When Alhaji Abdulrahman Abubakar of Kogi East Senatorial District sought to go to the Senate to represent his people in the 8th National Assembly, little did he know his anticipated victory at the polls would be given to another without recourse to Nigeria’s Constitution and Electoral Act affirming so. In this no- holds barred interview with LEADERSHIP Friday, the embittered senator bares his mind on what he described as the conspiracy of the system that favors injustice in place of justice.
You described your political travail as overt misplacement of justice. Are you saying INEC was compromised?
The daylight robbery is a case of blatant injustice perpetrated by some unscrupulous men in high places in connivance with the Independent National Election Commission(INEC), a supposed impartial referee in electoral contest. All attempts to secure justice through the legal process since 2015 till today, almost two years after, has met a brick wall hence my latest resort to court of public opinion as the court, the last hope of the common man has repeatedly dashed my hope by conceding my victory to another man who should not even be in the senate in the first instance on the altar of technical excuses.
Like every ambitious politician who plays by the rule of the game, I won the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) via substitution, which INEC fully endorsed. INEC on December 30, 2014 did acknowledge the receipt of such substitution via its ‘Acknowledgment of Receipt of Change of Candidate (CF005). The acknowledgment was premised on the Notice of Withdrawal of Candidate pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) submitted to the commission. The person I substituted, Alhaji Shuaibu Abdullahi, was the only aspirant for the APC primaries, before voluntarily withdrawing for me, after following all the due processes. INEC acknowledged the withdrawal, which was not done under intimidation or duress and subsequently issued to me ‘Forms ‘for Nomination of Member of Senate. Thus, the coast was clear for me to contest the March 28, 2015 senatorial election, which I overwhelmingly won. On April 3, 2015, in conformity with the Electoral Act, I received the Certificate of Return for Member of Senate from INEC. I was sworn-in in June, 2015 as a Senator of the Federal Republic when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated by its President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Like someone determined to impact on his senatorial district positively, I quickly settled into this new roles completely unaware of the impending travesty of justice the Election Petition Tribunal Sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State had in store for me. By December, 2015, my election was annulled by the Tribunal on the flimsy excuse that it did not see the Primary Election Records of the person I substituted even though Alhaji Shuaibu Abdullahi was the only candidate for the APC primaries until he was substituted and there was no complain from any member of the APC against the primary election. The petition challenging my victory was filed by Senator Atai Aidoko Ali Usman, defeated candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) in the March 28, 2015 election.
On what ground did Senator Attai Aidoko, who is not a member of the APC challenge your victory and eventually secure judgment in his favor? Are you saying your mandate was stolen from you?
I was robbed of my mandate by those saddled with the tool of justice. I put up all credible evidences but the deciders looked the other way. In fact, against the settled judgment of the Supreme Court that the conduct of primaries is the internal affair of a party and as such, opponents from other parties have no business with how another party conducts its primaries, the Tribunal sitting in Lokoja assumed the responsibility of the APC thereby overreaching itself in the process. At least, the case of Governor Darius Ishayaku vs Hajiya Alhassan lends credence to this settled position of the law. It is curious therefore that a lower court could circumvent an irreversible legal position of the highest court in the land for whatever reasons no one knows. As if what the Tribunal did was not enough, it went ahead to grant the PDP opponent, a relief he never asked for, as if the court was ‘father Christmas’.
With the belief that the Tribunal erred in law, I took my case to the Court of Appeal seeking that the judgment of the Tribunal be set aside for it lacked substance and was a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal agreed with the appellant that the Tribunal erred, insisting that the Tribunal had no reason to nullify my election when in reality, Senator Aidoko did not even seek such prayers before the Tribunal. Consequently, the Court of Appeal said there was merit in my appeal but strangely like something acting under a spell, without adducing any tangible legal reason, decided to nullify the March 28th election and ordered a re-run within 90 days to fill the vacant post. That was the beginning of my political nightmare that has subsisted till today.
What was INEC’s position in all of these?
With the Court of Appeal judgment, I was deflated. As if the injustice was not bizarrely disheartening enough, INEC went ahead to exclude me and my party, APC, from participating in the re-run election even though there was no such order by the Court of Appeal in the judgment under reference. Where INEC got the legal audacity to exclude me from the re-run remains a mystery no one has been able to unravel till today though the commission erroneously claims that once a candidate is disqualified, he and his party stand disqualified from the re-run election. A case in reference is the Dekina 1 and 2 state assembly candidates who were disallowed from participating in the re-run by the lower court but the court of appeal had such order reversed because its lack merit. They participated and won as expected – so why is my case different?
With my exclusion from the election and my party, it was a field day for the PDP candidate; an election my constituent considered a charade and refused to participate a development that led to an inconclusive election and it remained so for 10 months! Strangely, while the unfair and unjust judgment was delivered on December 2, 2015, the judgment was not released until January 25, 2016, thus making it difficult for my lawyers to get back to the court to request that it corrects itself. With persistence, the lawyers did seek that the judgment be corrected, but it was dismissed on the flimsy excuse that 60 days had passed since the Court of Appeal gave the judgment. On the basis of technicality, justice was denied again on the basis of avoidable technicalities.
In my quest for justice, I approached the Supreme Court. INEC was joined in the suit which was filed on April 19, 2016 to which the electoral commission responded accordingly. While waiting for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment, which it did eventually on March 10, 2017, INEC went ahead to conclude the so-called inconclusive election on July 23, 2016 and erroneously declared the PDP candidate, Air Marshall Isaac Alfa, winner of the election. In compliance with the election, the Senate swore in Alfa in November only to be pushed out through a Court of Appeal judgment in January, 2017 and restored the miscarried mandate to Senator Aidoko, who has been there till now occupying an illegal status.
So far, it has been miscarriage of justice all the way. The people of Kogi East Senatorial District have been denied their actual representative in the Senate for close to two years now because their actual choice, Senator Abdulrahman Abubakar, has been consistently denied access to justice which would have enabled me to recover my stolen mandate . This is so as both the tribunal and court of appeal have affirmed in their respective judgments that my election was free, fair and credible and all these miscarriages of justice are tied to the issue of not seeing the primary election result of the person I substituted.
In all of these, what has been the position of your party, the APC and by extension, the Attorney General under whose supervision is the judiciary?
As the last judgment of the court of appeal delivered on the 17th of March, 2017 declared the second Tribunal judgment and all that surrounds that judgment as a nullity but failed to give a consequential order because in its wisdom, it claim that giving any other will amount to a waste of the court precious time. Hiding under this non-issuance of order by the court of appeal, INEC refused to the needful by revalidating my certificate of return even. Under this circumstance, I had no option but to petition the Attorney General of the Federation as the chief law officer of the federation to review the judgment and advise INEC accordingly.
Seeing the glaring injustice meted out on me, even the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, intervened by writing INEC to reinstate the Certificate of Return issued to me, an expert advise which INEC has conveniently refused to heed.
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