Since the tribunal declared Aisha Jummai Hassan the duly elected Governor of Taraba State ahead of Darius Ishaku who the tribunal held was not duly elected a candidate of the PDP, I did not see a copy of the judgment until some hours ago.
The tribunal declared the candidate of the APC the governor of Taraba State on the grounds that the PDP candidate was not duly elected such in a valid primaries supervised by INEC. An INEC official testified that when he went to Jalingo to supervise the PDP primaries, he found no one on ground.
At first glance this looks like a sound judgment and a nunc demittis to the rascality of political parties in foisting candidates on us and treating party primaries like their personal picnics. We are all tired of this jamboree. We should all say “serve the PDP right” and sit down. But wait.
Maybe someone is trying to exploit this our angst and “tiredness”. What if a judicial vandalism of our laws is being committed to cure a political rascality? I can’t say that; but what if? Let’s begin by stating the reason given by the PDP for holding their primaries in Abuja: security. The tribunal didn’t buy that, but interestingly, the tribunal sat in Abuja, instead of Jalingo, for the same reason.
It is my considered opinion that party primaries are pre-election matters clearly out of the scope of the tribunal. The tribunal must have reasoned that Governor Darius was not qualified to contest the election by the virtue of section 138(1) (a) of the Electoral Act which states “An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds that is to say: that a person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.”
Assuming without conceding that the qualification being referred to in section 138 supra includes being duly elected during primaries can Darius Ishaku be said not to have been duly elected just because the primaries didn’t hold in Jalingo? And assuming again without conceding that Darius is not qualified to contest the election is declaring the APC candidate the legal thing to do?
Let’s turn to section 140 of the Electoral Act to be guided: “(1) Subject to subsection (2) of this section, if the Tribunal or the Court as the case may be, determines that a candidate who was returned as elected was not validly elected on any ground, the Tribunal or the Court shall nullify the election. (2) Where an election tribunal or court nullifies an election on the ground that the person who obtained the highest votes at the election was not qualified to contest the election, the election tribunal or court shall not declare the person with the second highest votes as elected, but shall order a fresh election.”
Read this section 140 again and then wonder with me where the tribunal got the legal justification to declare the APC candidate the outright winner of the Taraba gubernatorial election after holding that Darius Ishaku was not qualified to contest.
I agree that the rascality in our political ecosystem is odious but we should be careful not to exchange one rascality with another. You cannot vandalize the law to force people to keep the laws. Let’s be careful before we enthrone disaster in place of madness.
First Baba Isa (FBI) writes from Abuja