KOGI, SEPTEMBER 20, 2016 – The supreme court has upheld the status of Yahaya Bello as governor of Kogi state.In a unanimous judgement delivered in Abuja on Tuesday, the court dismissed the claim of James Faleke that he was the rightful candidate for the position.
Faleke was the running mate to the late Abubakar Audu who died before the November 2015 Kogi governorship election was concluded.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) had replaced the late Audu with Bello, who placed second in the party’s governorship primary. But Faleke challenged the party’s decision in court, saying he was the right candidate the party should have picked having participated in the election.
The case, having gotten to the appellate court, was dismissed on the basis of Section 221 of the Nigerian constitution, which states that only a political party could canvass votes — not individuals.
Jummai Sankey, the judge, said Faleke joined the late Audu after the APC primary had been conducted, but Bello participated and was the second runner-up in the election.
Dissatisfied with the judgement, Faleke asked his lawyers to head to the supreme court to appeal the verdict of the appellate court. He alleged that some highly placed government officials were “exerting pressure on judges.”
Making arguments in different appeals at the apex court on Tuesday, Joseph Daudu, counsel to Bello, said Faleke, the appellant had failed to prove his grounds of his appeal right from the tribunal.
He said that Faleke based his arguments on Section 141 of the Nigeria electoral act, which states that the tribunal may not declare a candidate who has not fully participated in the said election, but this was irrelevant.
“Upon the death of Audu, the party (APC) informed INEC and INEC invited the party to substitute the late candidate who was the second runner-up,” Daudu said. “What could be fairer than that?”
Alex Iziyon, counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said the findings of the two lower courts, which stated that it was the party that had the votes in an election and not a candidate, had not been faulted by Faleke.
“There’s no appeal to the findings. Faleke did not withdraw his deputy candidature; he only wrote a letter to INEC saying he is the governor. His return certificate was there but he didn’t collect it,” Iziyon said.
“The findings of the lower courts were right, so I urge your lordship to dismiss the appeal.”
Wole Olanipekun, counsel to Faleke, maintained that Bello did not participate in the election and was not the right candidate for the governorship position.
Oba Madubuchi, counsel of Idris Wada, former Kogi state governor and contestant for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 November governorship election, again urged the court to order a fresh election.
“APC cannot connive with INEC to impose a candidate on a people. They made a choice but the choice died,” he said.
“The Kogi people have a right to choose again their choice. A candidate is important in an election. I urge your lordship to order fresh election.”
But Sankey, in a unanimous judgement on behalf of the seven-man panel of judges, held that: “Having listened to learned counsels in their respective briefs, I hereby hold that the appeal lacks merit. The judgment of the lower court on 4th August 2016, and the judgement of the tribunal, is hereby affirmed.”
Also dismissed was the application by Wada for the court to order a fresh election.
The court picked September 30 as the date when it would explain how it arrived at the judgement.