Palpable tension and uncertainty have now pervaded the political environment of Adamawa state especially among PDP and ACN supporters as the governorship election petition tribunal will today deliver judgment on the disputed governorship election in the state. Muazu Abari highlights some of the controversial issues that characterized the proceedings since the commencement of the case and predicts the possible outcome of the judgment.
Governor Murtala Nyako of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and Engr Markus Gundiri are the two major contenders in the recent gubernatorial election in Adamawa state which was announced to be in favour of the PDP when the duo decided to flex their political muscles and battle each other to a coma in their quest to the Dougerei government house Yola. No one ever envisaged that the battle will be characterized by so much tension, controversy and polarization along primordial sentiments contrary to the long political tradition of peaceful election which the state was known for, neither has anyone predicted that this clash will transcend beyond the political battlefield.
Governor Nyako is not new to legal controversies and the ongoing legal tussle challenging his victory is seen in many quarters especially among his supporters as a continuation of the many legal battles he has been waging since his sojourn into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. Most analysts believe that Nyako has seen the good, the bad and the ugly sides of the Nigerian judiciary both as a beneficiary of their benevolent and victim of their onslaught.
It will be recalled that his first political battle outing ended up in a legal battle when after winning the gubernatorial election in 2007, his main opponent in the election Alh Ibrahim Bapetel of the then AC dragged him to court where his victory was annulled but he succeeded to bounce back to the Adamawa government house in the re-run election that was conducted after the annulment.
Similarly, towards the 2011 election, Nyako again found himself in a centre of another legal controversy when him and his other governors colleagues dragged the Prof Jega led INEC to court over the electoral body’s decision to conduct governorship elections in all the 36 states of the federation including their respective states. That issue was raised on the grounds that their tenure cannot end at the same time with others due to the re-run election that was conducted in their respective states where they took a fresh oath of office which they believed should be the commencement of their tenure not when they were first elected as believed by INEC but the court ruled in their favour. This judgment was later challenged at both the appeal and Supreme Court upturned the judgment of the previous courts by sacking them from office shortly before the expiration of their extended tenure.
When the 2012 gubernatorial election was finally conducted in the state, Nyako against all odds re-emerged as the winner of the election to begin his second tenure but his victory dance has been obstructed once again by his arch rival in the election, Engr Markus Gundiri of the ACN, who dragged him to the election tribunal challenging his declaration as the winner of the January 14th gubernatorial election in Adamawa.
Expectedly, after prolong legal arguments and presentations of fact and evidences by the counsels to all parties in the dispute the governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Yola, the Adamawa state capital presided over by justice Bitrus Sanga will today, Wednesday 25th July, 2012 deliver a judgment in a suit filed by Engr Markus Gundiri, the ACN candidate in the last governorship election in Adamawa challenging Nyako’s declaration the winner of the 2012 guber polls in the state.
Engr Markus Gundiri of the ACN is specifically challenging the election result in 11 local government areas of the state which includes Fufore, Maiha, Mayo-Belwa, Yola North, Yola South, Gireir, Madagali, Mubi North, Toungi, Numan and Demsa local government councils mostly believed to be a stronghold of the ruling PDP in the state, falsification of the of figures among other forms of malpractices was carried out by the PDP in the affected areas while on their part, the PDP believed that they have won under a peaceful atmosphere devoid of rancor and in substantive compliance with the political act and other relevant rules guiding election conduct contrary to ACN position.
At the preliminary hearing of the case which took place on the March 30th, 2012 two motions were raised, debated and determined by the tribunal. The first motion was raised by the counsels to Governor Nyako led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN) who urged the tribunal to struck out the case on the ground that the tribunal lack the jurisdiction to entertain the case a motion that opposed by the counsels to Gundiri; but in their ruling, over this motion the tribunal ruled against the defendant stressing that, it has the jurisdiction to entertain the case in merit.
The second motion which generated a lot of controversy among the parties involved in the disputed election and attracted the attention of most people in the state was the one raised by the lead counsel to the ACN Charles Edeson (SAN) who raised a motion urging the tribunal to grant them a leave to inspect INEC election materials used in the election through a biometric and forensic devices in the affected local government. This motion was vehemently rejected by both INEC and Nyako’s lawyers who argued that the inspection of the election materials has no links with the issues before the tribunal therefore, the tribunal should safe its time by striking out the request.
In his ruling over the controversial motion, Justice Sanga ruled that since there was dispute over the election on the aforementioned local government areas, it is legally right for the petitioner to have access to the material used in the polls in the disputed areas as he granted the request of the ACN to inspect election materials but on two conditions. The first condition was that all the parties involved in the case must be present during the inspection. Secondly, the inspection should be restricted to only 11 local governments the petitioner is challenging and should be conducted within two weeks. The tribunal also directed INEC to fully comply with the directive and ensure that all the materials used in the conduct of the last governorship election in the disputed council is made available to ACN for inspection.
A few days after the tribunal order, the ACN accused INEC of collaborating with the PDP to deliberately sabotage and frustrate their efforts to inspect the election materials as directed by the tribunal. They specifically frowned at INEC’s decision to stop them from utilizing all nine forensic machines they party brought into the state to speed up the exercise so as to meet up with the deadline given by the tribunal. According to them, INEC insisted that only five out of the nine forensic machines will be used for the exercise this they consider as a deliberate plot to make it impossible for them to finis the exercise within the timeframe given by the tribunal.
Shortly after the commencement of the inspection exercise, a new twist of controversy has reared its ugly head in the ongoing legal battle as ACN and INEC draw another battleline on whether or not the two weeks period given by the tribunal for the inspection of election materials have elapsed or not while INEC believed that the period had elapsed, the ACN believed contrary but LEADERSHIP’s findings as of then revealed that the request sought by the ACN was granted by the tribunal during its preliminary sitting of 30th March, 2012 for the materials to be inspected for the period of two weeks but the order was silence on when the exercise should commence.
Further investigations reveal that INEC was served with the tribunal order on Monday being April 2nd, 2012 and on April 3rd, 2012. Counsels to the plaintiff wrote a formal letter to INEC intimating the commission of the court order and their intention to immediately commence the inspection but a swift reaction through a letter dated 4th April, 2012 INEC express displeasure over the decision by the ACN lawyers that the want to commence the inspection pointing out that the power to commence inspection is within the statutory function of the commission not ACN.
With the completion of the inspection exercise, the attention of all parties has shifted from INEC office back to the court room to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. At the resumed hearing of the case, both parties have presented witnesses and evidences to either prove that the election was won in a free and fair contest or that the election was marked with irregularities depending on which political camp they belong to enable the tribunal to make its judgment.
As all eyes have now shifted to the tribunal, most analysts and watchers of the court proceedings predicted that whatever the judgment may be, it will not be further from either upholding Nyako’s election, a the duly elected governor of the state, at best or ordering for re-run in some units within the disputed 11 local government areas of the state at worse as demanded by the ACN only the tribunal can determine the faith of both parties.