The Legal Consequences of the Death of Prince Abubukar Audu and the Governorship Election in Kogi State
By Okoi Obono-Obla
The Governorship election in Kogi State was held on Saturday the 22nd November 2015 and at the end of the election the candidate of the All Progressives Congress Prince Abubukar Audu had won in 16 Local Government Areas and was leading in the total number number of valid votes cast in the election. However, the Independent National Electoral Commission declared the election inconclusive and ordered supplementary election to be held in a date to be announced in due course.
According to INEC the reason for declaring the election inconclusive was because the differences in the votes scored by two leading candidates in the election was less than votes expected in some areas where election was cancelled. While Nigerians were waiting when INEC would fixed the date of the election the unexpected happened. The authoritative online news agency, Sahara Reporters in a breaking news this evening announced the death of Prince Audu. The pertinent question is what become of the election that was held on the 22nd November 2015 in view of the death of Prince Audu? It is submitted that the death of Prince Audu has rendered the Kogi State Governorship election held on the 22nd November 2015 but which was declared inconclusive null and void. It has ipso facto also rendered the supplementary election which INEC had announced would be conducted to determine the winner of the election held on the 22nd November 2015 otiose. It would have been otherwise if Prince Audu had been declared the winner before his death. In such a circumstance, the Deputy Governor elect would have naturally stepped into the shoe of the deceased Governor elect.
A similar scenario happened in 1999 when the then President candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olusegun Obsanjo nominated Adamawa State Governor elect, Alhaji Atiku Abubukar his Vice President running mate. This caused INEC to announced a date for the holding of another governorship election in the Adamawa State. However the Deputy Governor elect of the State,Mr Boni Haruna filed a suit in the Federal High Court challenging the legality of the decision of INEC to order another election in Adamawa State. He contended that since he was the Deputy Governor elect he should be sworn into office as Governor in the absence of the Governor elect, Alhaji Atiku Abubukar. The Federal High Court found in favour of the Plaintiff, Boni Haruna . On appeal the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the Federal High Court. On further appeal to the Supreme Court by INEC, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and up held the judgments of both the Federal High Court and the Court of Appeal in favour of Boni Haruna who was eventually sworn into office as Governor of Adamawa State and remained so till 2007.
Section 36 subsection 1 of the Electoral Act, 2010 ( as amended) provide thus : “Section 36 subsection 1 of Electoral Act,2010 (as amended) provide thus: if after the time for the delivery of nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll a nominated candidate the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or the Resident Electoral Commissioner shall being satisfied , countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days “.
So it follows that INEC would give APC to substitute the name of its deceased candidate, Prince Abubukar Audu for another person. Section 33 of the Electoral Act (supra) provide thus : “Section 33 :” A political party shall not be allowed to change or substituted its candidate whose name has been submitted pursuant to section 32 of this Act except in the case of death or withdrawal by the candidate” .
All in all, the legal consequences of the unfortunate death of Prince Abubukar Audu of the APC is that INEC has to hold a fresh election in respect of the office of the Governor of Kogi State of Nigeria.