The dust raised by the recent judgment of the Supreme Court nullifiying the victory of the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara State is yet to settle as the state chapter of the party has been consequently factionalised, TOPE FAYEHUN writes.
The crisis rocking the Zamfara state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) appears to have deepened rather subsides after the Supreme Court’s ruling that nullified the participation of the candidates of the party in the last general elections in the state.
The leadership deficit of the party in the state came to the fore once again when a faction of the party expelled the Senator representing Zamfara Central, Kabiru Marafa, for alleged anti-party activities, while
another faction led by Marafa swiftly reacted by expelling the immediate past governor of the state, Abdulaziz Yari, who is believed to be brain behind the other faction.
Also expelled by the Yari’s faction is the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Ibrahim Wakalla; and the member representing Kauran Namoda/Birnin Magaji Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Aminu Jaji.
While the faction loyal to Marafa also expelled the deputy national chairman (North) of the APC, Lawali Shuaibu, for “conniving” with Yari to “sabotage” the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) during the botched primary elections in the state.
According to a statement issued by Yari’s faction on Monday, the decision to expel Marafa, Wakalla and Jaji was reached at a meeting of the State Executive Committee in Gusau, the state capital, last Sunday.
The statement issued by the party’s state publicity secretary, Shehu Isah, on behalf of the state chairman, said, “The provision of Article 21 (A) ii and (D) v of the party’s constitution was activated against the three members for violation of the constitutional provision and engaging in acts inimical to the interest of the party.”
“Consequently, a resolution was passed expelling all of them from the All Progressives Congress.
“We are therefore by this notice informing the general public that from the date of the said resolution, the aforementioned members cease to be members of the All Progressives Congress and consequently are disentitled from enjoying rights, privileges, and benefits from the party,” Isah said.
But the Marafa faction, which expelled Yari and the deputy national chairman Shuaibu, for allegedly scuttling the party’s chances in the state, in a counter move, said there the decision was taken at the end of an emergency meeting held in Gusau, the state capital.
In a statement jointly signed by the factional chairman of the party in Zamfara State, Alhaji Surajo Katako; and the publicity secretary, Muhammad Bakyasuwa, they urged Yari and others to immediately surrender all the belongings of the party in their possession including funds.
However, there have been a festering crisis bedevilling the party before it got escalated recently as a result of the apex court ruling. There is no doubt about the fact that the spirited attempts by the APC national leaders including President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to reconcile the warring factions were unsuccessful.
The crisis, which started as a mere family dispute, can be traced to the attempts to control the soul of the party.
It will recalled that, at the aborted party congresses of 2018, the former governor, Abdul’Aziz Yari, wanted affirmation of officials during the congress but a group of party members led by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Kabiru Marafa, opposed the move, saying the condition for adopting affirmation did not arise.
Eventually, due to the crisis that engulfed the congress, the exercise did not hold, because the other faction believed that the then governor wanted to manipulate the process and ensure that his decisions are followed.
The Marafa faction thereafter cried foul and made frantic efforts to the national leadership of the party to see reasons why they were objecting Yari’s moves, but the appeals and the efforts went unattended to.
Pointedly, some analysts posited that if the leadership of the party had resolved the crisis that erupted during the congress, the current crisis that the party is swimming in would not have happened.
Analysts also observed that impunity, which has become a norm among the country’s political parties – that is a subversion of democratic principles to the whims and caprices of the party’s hierarchy – caused the misfortune of the party in Zamfara state.
Meanwhile, both factions foiled plans by the national leadership of the party to hold primaries with clashes erupting between supporters of the governor and loyalists of Senator Marafa, whenever there are attempts to organise fresh priamaries.
They maintained their divergent positions and ensured that no valid primaries were conducted to elect the party’s standard bearers for the National Assembly, governorship and House of Assembly elections within the timeframe issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Although, the governor who was determined to have his way, was able to maneuver and conducted a primary which came out with the names of those candidates that were eventually nullified by the Supreme Court recently.
The development had resulted in multiple court cases on the same subject matter, until the last few weeks when the Supreme Court cleared the air.
Before the Supreme Court judgment, the electoral commission rescinded its earlier decision not to accept any APC candidate for the 2019 elections in Zamfara following a State High Court order to the contrary.
The governorship candidate of the Yari faction, Muktar Idris, was eventually declared the winner of the governorship election by the INEC after the exercise. But the electoral umpire withheld the Certificate of Return of the candidates, including the former governor, who had won a senatorial seat, on the fact that it was served with a copy of the judgment of the Sokoto Division of Court of Appeal, which ruled that the party had no valid candidates.
The commission said the judgment bordered on the sponsoring of candidates by APC in the state and they must study it very well before taking any further step.
Prior to the announcement by INEC, counsel to Senator Marafa and 141 others, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) had called on INEC to withhold the Certificate of Return of the purported candidates of the party in the state in view of the Court of Appeal judgment that nullified their primary election.
Ozekhome also appealed to INEC to ignore claims by Zamfara State government that Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, judgment had nothing to do with the controversial primaries held on October 7, 2018.
He further argued that the Zamfara State Government was erroneously sitting as an appellate court in its own case by claiming that the judgment had nothing to do with the primary election.
According to him, everything that was founded on APC primaries in the state was null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
Ozekhome added that the very pillar upon which Zamfara APC primary elections that produced the candidates had legally collapsed by the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division.
He said the foregoing is in accord with law and simple logic as it is naturally impossible to place something on nothing and expect it to stand, saying it must collapse like a pack of cards.
His words: “To situate the aforesaid development in its true legal perspective, it follows that all the candidates of APC who purportedly participated in the National and State Assembly elections held on March 9, 2019, were never candidates in the eye of the law.”
“We beseech INEC most earnestly to note therefore that there is absolutely no legal basis for any of the APC candidates that allegedly emerged victorious from the said sham elections to be issued with any Certificate of Return,” the legal luminary pointed out.
But counsel to APC, Magaji Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN), said the court did not make such an order in its judgment. Mahmud faulted the decision of INEC to withhold Certificates of Return on the ground of a letter written to the commission by counsel to the appellants.
In a letter dated March 26, 2019, written on behalf of the then governor-elect and 38 others to INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, Mahmoud said, “It’s bad practice for counsel to resort to letter writing, thus misleading a responsible organization like the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC by twisting facts.”
He further stated, “We wish to state that issues of law of this nature are regulated by an order of court or court of law and not by the opinion of counsel via a mere letter from chambers.
“May we further emphasize that in the entire judgment of the Court of Appeal, there was neither a positive order made against our clients nor in favor of the appellants.
“Thus, it will be wrong of the commission to rely on the mere speculative letter of the appellants’ counsel at this stage when elections have already been concluded and winners have emerged. The only institution that is empowered to make a positive order in respect to this subject matter is the court of law, and no court of law has made or given an order to that effect.”
Quoting Section 235 (3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Mahmood states that, “the law is trite, right of appeal to the Supreme Court is constitutional and no court or any person can take it away by mere letter.”
“We urge you and the entire commission to discountenance the letter of Mike Ozekhome, wherein there was no position order at the court of Appeal.”
He further argued that the judgment of their Lordships which did not contain any positive order in favour of the appellants was supported by the provisions of Section 285 (13) of the 1999 Constitution (4th alteration as amended).
The counsel hinted that the Zamfara State chapter of the party, the then governor-elect, Idris, and other winners of the 2019 general elections, had resolved to approach the Supreme Court for a final resolution of the crisis that engulfed the party in the state.
Mahmoud who said the letter was meant to notify the commission about the judgment of the Court of Appeal delivered on March 25, 2019, noted that the court only allowed the “Appellant’s appeal and set aside the judgment of the trial court, but did not “make any positive consequential order.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court judgment has now laid to rest the issue by nullifying the election of the candidates of the party in the last general elections. The apex court ruled that no valid primaries were conducted by the APC and as such the party had no candidates and ought not to be part of the secondary elections in the first place.
When asked to react to the aftermath gale os suspensions in te Zamfara chapter of the party, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Lanre Issa-Onilu said “I have no idea” but insisted that “structure provides for different levels of disciplinary powers”.
However, analysts opined that with the Supreme Court judgment that sacked all the party’s candidates that emerged winners at all levels during the elections and ordered that the parties that came second in all the elections be returned as winners, the party must make adjustments and plan to reposition itself for future elections.
Pundits believe that the warring factions should at this critical period come together and resolve their differences, find a common ground and move on to rebuild the state chapter of the party otherwise it will go into oblivion.
Political observers have surmised that if nothing urgent is done to rein in the two factions of the party in Zamfara state, no doubt the state chapter of the party is headed for the rocks.
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