Kogi: APC Faces Major Dilemma over Absence of Running Mate
- Misses deadline for Faleke’s substitution
- Faleke sues INEC, court to decide on Wada’s, other cases Friday
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Senator Iroegbu in Abuja the
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is pr esentgly faced with yet another constitutional dilemma over the absence of a deputy governorship candidate who will replace Mr. James Faleke to contest with its substitute governorship candidate, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, in the Kogi governorship supplementary election on Saturday.
Faleke was chosen to run with Bello by the party on Monday but rejected the position, insisting that he was the governor-elect following the collation of results in the Kogi poll and death of the party’s candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Audu.
He formally wrote the party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday rejecting the post of running mate, effectively jeopardising APC’s candidacy in the Kogi election.
The bigger dilemma is that the party did not immediately substitute Faleke for the supplementary poll before yesterday’s deadline given by INEC for the substitution of the late Audu, a requirement clearly spelt out in the constitution.
Section 187(1) of the constitution states: “In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this part of this Chapter, 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.”
Elaborating on the issue, foremost human rights lawyer and activist, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), said he deemed the supplementary election, in the first instance, illegal.
According to him, INEC had no power to declare the Kogi election inconclusive since the constitutional requirement of polling 25 per cent in two-thirds of the local government areas in the state had been met, and a clear lead had already been established by the Audu-Faleke ticket.
He held that INEC should have declared Faleke the governor-elect, as was the case in the Atiku Abubakar case when he relinquished his post as the governor-elect in Adamawa State in 1999.
He further held that Bello could not assume the votes that he never contested for, as these were cast in favour of Audu and Faleke.
With respect to APC fielding a candidate without a running mate for the supplementary poll on Saturday, he said: “What we have is an incomplete nomination, that makes it illegal. The constitution is very clear on the requirements for the nomination of a governorship candidate. The absence of a running mate invalidates the nomination.”
By yesterday, APC was expected to have closed the door on the submission of names of its substitute governorship candidate and his deputy to INEC, but THISDAY gathered that the position of a running mate remained unresolved following Faleke’s withdrawal from the contest.
Following the failure of the meeting convened by the party’s leadership in Abuja on Monday to reach a détente with Faleke, the party is now left in a dilemma over what to do given that deadline for the submission of names to INEC expired tuesday.
Shortly after the three-hour reconciliatory talks at the APC national secretariat, Faleke told journalists that he would not accept the decision to field him as deputy governorship candidate for the supplementary election.
The party had worked on the basis that the only issue it had to resolve was a replacement for Audu and did not anticipate that Faleke would opt out of the arrangement.
When contacted, a party chieftain, who was at a campaign rally in Bayelsa ahead of the governorship election in the state on Saturday, said as far as the party was concerned, it had fielded a substitute governorship candidate and a running mate.
The party chieftain, who preferred not to be named, said: “Yes, we are in receipt of the letters written by Faleke to the party and INEC. But we deemed that a complaint and not an outright withdrawal from the supplementary election.
“Let us see if he maintains that position after the supplementary election, then we shall cross that bridge when we get there. But as far as we are concerned, we have a valid nomination for the election in Kogi on Saturday.”
However, an INEC lawyer confirmed that APC might have a problem on its hands.
The official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “If he (Faleke) has actually withdrawn from the race, then indeed there is a new twist to the race, because it will invalidate APC’s nomination for the supplementary poll.
“Effectively, APC could win the election by popular vote but lose the election on a technicality backed by the constitution.”
Meanwhile, in furtherance of his objective to be declared the duly elected governor of Kogi State, Faleke tuesday filed a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja, asking the court to declare him the governor-elect of the state.
In the suit filed by his counsel, Mr. Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Faleke, a serving member of the House of Representatives, said contrary to the claim by the electoral body, the election was conclusive and that as running mate to Audu, he should be declared winner.
The court papers seeking 16 reliefs from the court were served on INEC yesterday afternoon, Faleke confirmed.
The deputy governorship candidate had written INEC last week, insisting that he was the governor-elect following Audu’s death.
He asked the commission not to go ahead with the supplementary election.
According to the result declared by INEC, Audu had the highest number of votes thus leading 21 other candidates, including the incumbent governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada, who is the standard-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In a related development, the Federal High Court also in Abuja has fixed Friday to determine whether or not INEC should go ahead with the planned supplementary governorship election in Kogi State.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole, who heard four separate suits challenging the legality of the scheduled run-off poll, said there was need for the court to take a position on the matter “so that INEC will not conduct the election under a grave shadow of doubt as to the legal or constitutional validity”.
Justice Kolawole consolidated the four suits, even as he persuaded lawyers to the various plaintiffs to distill out three central issues for the court to determine.
The first suit was lodged before the court by the Kogi State governor, the second suit was filed by the governorship candidate of the People for Democratic Change (PDC), Hon. Emmanuel Daikwo, the third suit was filed by a legal practitioner, Mr. Johnson Usman, while the fourth suit was filed by two plaintiffs, a member representing Ahiazu Ezinaehitte Mbaise Federal Constituency of Imo State at the National Assembly, Hon. Rafael Igbokwe and Mr. Stephen Wada Omaye from Omala Local Government Area in Kogi State.
Even though Wada had in his originating summons, prayed the court to declare him winner of the November 21 governorship election, the other plaintiffs sought for the nullification of the election, as well as an order compelling INEC to conduct a fresh poll.
But sequel to the directive of the court, all the plaintiffs, led by Mr. Goddy Uche (SAN), narrowed the three issues for determination to: “Whether having regard to the provisions of sections 31(1)(2)(4)(5)(6)(7) and (8), 33, 34, 36, 85 and 87 of the Electoral Act, 2010, as amended, as well as sections 178-181 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended, INEC can lawfully conduct a second/supplementary election into the office of Governor of Kogi State on December 5, 2015, or any other date at all, let alone accepting the nomination/substitution by the APC of any candidate on the basis of votes computed and credited to the deceased candidate of the APC when the new or substitute candidate was not part of the original election.”
Before he adjourned the case to Thursday for all the parties to adopt their final addresses, Justice Kolawole warned the lawyers to limit themselves to issues of the law.
He stressed that since the substantive facts of the matter with regard to the death of Audu was not in dispute, “counsel should therefore be moderate, brief and concise in their addresses by limiting argument to the three issues distilled from the four originating summons listed on the cause list”.
“This is because time is of the essence, as the court has to consider all the issues and deliver its judgment on Friday. The addresses should not be more than 10 pages and maximum of 15 pages. This case is hereby adjourned to December 3 for adoption of addresses.
“Counsels are to file and exchange their addresses within 48 hours,” Justice Kolawole ruled.