By Abdulazeez Abbah Suleiman

The Nigerian Court of Appeal on Friday, the 17th day of November 2023 made its pronouncement on the Kano State governorship election. The Appeal Court affirmed the position of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition tribunal, which said Abba Kabir Yusuf was not validly elected as the state governor, according to the law. The court also upheld the tribunal’s ruling that Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna was to be returned as the person legally elected as governor. Why did the tribunal upturn the Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC’s) declaration of the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP’s) Yusuf as governor in the first place? There is nothing emotional about this, as it is all about the law. The law demanded that for an election to be valid, voting must be done on a ballot paper, which must be provided by INEC. And the only way to know that a ballot paper on which a voter cast his vote was provided by INEC, such a ballot paper must be dated, stamped, and signed by INEC. The lack of all these makes the ballot paper invalid. 

After the 18th March governorship election, INEC declared that NNPP polled 1,019,602 votes against the APC’s 890,705, to emerge victorious, thereby announcing NNPP’s Abba Kabir Yusuf as the governor. APC however brought before the tribunal evidence that 165, 663 ballot papers did not satisfy the requirements of validity, as they were not signed and stamped. APC demanded their cancellation, and the tribunal obliged it, according to the law. 

The tribunal ordered that the invalid votes be expunged from Yusuf’s scores. Simple arithmetic now placed Gawuna ahead, and the tribunal declared him validly elected. The electoral malpractice that NNPP had thought it had perfected was ripped open and the undeserved gain they had snatched from the malfeasance was retrieved from them. They appealed the judgment of the tribunal, seeking that the Court of Appeal should validate their dishonesty, but the court saw through their veil. Beyond the ballot papers fraud, the Appeal Court was convinced that Abba Kabir Yusuf was, in fact, an interloper in the election. 

He had no business contesting under NNPP, a strange party he was not even a member of, according to the law. Again, the law took its course. No sentiment. In Nigeria, You must be a registered member of a political party before you can contest for an election under the party. This requirement is so sacrosanct that failure to abide by it signals the end of any contestant’s ambition. At the tribunal, the NNPP could not provide any satisfactory answer to the question of its candidate’s lack of qualification to contest. 

The party’s membership register, as of the time the election was held, did not have Abba Kabir Yusuf as a member. It appears that some undemocratic tendencies were employed by the Kwankwasiyya group, to foist their candidate on the NNPP without going through the legally required process of registration. That disregard for internal democracy had returned to haunt them.  In Friday’s judgment, the Court of Appeal applied the law as it is. Abba Kabir Yusuf was not qualified to take part in the election. He was not a member of NNPP. He was dictatorially forced upon the party in such a brazen and conscientious manner that the Court had no hassle in slashing him off. The Court of Appeal entertained four appeals in the matter. 

One from Abba Kabir Yusuf as a person, the second from NNPP as a party, the third from INEC as an umpire, and the fourth in the form of a cross-appeal from APC. In their wisdom, the revered Justices of the Appeal Court dealt with the root first. Was Abba Kabir Yusuf qualified to contest, in the face of definitive evidence that he was not a member of the party under which he purportedly contested? As seen above, he failed to convince the court that he was a registered NNPP member when he used the party platform to contest. It was a slam dunk. Even a layman would not have trouble knowing that he had failed the test. The Appeal Court determined that he was not qualified to contest, and that ended the matter. 

Other issues have suddenly become academic. If he was not qualified to contest, how could he be talking of votes he purportedly won? If he was not qualified to contest, was there any need to even count votes on his behalf? If he was not qualified to contest, does he even have any valid votes? And if he does not have any valid votes, only votes won by those qualified should count, and the contestant with the highest votes cast should be declared the winner. That person, as it stands now, is APC’s Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna. The Court of Appeal has so declared, and if this matter proceeds to the Supreme Court, it is likely to still be determined in the same manner. 

Unnecessary arrogance flowing from some false sense of entitlement would not avail anyone in this case, and neither would any form of uncivilized threat or blackmail against the judiciary. The lesson that must have been learned, albeit in a bitter way, was that democracy is an institution that requires discipline; subvert its fundamental tenets at your peril.  It is beginning to appear that the Kwankawsiyya group and its leaders are aware that the popularity they always claim to enjoy in Kano State is pretentious. 

They really needed to be dishonest to win an election. They tried it in 2019 and again in 2023 but could not get away with it. There is always a trail left by the offender that will lead the law to his apprehension. In Kano State, it is either you are genuinely a good politician or you are just a deceptive grandstander. The elections in 2019 and 2023 have placed everyone where he or she belongs.

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