Last week, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark judgement on the intractable electoral dispute in Zamfara State. The apex court sacked the governor-elect, Alhaji Mukhtar Idris and all the candidates of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state who emerged winners in the various elections in the 2019 polls.
In a unanimous judgement, the Supreme Court held that APC did not have any valid candidate in all the elections held in the state.
The five-man panel of Justices led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, held that the ruling party did not conduct valid primary elections to nominate candidates for any elective position in the state.
The apex court maintained that the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal was right when it held that APC did not field any eligible candidate in the 2019 general election in Zamfara State.
Consequently, the apex court, in its lead judgement, dismissed an appeal APC lodged to challenge the appellate court’s judgement. It also awarded a cost of N10 million against APC.
With this ruling, APC in Zamfara State has lost everything it laboured for due to the avoidable mistakes of its leaders at the state and national levels. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has taken a cue from the judgement of the apex court and transferred the victory of APC in the last general election to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Zamfara State.
This is a self-inflicted injury, which the ruling party has to live with, at least for the next four years. It is the price APC has to pay for impunity and lack of internal democracy within its ranks.
We recall that during the preparatory period for the 2019 elections, the leadership of APC invented the multiple modes of conducting its primaries for the selection of its candidates. The introduction of the direct, indirect and consensus modes of primary election and the rather nebulous application of these options in different states triggered confusion in the ruling party.
The situation was further compounded by the dictatorial tendencies of the national leadership of the party and the atmosphere of mutual suspicion among party chieftains. This scenario led to multiple primaries in many states as those directing the affairs of the party appeared bent on working towards some pre-determined outcomes in several states.
We recall the absurd drama, which played out in Ogun, Imo, Rivers, Zamfara and other states. These were states where the party primaries of APC generated controversies and scandals that it became apparent that there was more to the show of power than the ordinary eyes could see.
Perhaps, if the rules of the game had been clearly spelt out and applied uniformly, APC could have been spared this painful outcome where it won the battle, but lost the crown to its arch rival and main opposition party, PDP, in Zamfara State.
Indeed, this should serve as a lesson to our politicians, party leaders and political parties who often throw caution to the wind during every election cycle.
Over time, these political actors have got away with so much impunity that they sometimes behave as if there are no rules in the game of politics. They have become so Machiavellian in their quest for power that they have no respect for due process. They want to be declared winners of every election they contest, no matter how shoddy the process might be.
We recall that when INEC first raised the red flag on the non-compliance to the guidelines for party primaries in Zamfara State, the ruling party dismissed the observation as a non-issue, which did not matter.
Out of sheer arrogance and a culture of impunity, the leadership of the party called the bluff of the electoral umpire and dared it to do its worst. APC was so sure that as the ruling party at the centre, INEC would not dare blow the whistle against it no matter the foul it committed on the field of play.
Even when the matter was brought before the courts, APC assumed that it could wangle its way through with legal technicalities.
Unfortunately for APC and fortunately for Nigeria, both the election management body and the judiciary have chosen to do the right thing, no matter whose ox might be gored.
We must commend these two national institutions for standing on the path of truth and not succumbing to threats, intimidation and blackmail from the ruling party and, possibly, government of the day.
We urge the various political parties and the other critical stakeholders in our electoral process to use the Zamfara story as a reference point for the future. Nigeria must rise above impunity in our electoral system if our democracy must grow and deliver the right results to our people.
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