Taraba Judgement: Governor Ishaku vows to appeal verdict as 8 are killed in Wukari crisis

At least eight people have been killed, while 30 others sustained injuries in the crisis that erupted in Wukari,Taraba state following the verdict of the State’s Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that nullified the election of Mr Darius Ishaku as governor of Taraba State.

The Police Command in the State said that though the police had not concluded investigation, the crisis may not be unconnected with the ruling of the Tribunal.

That is the latest news from the state which has thrust itself to the fore of our consciousness over the weekend because of a landmark judegment by its governorship tribunal. Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba has vowed to appeal the verdict of the Elections Petitions Tribunal which nullified his election as governor.

The tribunal on Saturday in Abuja quashed the victory of Mr. Ishaku of Peoples Democratic Party’s, PDP, and declared Aisha Alhassan of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as winner of the 2015 governorship election.

Mr. Ishaku, who told a news conference in Jalingo on Saturday that he would appeal the verdict, added that he believed that the Court of Appeal would reverse the judgment and give him back his victory.

The tribunal sacked Darius Ishaku, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, and ordered that the APC candidate, Jummai Alhassan, recently appointed minister by President Muhammadu Buhari, be sworn into office.

Mrs. Alhassan, a former senator, will be Nigeria’s first female governor if Mr. Ishaku fails to challenge the ruling, or loses the appeal.

The three-member tribunal decided that Mr. Ishaku was not validly nominated as candidate of the PDP and therefore did not qualify, from the start, to contest the governorship election.

The tribunal specifically said that the governorship primaries conducted by the PDP in the state was done in violation of section 78 (b) (1)(2) of the Electoral Act which guides parties nomination to the position of governorship candidate.

According to the Tribunal, PDP conducted the “purported” primaries at its national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in Abuja with no clear delegation from the local government areas in the state.

The tribunal agreed with the testimonies of the head of election monitoring of Independent National Electoral Commission that the commission was not aware of any primaries conducted by the party in line with the provision of the electoral act which produced Ishaku as the party’s flag bearer.

Section 78 (b) (1)(2) of the Electoral Act states: In the case of nomination to the position of Governorship candidate, a political party shall where they intend to sponsor candidates:

(i) hold special congress in each of the Local Government Areas of the States with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.

(ii) the aspirant with the highest number of vote at the end of the voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state.

The defence by the PDP that the primaries were shifted to Abuja because of security challenges in the state was rejected by the tribunal.

It accepted the evidence of the INEC official that there was no primaries election in the state and the emergence of Mr. Ishaku through the election in Abuja was after the statutory stipulated time for party primaries had elapsed.

Since Mr. Ishaku was not duly sponsored by the PDP, the party had no candidate in the governorship election in the eyes of the law.

The tribunal therefore voided the votes of the PDP and Mr. Ishaku in the election saying “it is a waste’’ and declared the APC and its candidate, who came second, as the valid winner of the April 11 election.

Reacting to the judgment, counsel to APC, Abiodun Owonikoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the judgment was a landmark being the first time the election of a governor would be nullified on the doctrine of wasted votes.

He said with the judgment, the era of impunity in party primaries was gone and it would be a lesson not only for PDP but all political parties.

On whether Mr. Ishaku will vacate the seat immediately, Mr. Owonikoko said the judgment “is not the end of the road, there is opportunity for all the parties to explore whatever the grievance they have’’.

Mr. Owonikoko added that if the governor or the party did not appeal within 21 days, Ms. Alhassan will be sworn-in as governor. So the Governor…or acting Governor or woever he is by law at this time has 21 days to seek redress. Let’s have words from the lawyers on both sides…

As would be expected, there was a swift and stern reaction from the PDP. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has describes Saturday’s Taraba State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal judgment in favour of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, in the April 11 elections, Mrs Aisha Alhassan as “another evidence of executive interference” in the judiciary.

The party said the reason given by the tribunal for arriving at what it termed “bizarre decision” is intriguing and further exposed the “contradictions and double standards” inherent in most tribunal rulings against PDP interests recently.

PDP national publicity secretary, Mr Olisa Metuh, says the Taraba State tribunal ruling “brought to the fore the organized plan by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC federal government to deploy all unorthodox means to decimate the opposition.”

The PDP also maintains that if the tribunal is faulting the party’s primaries as basis for its decision, it then means that no APC governorship candidate can stand the test, as their party never had acceptable primaries in any of their states.

The party said it was “totally confounded by the brazen show of power” by the executive and warned that the development “clearly spells grave danger to the country’s democracy, national cohesion and development.”

The party called on its members across the country, especially in Taraba State to remain undaunted “as the appellate courts would restore its well-deserved victory.”

It said “evidence that Taraba ruling was a product of Presidency manipulation can be deduced from the fact that few hours before the judgment was delivered, the APC had arrogantly announced their victory on the new media.

“It is rather curious and a great conflict of irony that the Taraba tribunal sitting in Abuja on security grounds faulted the conduct of PDP primaries shifted to the same Abuja on security reasons.”

Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose also had strong words on the development. He released a statement criticizing the outcome of the Taraba Case saying “how does the emergence of party candidate, which is the clear internal business of the party and a pre-election matter concern the APC and the Election Tribunal?

“Isn’t it funny that it is no longer about election rigging, but technicality of how PDP candidates emerged even when no one in the PDP went to court to challenge how Governor Ishaku emerged as the PDP governorship candidate?

On its part, the beneficiariy of this judgement, The All Progressives Congress (APC), has describes Saturday’s judgment as the clearest indication that the PDP has started harvesting what it sowed in its years of impunity and recklessness.

Lai Mohammed, says that the PDP had always been a party of “anything goes”.

According to Mr Mohammed,”it is a matter of time for the party to come to grief, first by tumbling from the pinnacle of power and now by losing, incrementally, whatever remains of its crumbled empire”.

”President Muhammadu Buhari as well as his party, the APC, are strong believers in the rule of law, as against the rule of impunity, hence would never manipulate the judiciary for whatever reason. The PDP is clearly aware of this, but has chosen to blame everyone but itself for the fate that has befallen it.

The party said that “if the PDP is not blaming the judiciary, its favourite whipping boy, it is blaming the APC, the Presidency or even Nigerians for its plight, warning it to stop shifting responsibility.

The APC also stressed that it was not the first time the court had ruled against PDP’s impunity of violating its own constitutional provisions and the Electoral Act, with regards to ensuring internal democracy in the conduct of primary elections.

”The first landmark judgment came from the Supreme Court when it ruled against PDP’s impunity in 2007 and ordered that Rotimi Amaechi be installed as Governor of Rivers instead of Celestine Omehia who was illegally imposed,” it  said.

The party further maintained that the Supreme Court had also ruled against the DP in the case of Ifeanyi Ararume, when the party took his mandate as validly elected Governorship candidate and handed it over to another aspirant.

”It is instructive to note that these judgments took place while the PDP was in control of the Presidency. The opposition parties then, never questioned the integrity of the judiciary by making wild and weighty allegations as the PDP is doing now.”

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