#GombeTribunal and The Intrigues of Election Petitions By Mohammed Sani
Most men, observed Abraham Lincoln, can survive the extremes of adversity, but to test a man’s true character give him power. Some people demand honour from their fellowmen, and sometimes, by sundry devices, succeed in forcing and enforcing it. Others, who are very rare in their breed and number, naturally command honour, they evoke it, deserve it, and do so because of their profound worthy and abiding contributions to the welfare and happiness of their fellow folks, and greatness of their fatherland.
Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya, the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the April 11, 2015 governorship election in Gombe State, certainly, belongs to this rare breed of mankind.
Acknowledged by many as ‘’a great mobiliser and crowd-puller’’, Alhaji, as fondly called, began his educational career just like other children whose backgrounds have no special reference point. But in just a little time, the gold fish was unable to hide as both his peers and like-minds recognized his talent as a very rare breed to watch out. Armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accountancy from the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, this rare breed has over the years garnered enough experience for leadership positions.
He is also seen by many as quintessence of humility; an apostle of change; a revolutionist of the Aminu Kano school of thought; a disciplinarian in the Ahmadu Bello style of leadership and an ardent believer in the delegation of responsibility for the creation of an incorruptible, efficient, resilient and responsive system.
Yahaya joined the muddy waters of politics and unanimously got the nod of his party, the APC, to contest for the governorship election in Gombe State. Although the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), rightly or wrongly, returned Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as winner in the April 11, 2015 election, Yahaya, and his party, the APC, rejected the results as announced by INEC , alleging massive irregularities and electoral malpractices.
Insisting that the APC scored the highest number of valid votes in the election, the party and its candidate alleged that the results from 11 local government areas in the state were either inconclusive or marred with all sorts of grandiose electoral malpractices.
In a petition filed at the Gombe State Governorship Election Tribunal, Yahaya and his party, the APC, are seeking an order declaring the APC candidate as the winner of the April 11, 2015 Governorship Election having scored the highest number of lawful votes of the total cast in the election.
The petitioners also want an order compelling INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return given to Dankwambo and his party, the PDP as the validly elected Governor of Gombe State. They are also seeking an order compelling INEC to declare the APC candidate as the validly elected Governor of Gombe State in the April 11, 2015 election, or in the alternative, an order nullifying the entire governorship election conducted in Gombe State on April 11, 2015 on the grounds of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2010.
Yahaya and the APC also averred that the April 11, 2015 Governorship Election conducted in Gombe State by INEC was marred by corrupt practices, fraud and outright rigging, alleging that the votes credited to Dankwambo and the PDP in the polling units and wards of Gombe State were invalid on the grounds of corrupt practices, fraud, multiple voting, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing and outright rigging.
However, apparently determined to dispense justice in the petition, the tribunal, at one of its sittings, ordered a forensic examination of documents used during the election.
Justice Mathew Adewara, before his subsequent redeployment, issued the order in response to the request made by the APC for forensic examination of the electoral materials used during the election. He said the tribunal would allow the forensic examination of the document to enable the petitioners have necessary materials for the purpose of the presentation of their petition in the case.
Adewara, however, refused to grant the second request of the petitioners demanding for a recount of votes cast during the elections, citing section 64 of the Electoral Act, which stipulates that counting of votes should be done at the polling units. Appraising the sequence of events at the proceedings of the tribunal so far, the APC and its candidate have expressed confident in winning their case filed before the electoral tribunal.
Malam Adamu Modibbo, the Campaign Secretary for the APC candidate, insisted that the party had 90 per cent chances of winning at the tribunal. “My reasons are, we have everything to prove that we have case, we have started bringing witnesses to testify. “Out of 100 per cent of the witnesses we have, only five per cent testify,” said Modibbo.
He, however, appealed to the APC supporters to be law abiding, noting that the party and its candidate are trying to follow things gradually in to logical conclusion. “I am appealing to you to imbibe the culture of being patient, do not take the law in to your hands, at the end of the day, you will have cause to smile,” he said. According to him, INEC had only partially complied; they did not give the petitioners all the documents needed as ordered by the tribunal. “We paid up to N1 million for the documents but they (INEC) did not release some. “Just like the voters register, it was only yesterday they released for three out of the 11 local government areas of the state.
“Honestly, I do not know how to describe the habit of INEC towards releasing documents.
“If they think they can liaise with PDP to victimise us, I am telling them it will backfire.
“PDP may be the ruling party in Gombe but tomorrow might be APC,” the campaign scribe added.
Counsel to INEC, Yahaya Dandana, however, told journalists in an interview that the commission had already complied with the order to the tribunal and had made available the electoral materials for examination by the petitioners.
According to him, the initial inability by the petitioners to carry out the inspection of the materials as ordered by the tribunal was due to some disagreements among the parties.
Assuring that the problems have been resolved, Dandana says the exercise is ongoing, adding that INEC deserves commendation for releasing the documents. “Sequel to the court order some of the parties were of the opinion that the order when it comes to implementation needs interpretation of the court and for those period that the interpretation was being sought, there was no inspection going on and unfortunately, the petitioners went on addressing the press that the INEC prevented them from carrying the lawful order of the court. ‘’But currently, the inspection is ongoing but the petitioner failed to inform the tribunal that they now have access to the materials and that inspection is ongoing, “Dangana said.
Nonetheless, if the weight of evidence and quality of witnesses presented by the APC and its gubernatorial flag bearer so far is anything to go by, then the chances of the petitioners in getting justice at the tribunal is bright. All in all, however, only the final verdict of the tribunal could determine whether or not INEC is right in returning Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo as the duly elected governor of Gombe State in the April 11, 2015 Governorship Election in the state.
Mohammed Sani writes from Gombe.