on its decision in Daniel vs. INEC (supra) and the Zamfara case of Mahmud Shinkafi vs. Abdulazeez YAri (supra).

The Supreme Court held further that the proper venue to challenge party primaries by virtue of section 87 of the Electoral Act is the state High Court, Federal High Court or FCT High Court.

The Court stated further that the P.D.P member has no locus standi to challenge the due nomination and sponsorship of the APC candidate since he is not a member of APC and party primaries are domestic affairs of the party.

The Supreme Court described the candidate as a meddlesome interloper who, having assumed the role of hired mourner, is crying more than the bereaved.
Sen. Aisha Alhassan of APC and APC have approached the Supreme Court to challenge the due nomination and sponsorship of Gov. Darius Ishaku of the relevant sections of the Electoral Act 2010 and the Supreme Court decision; the million dollar questions that provoke the mind.

  1. Does Sen. Aisha Alhassan and APC have the requisite locus standi to challenge the nomination and sponsorship of Gov. Darius Ishaku by his party, PDP?
  2. Is Sen. Aisha Alhassan a member of PDP?
  3. Was Sen. Aisha Alhassan an ASPIRANT in the PDP primaries that produced Gov. Darius Ishaku as the PDP flag bearer?
  4. Can Sen. Aisha Alhassan’s appeal change the age long established decisions of the Supreme Court from Onouha Vs Okafor in 1983 to
    Prince Terhemen Tarzoor vs. Ortom Samuel in 2016?                                                                                                                                       The current administration of Gov. Darius Dickson Ishaku and Engr. Haruna Manu have succeeded in restoring peace across Taraba state with the result that the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are returning to their homes.Tarabans are hopeful that the Supreme Court will do Justice in the Taraba State Governorship case the way it did in Onuaha Vs.Okafor in 1983, Daniel
    Vs. INEC in 2015 and most recently in Zamfara and Benue States cases.
    God bless Taraba State and Nigeria.

By Nierus Johnson ESQ
Dickens Daye ESQ

 

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