By Bello Idris Galadi Esq
The APC Primaries in Zamfara State with respect to gubernatorial, senatorial,House of Representatives and Houses of Assembly respectively were originallyscheduled to hold Monday, 1st October, 2018. The APC NWC dispatched a delegation under the leadership of Dr. Abubakar A. Fari to carry out the exercise.The election couldn’t hold on the stipulated date on the ground that electoral materials were not readily available and the delegation arrived the state late. It was adjourned to Tuesday, 2nd October, 2018. Just like Monday, there was no election on the Tuesday, this time around the governor threatened to boycott the election.On the same date, the Executive Governor of Zamfara State announced that the next day, being Wednesday, 3rd October, 2018 as the new date of the primary election in the state and ordered for restriction of movement. The election couldn’t hold as scheduled. There were attacks on innocent voters who came out to vote which resulted in loss of lives and casualties. It was based on this negative development that the leader of the NWC Delegation declared the election inconclusive and left the state unfulfilled. Aggrieved by the judgement of the leader of the delegation, the Executive Governor announced that he was going to continue with the election the next day even in spite of the absence of the delegation, which he did. As much as expected, all his candidates emerged winners including himself and the son of his political mentor. The result of that election was rejected by the APC NWC and set a newdate for fresh primaries, being Saturday, 6th October, 2018.The governor mobilized his supporters for a protest against the nomination of Dr.Abubakar A. Fari to lead the APC NWC delegation for the rescheduled exercise which made APC changed its mind to substitute him with a Retired Maj. Gen. The General arrived the state capital on Saturday, 6th October, 2018 in the evening and convened a pre- election meeting which was attended by all the nine gubernatorial candidates, security agents, media and other stakeholders. The meeting ended at about 4 am the next day at deadlock as there was no consensus asto the pattern to adopt in the election, either direct or indirect. There were attacks and counter-attacks during the meeting. At about 7:03 Pm on Sunday, 7th October, 2018, the governor announced over the media that based on the fact that there was no consensus amongst the candidates and looking at the limited time left to them, barely less than five hours at that time to the closure of primaries and resolution of disputes arising therefrom, in line with the INEC Timetable, he ordered his supporters to proceed with their primaries. Few hours after that, the governor announced over the media that the primary election was successful and congratulated his candidates. Few minutes afterwards, the Leader of the APC NWC Delegation countered the governor and announced that there was neither primary election in the state nor consensus. That view was supported by Marafa. On the 9th October, 2018, INEC wrote APC, intimating it that it should not contemplate forwarding any candidate from Zamfara State since there was no primary election there. INEC relied on Sections 31 and 87 of the Electoral Act,(2010 as amended).
On the 10th October, 2018, APC replied INEC, suggesting that it was still within time to submit its candidates from Zamfara State. It further argued that there was consensus amongst the candidates within the spirit of the Electoral Act.
Now, having studied the varied opinions on this subject, I ask myself questions like:
i- Does INEC have the right to estop APC from fielding candidates on the ground that the APC could not carry out primary election within the time allowed by the INEC Timetable? In my candid opinion, INEC Timetable
and Guideline derived their origin under Section 73 of the Electoral Act.They are not laws by whatever definition and cannot supersede the Electoral Act that stipulates under Section 31(1) that political parties have at least 60 days to the general election within which to submit the names of their candidates. Assuming that this ground was the sole ground upon which the INEC estopped APC from fielding candidates, my opinion would have been that the APC is entitled to an extension of time to be able to put its house in order. Section 38 of the Electoral Act provides that where at the close of nomination, there is no candidate validly nominated, the Commission shall extend the time for nomination and fix a new date for the election. The only option available to APC is to go to court. If it opts to go to court, it faces a double- faceted challenge: one, no matter the acceleration in the trial and appeals, it will hardly be determined and concluded 60 days to the election.Two, no matter the extension of time that may be granted by the court, there can hardly be truce amongst the contestants, majorly between the governor’s camp and the G8 and among the G8 themselves. The only option perhaps is to conduct a fresh primaries which the governor will never allow, because he is sure the result will never favour him; and
ii- Was INEC right in relying on Section 87 of the Electoral Act to disqualify APC from fielding candidates at the election? Section 87(1) of the Electoral Act stipulates that a political party seeking to nominate candidates for elections shall hold primaries for all the aspirants. Section 87(2) further states that the procedure for nomination of candidates by political parties for the various elective positions shall be by direct or indirect primaries. APC’s claim that there was consensus is flawed because, how could there be consensus when the other contenders are still alive to testify to the contrary?Few days ago, a leading contender, Sen. Kabir Marafa debunked the APC’s assertion that there was consensus and he is poised to challenge it anywhere
anytime. What are the terms of the consensus? Who and who signed the agreement? Assuming without conceding that there was indeed a consensus, it still will not stand because consensus is not recognized under the Electoral Act. The provision for consensus in the APC Constitution is in conflict with the Electoral Act, in which case, the Electoral Act prevails. In my opinion, INEC was right to have invoked Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act that provides that any political party that fails to comply with the procedure enumerated under Section 87(1),(2),(3),(4),(a),(i),(ii),(iii),(b),(i),(ii),(c),(i),(ii),(d),(i),(ii),(5),(6),(7) and (8) respectively, in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate for election shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue. In essence, I align myself with the INEC and opine that the APC is disqualified and, at the moment, stands disqualified to submit candidates from Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections. The fight now is between INEC and APC. We are waiting to see how APC will convince the world that there was indeed consensus when the whole world is aware that there was none. We wait to see how much the INEC will preserve its integrity and respect; withstand the APC’s empty threats, to side with the truth and rule of law.
Logically, the whole issue is part of God’s intervention, the Almighty God of Gen.Sani Abacha. The last time people faced this quagmire was in 1998 when Gen. Abacha was the President of Nigeria. There was a lot of tension and confusion throughout the country. Nigerians were opposed to his ‘Tazarce’ project but were afraid to tell him. Almighty God intervened by touching his mind to believe that prayer was the only option. He convened a national prayer for the good of the nation. People prayed, God answered because He answers the prayers of the oppressed. Few days later, Abacha died, followed by Abiola. In a small time, the road was smooth for the actual democracy. The same Almighty God that intervened in that fracas is the same God the people of Zamfara prayed to when they were attacked, killed, orphaned, oppressed, misgoverned and misjudged. This is only logical and not law.
Galadi is a Private Legal Practitioner based in Gusau and he is the President of Bello Galadi Foundation.
By Bello Idris Galadi Esq