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Hundreds of supporters of Kogi
State Governor, Yahaya Bello, and burst into wild jubilation on Tuesday in
Abuja after the Supreme Court upheld the election of Bello as the governor of
Kogi State.

The apex court’s judgment therefore
ended the controversies created by the death of the Kogi State governorship
candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the November 2015 poll, Prince
Abubakar Audu, after the former governor had established a commanding lead over
the then incumbent, Capt Idris Wada (retd.), of the People’s Democratic Party.

The apex court, in unanimous
judgments in four separate appeals, agreed that Bello was properly substituted
to replace Audu as the candidate of the APC in the governorship election on
November 21 and the supplementary poll held on December 5, 2015.

In the first appeal filed by a
member of the House of Representatives and APC deputy governorship candidate,
James Faleke, the court dismissed the case for lack of merit.

Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, in the
judgment, disagreed with arguments made by counsel for Faleke, Chief Wole
Olanipekun (SAN), on Bello’s emergence as a replacement for Audu, but fixed
Friday, September 30, 2016, to give reasons for the decision of the apex court.

In the judgment on the second
appeal, filed by the immediate past governor of the state, Wada, delivered by
Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, the court also dismissed the appeal for lacking in
merit and substance.

The court equally refused to order
a fresh governorship election in the state as canvassed by the appellant.

The Supreme Court held that Section
141 of the Electoral Act 2010, relied upon by the ex-governor to seek a fresh
conduct of the election, was no longer a law in Nigeria, having been set aside
in 2011 by a Federal High Court in a matter between the Labour Party, the
Attorney General of the Federation and the Independent National Electoral
Commission.

In two other appeals, filed by
African Democratic Congress and LP, the apex court, in a similar way, dismissed
them for lacking in merit.

While Justice John Okoro, who
delivered judgment in the appeal filed by ADC, held that the appeal lacked
merit, Justice Musa Mohammed, upheld the preliminary objection of Bello against
the LP’s appeal and struck out the appeal on the ground of incompetence.

The apex court upheld the
concurrent findings of the Court of Appeal delivered on August 4, 2016, and
that of the state governorship Election Petitions Tribunal delivered on June 6,
2016.

The Supreme Court fixed September
30, 2016, as the date to give reasons for the four judgments.

Olanipekun, who stood for Faleke,
had earlier in his oral submission, urged the court to invoke Section 187 of
the constitution to declare his client the winner of the election on the
combined effect of his joint ticket with the late Audu because the election had
been technically concluded at the time Audu died.

He said INEC did not declare the
election inconclusive following the death of Audu, adding that as of November
23, INEC said it was not aware that Audu was dead.

“We want to submit that the
constitution is not subject to the nuances of anybody, including INEC; the
commission doesn’t have any constitutional discretion to announce results. If
it does, INEC will set the country on crisis,” he stated.

Wada, in his submission by Chris
Uche (SAN), had urged the court to invoke Section 141 of the Electoral Act
against Bello’s declaration as the winner of the election on the grounds that
he (Bello) did not participate in the stages of the election.

According to him, the circumstances
of the case had led to a legal conundrum, which led to the interpretation by
the Supreme Court.

Uche said, “This is the first time
a candidate will die before the declaration of results. This is the first time
someone will be sworn in as a governor without participating in all the stages
of an election. This is the first time a candidate of an election would be
inheriting the vote of a dead candidate.

“Electoral votes are not
inheritable commodities. There are nemeses in the judgment of the lower court.
It was wrong for the first respondent to be returned. The political conundrum
in Kogi State would have been avoided if INEC had called for fresh election for
the people of the state to choose their governor instead of allowing a man, who
didn’t have up to five per cent of the votes, to be declared governor.

“Yahaya Bello was a stranger and
became an illegal occupant and that is the reason why he shouldn’t be there.”

Alex Izinyon (SAN), representing
INEC, had said the issues at the lower courts were very narrow, adding that the
appellant (Faleke) and the second respondent were members of the same political
party.

He said, “The election was declared
inconclusive not because of the death of Audu but because of the 91 polling
units that were in dispute. It was thereafter that the death of Audu came in.

“The declaration has not been made
by INEC. So, how does the appellant (Faleke) get the source of his claim? If it
is done so, there will be anarchy because everybody will declare himself
elected.

“There should be no
self-declaration, he wrote a letter to INEC. It is the party, APC that should
be written to. We know what happened when somebody declared himself elected
during the June 12, 1993 presidential election.

“I urge the court to dismiss the appeal
because it lacks merit.”

In his submission, Joseph Daudu
(SAN), representing Bello, adopted what he described as “the very eloquent
argument of Izinyon for the first respondent (INEC).”

He said, “I humbly urge that the
appeal (by Faleke) should be dismissed because it lacks merit. Declaring the
appellant governor will lead to anarchy. The appellant has to rely on a
document in which INEC has to declare somebody winner. There was no
declaration. Section 192 of the constitution has not matured and cannot be
invoked.

“As things stand, the appellant’s
claim to governorship is inchoate. The appellant has not disputed why INEC
declared the election inconclusive. I urge your Lordship to dismiss the
appellant’s case for lacking in merit.”

Meanwhile, Bello said on Tuesday
that the decision of the Supreme Court, affirming his election, “has long been
settled in heaven.”

He also called on key political
actors in Kogi State, including ex-governor Wada and Faleke, to join him in
rebuilding the state.

Speaking on Tuesday with
journalists at the Kogi State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro in Abuja, the governor
said he would take tough measures to restore the state to its former glory.

He said, “The decision of the
Supreme Court has long been settled in heaven, the Supreme Court just affirmed
it. I thank my great party, the All Progressives Congress, for giving me the
opportunity to serve. I also thank President Muhammadu Buhari, the best
President in the world, for being on the path of truth and equity. I will
fulfil the great vision of late Abubakar Audu because his spirit is alive.

“I appreciate the Supreme Court for
asserting its independence. I call on all Kogites, especially Idris Wada and
James Faleke, to assist me in rebuilding Kogi State, which has bled enough
since its creation 25 years ago. God has saddled me with the responsibility.

“Tough decisions will be taken to
bring back the state to the right path. Please support me and I call on the
restive ones to drop their violence because it will not take them anywhere. We
should all join hands with the President to build Nigeria.’’

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