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Awaiting S’Court Verdict On Zamfara APC

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The long standing legal battle over the conduct of APC primaries or otherwise in Zamfara State will end tomorrow as the Apex court delivers its judgment on the matter, UMAR MOHAMMED writes

This may not be the best of times for  members of the ruling APC in Zamfara state as they await the outcome of the supreme court verdict. Indeed, the expected t verdict has created serious tension and anxiety amongst the political class and even ordinary citizens, in the state.

The outstanding legal battle started from the Zamfara state High court following the disagreement between  the National Working Committee, NWC, of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the conduct of primaries in the state. The APC had earlier disowned the claim of the Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari-led faction that it conducted primaries for the party.

After failed series of horse trading between the national working committee of the party, INEC and the Yari’s  faction over the conduct of the APC primary election, some aggrieved Yari’s loyalists, rushed to the state High Court, to challenge the decision of the national working committee under the leadership of Adams Oshiomole and INEC.

In the midst of the ensuing controversy, INEC wrote the APC declaring that it won’t be allowed to field candidates at the poll for failing to conduct primaries.

In a swift reaction, APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomole said “On the content of your letter which to conclude that no primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara state, we wish to state emphatically that nothing can be farther from the actual situation in Zamfara state.

“Kindly find attached comprehensive report from the Zamfara Electoral Committee of the APC and signed by all the members  on the conduct of primary election for the Zamfara state held between 6th&7th October 2018. The summary of the report as you will find is that, following the high level of friction, disagreement and threatened violence by various political camps before the aspirants met at City King Hotel, Gusau to find a truce.

“After hours of intense horse trading a consensus was reached within the spirit and context of the Electoral Act and the constitution of our party on the basis of which a list was produced which was confirmed/affirmed by all delegate present”.

But the submission of the national working committee on reaching consensus was outrightly rejected by some of the warring factions as one camp leaders, Sen. Kabiru Marafa denounced reaching truce by the aspirants.

The position of Senator Kabiru Marafa, APC had not conduct primaries or consensus.

The claim of the Yari’s faction also contradict, the position the national working committee of having a consensus list of candidates as the faction maintained that it had onducted primaries.

As the crisis reached its climax, one of the Zamfara House of Assembly candidate for Gusau local government, Sanusi Dan-Alhaji and others filed a suit on behalf of the Yari’s faction asking the court to direct APC national working committee and INEC to recognise their candidates.

The suit, initially, handled by Justice Mukhtar Yusha’u of court iv was later transfered to court three of Justice Bello Shinkafi, following the decision of Justice Yusha’u to discontinued with the suit.

After prolong legal debate amongst counsels of the plaintiffs and defendants, Justice Bello Shinkafi delivered his judgement in favour of the plaintiffs.

Justice Shinkafi however, granted all their prayers and recognised the party’s candidates for the general election.

The judgement of the high attracted mixed reactions, while Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari hailed the judgement, claiming that the court has vindicated his faction by upholding its claim of holding primary election.

But, Sen. Kabiru Marafa opposed the Court verdict, describing it as black market judgement.

Sen. Marafa didn’t stop at the condemnation of the court verdict but rushed to the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division.

The fierce battle at the court of appeal, had resulted to the replacement of some justice who were initially billed to handle the appeal due to alleged romance  with Yari’s aides.

But, finally, a panel of judges was appointed to handle the appeal, therefore, after, submission of counsels, the court agreed with the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] that there was no evidence that APC held a primary election in the state, hence the candidates generated by it for various elected political offices did not stand in the election.

Delivering the lead judgement which was concurred by Justices Tijjani Abubakar and Jamilu Tukur, Justice Tom Yakubu held that the lower court which had earlier set aside INEC’s decision and approved the controversial primary election, failed in its duty to properly evaluate the evidence before it.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling was in respect of an appeal filed by Senator Kabiru Marafa, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum [Downstream] and 129 others, which faulted the emergence of candidates from the APC faction loyal to Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar for the 2019 elections. It was the climax of the power play between the governor and the senator over control of the state party’s machinery.

Reacting to the ruling, Senator Marafa said, “I have always believed that the Zamfara State High Court ruling was nothing but a black market judgement that can never stand legal scrutiny. The appeal court judgement has rekindled the fact that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. We are all living witnesses to the fact that the APC in Zamfara was unable to conduct primaries and couldn’t reach consensus due to the attitude of Yari, but the Zamfara State High Court judge ruled against the truth.The Appeal Court has done justice by throwing the judgment of the Zamfara High Court to the trash bin, where it rightly belongs. You can’t build on nothing. APC didn’t conduct primaries; they don’t therefore have candidates in the just concluded elections.”

On his part, Governor Yari said in a statement that the judgment did not nullify the election conducted at all levels in the state. He said, “What the Court of Appeal Sokoto Division did was setting aside the judgement by the Zamfara State High Court on the ground of examination of proofs of evidence. This has nothing to do with our elections. The Court has not in anyway tampered with our elections, as only a tribunal has the right to listen to issues arising from election matters.”

This interpretation of the court ruling soon fell apart when INEC withheld the Certificates of Return of all elected APC members in the state, including the governor-elect and MPs. They thereafter said they were appealing to the Supreme Court.

The confusion in Zamfara State APC is self-inflicted. It is the outcome of an unnecessary squabble and power play which led to the polarisation of the partyin the state. The crisis led to violence during the primary election in the state and officers sent from the national headquarters to conduct it could not do so.

Three separate election committees sent to the state to conduct the primaries were chased away, while the national working committee rejected the one conducted by the state Exco loyal to the governor. INEC also said its state office reported that no primaries took place.

This painful imbroglio in Zamfara State is a bitter lesson for the state APC, for Zamfara indigenes as a whole and for APC as a national ruling party. Politicians, aspirants, governors, national party leaders and other party leaders at all levels should all learn lessons from it. The reckless gambit by Governor Yari and his opponents, the arrogant disposition of Adams Oshiomhole and APC NWC and the aloofness of President Buhari while the imbroglio lasted, all contributed to bring Zamfara State to this position as the sorriest case of the 2019 election season.

The Court of Appeal judgement which set aside the judgement of the High Court has created confusion and fear among governor’s loyalists.

As the political class wait patiently for Friday 24th to hear the verdict of the supreme court on the issue, both camps of Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari and that of Sen. Kabiru Mafara have embarked on series accusations and clandestine move to come victorious from the apex court.

Sen. Marafa recently, accused Yari of abandoned the security challenged being faced in the state to travelled to Saudi Arabia part of his desperation to sought the intervention of president Muhammad Buhari in the supreme court suit.

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