By Hassan Sani Indabawa
There are hard facts, documentary evidences and witnesses presented by the Petitioner, in this case, APC before the Kano State Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal and an ample time enough for the Respondents: INEC, the Executive Governor of Kano State, Engr Abba Kabir Yusuf and NNPP to defend themselves before the Tribunal concluded its sittings and consequently decided on Wednesday 20th September, 2023, to deliver its judgment in favor of the APC.
The negative propaganda being currently bandied by the supporters of NNPP and other ignorant commentators is ineffective, preposterous and of no use.
The NNPP had all the time to defend its case but due to an apparent political immaturity and an inexplicable negligence, sealed their fate by not defending the defendable when the case was ongoing.
Another important undoing of the NNPP were prayers of the victims of the executive lawlessness and illegal demolishing of both public and private properties soon after inaugurating the administration of Governor Abba Yusuf.
The demolition exercise, apart from not following due processes, was a brazen vendetta and an abuse of power embarked without realizing the possible consequences of the senseless exercise.
At the last count, Governor Yusuf had levelled to the ground an iconic roundabout — a monument, several commercial buildings, houses, a petrol station and one hotel. An NGO assessed the value of the property so far destroyed at over N200 billion while over 20,000 petty traders and small businesses owners lost their means of livelihood.
Governor Yusuf may have had a strong case, in the demolition exercise, but he had gone about it with impunity, malevolence and without regard for due process. He accused his predecessor of improperly selling off public land, including around schools, religious and cultural sites, hospitals, graveyards, and green areas and along the famous Kano City Wall heritage sites.
These are all true as the Ganduje administration was also well noted for its arbitrariness and was dogged by allegations of massive corruption and avaricious land grabbing.
However, to correct any such anomaly, Governor Yusuf needed to follow due process; establish the case by way of judicial or administrative inquiry, and institute criminal investigation, and then take possession or pull down, only after being duly empowered by the necessary legal instrument.
Under Nigeria’s law, there are clearly laid down legal procedures for recovering, seizing, or demolishing illegally acquired public assets. Governance is anchored on law and due process.
The executive lawlessness of Governor Yusuf led to hundreds of litigations filed against the State government by victims of the demolition resulting to a court Order obtained by some aggrieved citizens against the NNPP government.
A Federal High Court sitting in Kano, presided over by Justice S.A. Amobeda, on Friday, 23rd June 2023, granted an ex-parte motion, halting the Kano State Governor, Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf, from further demolition of structures and property in the state.
After listening to the motion moved by the Applicant’s Counsel, Prof. Nasiru Aliyu, SAN, the court restrained the state Governor from further infringing on citizens rights.
That, even some state High Courts could issue a similar Order against the executive lawlessness of Governor Yusuf, speaks volumes of the illegality of the exercise.
Another injustice that may for sure undermine the NNPP administration was the selective handling of the exercise. There were some property that were exempted from the demolition because their owners are members of Kwankwasiyya. There was even a case where one Kwankwasiyya property-owner was affected but was later singled out for compensation, leaving several other victims to their fate.
This, alone, could bring the downfall of any government for Allah The Almighty condemns injustice and does not support the unjust. A State can prosper with unbelief, but not with injustice.
A responsible government should have been guided by the fear of Allah (swt) in all of its official conduct.
Another additional gaffe of Abba-led administration was the braggadocio and the reckless threat of mayhem against the innocent people of Kano State and the threats to murder Justices of the Kano Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal by some of the government’s top officials.
The fear campaign, in clear violation of Terrorism Act, was alleged to have been conceived, organized and financed by the office of the SSG who was the only witness called by Governor Yusuf, but turned out, as it were, to be the main albatross of the whole defense presented by the Respondents.
For a government to organize and support an event that has potential to breach the peace, and in apparent invitation of terror, is one sure way of self deconstruction and self immolation.
As a deeply religious society, the people of Kano, perceiving an unprecedented threat, swung into passionate prayers, beseeching Allah to swiftly intervene and do away with any element that may pose a threat to the relative peace enjoyed by Kano.
Add this to the already prayer session embarked by the hapless victims of the administration’s demolishing exercise, then you understand the unhappy ending that awaits the fate of any similar impunity and executive lawlessness.
To now engage in mud-slinging and accusing the judiciary of taking bribe and doing injustice, is another unwise move that may not help NNPP’s defense at the Appeal court.
With a window of 145 days maximum, before the case would be finally concluded at the Supreme Court, it only requires Allah’s Power to upturn the verdict of the KGEPT. The time to defend and prove the Petitioners’ allegations wrong is over.
But as Allah has proclaimed in a Hadith Qudsi, His intervention is assured for every person who has been deliberately wronged, oppressed and unjustly treated.
The victims of Governor Abba’s demolition are the innocent business men and women who acquired their property after observing all due processes to exercise ownership of such property. They lost over N262 billion due to Governor Abba’s impunity, executive lawlessness and vendetta.
To understand that Allah has fulfilled His promises and hearkened to the cry of the victims of Governor Yusuf’s demolition exercise was the inexplicable nonchalance of the NNPP to defend its case for failing to present as much witnesses as possible.
APC had brilliantly prepared their Petition, by backing their claims with tons of Certified True Copies of documents obtained from INEC, the 1st Respondent in the case. The NNPP and Governor Yusuf were the 2nd and 3rd Respondents respectively.
The APC tendered 168 documentary evidences, consisting of polling unit register of voters; BVAS report, copious ballot papers; Forms EC8C’s, Forms EC8D; Form EC40’s; Form EC40 PU; Form Ex40(i), Form EC40G (ii), Form EC8E Governorship election
declaration of results, letters and the report of a statistician; Forms
EC8a’s were admitted as Exhibits A1 to A106, Form EC8b series
were admitted as Exhibits B1 to B171,which are the summary of
results from polling units collation registration areas.
The 1st Respondent, which is INEC
tendered 3 Exhibits, Exhibit 1R(1),
Exhibit 1R2 and Exhibit 1R3, but did not call any witness through out the trial of the Petition.
Governor Abba Yusuf, being the 2nd Respondent tendered only 16 Exhibits, to wit Exhibits 2R1 to 2R16 and Exhibits 2R17(x) to 2 R20(x) were admitted under cross examination. Governor Yusuf called only 1 (one) witness.
The 3rd Respondent, NNPP, tendered only 3 Exhibits; Exhibits 3R1 to 3R3, but did not call any witness through out the trial of the petition.
The Petitioners sought the determination of their case on three grounds: (i) issue of disqualification of Mr Abba as candidate, for not being member of NNPP from the membership register submitted to INEC by his party 30 days before conducting primary elections, (ii) the non compliance of the Electoral Act by tendering over 160,000 ballots counted and credited to Abba but all were not signed, stamped or dated by INEC in breach of Section 75 of the Electoral Act 2022, and (iii) the cancelation of over 270,000 votes which are over and above the margin of lead of the declared winner, which is 128,000 votes. On this, the APC lawyers believed that the Kano gubernatorial election, held on 18 March, 2023 ought to have been declared as inconclusive.
In proving their case, the APC lawyers called 32 witnesses to buttress their allegations while INEC and NNPP did not call a single witness on any of the claims. Governor Abba, on his part, called only one witness, his SSG, to debunk the damaging allegations of APC on thousands of the invalid ballots that have the potential to cost him his seat, if admitted and consequently the Tribunal pronounced its judgment.
That is exactly what happened with the consequent judgment of the Tribunal delivered on 20th September, 2023:
“The INEC is duty bound by virtue of Section 63(2) of the Electoral Act 2022, to give further explanation, as to why he used or counted the ballot papers notwithstanding the absence of the official mark (signing, stamping, dating and the name of the presiding officer missing).
“It is trite law, that where a Presiding Officer failed to sign, stamp or date a polling unit result, the result becomes invalid for lack of authenticity and non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. See the following cases: PDP VS IDRISSU (2019) LPELR-49213 (CA) 19-21, HON. HARUNA MOHAMMED VS BELLO HASSAN ABDULLAHI, unreported decision of the Court of Appeal No: CA/A/EPT/957/2019 delivered on 15th November, 2019, ALAMU & ANOR VS RIJAU & ORS (2021) LPELR-55639 (CA).”
Apart from being weird, many political pundits could not understand why the governor and NNPP failed to mobilize the Presiding Officers (POs) to appear before the Tribunal to “further explain” the questionable thousands of invalid votes presented to the Tribunal by APC.
Section 64 (2) of the The Electoral Act empowered the POs to count any unstamped, unsigned and undated ballot paper, provided the ballots were detached from the booklet. However, the failure of NNPP or Governor Yusuf to defend this important segment of the case is what tilted victory in favor of the APC after succeeding in establishing the Substantial Non-Compliance.
Proceeding to appeal by the NNPP on these shaky and weak defense, could similarly turn out to be disastrous. The only witness presented by Governor Yusuf, Abdullahi Baffa Bichi, has profoundly wiped out any chance of success by acknowledging the expertise and authority of the forensic expert, presented, as a witness, by APC. This was the game-changer.
The APC in its filings, complained to the Tribunal that over 190,000 ballots that were counted and wrongly credited to Governor Abba Yusuf were invalid for not being signed, stamped or dated.
After series of meticulous screening culminating to inviting a statistician and forensic expert from BUK, the Tribunal eventually accepted and admitted 165,616 ballot papers as truly, invalid.
Instead of inviting a superior forensic expert to debunk the facts established by Dr Harbau, the forensic expert presented by the APC, the Respondents in another thoughtless and ill-advised move rushed and filed an interlocutory appeal aimed at quashing the unassailable facts established by the APC’s star witness, Dr Harbau.
Eventually, and most significantly, the appeal was dismissed with costs and the appeal court affirmed the facts presented by the APC’s star witness, the forensic expert.
This is the only ground on which the Kano Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal sacked Governor Yusuf and declared Nasiru Gawuna of APC as having won the election with majority of lawful votes cast, after deducting the 165,616 votes. The same votes that were admitted by the Tribunal on the singular strength of Dr Harbau’s successful establishing the votes, as genuinely invalid!
Hear what the Tribunal stated in its judgment delivered on 20th September, 2023: “…this Honourable Tribunal hereby holds that there is the existence of 165,616 invalid votes discovered by this Tribunal which figure is over and above the margin of lead between the 2nd Respondent and the Petitioner. By the calculation of this Tribunal as garnered from the records of this Court, the invalid votes wrongly credited to the 2nd Respondent is 165,616. The 2nd Respondent was returned wrongly with a vote of 1,019, 602. The Petitioner was credited with 890,705 lawful votes.
“The justice of this matter now demands, that the invalid votes be and is hereby deducted from the 1,019,602 wrongly credited to the 2nd Respondent which mathematically brings the total lawful votes of the 2nd Respondent to 853,986.
“In view of the above calculation, this Honourable Tribunal have found as of fact and figures, that the Petitioner who scored 890,705, is clearly the winner of the Governorship election of Kano State held on the 18th day of March, 2023.
“The Petitioner having satisfied the mandatory provision of Section 179 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and Section 136 (2) of the Electoral Act, 2022 is hereby declared to be the candidate who scored the majority of lawful votes cast.”
It should be noted, for emphasis sake, that this was the one and only ground on which the Tribunal sacked Governor Abba Yusuf and declared Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna as the winner with the majority of lawful votes cast. Equally, it is the same matter that Governor Yusuf and NNPP lost at their ill-fated interlocutory appeal.
Therefore, on what ground would NNPP file an appeal? The only issue of Substantial Non-Compliance, was the one decided by the Tribunal on Wednesday the 20th of September, 2023.
According to the Principles of Margin of Lead, of which INEC must apply, in respect of any candidate before being declared to have won with a majority of lawful votes cast, must exclude the counting of invalid and canceled ballot papers.
The 165,616 ballots admitted by the Tribunal and all of which were wrongly credited to NNPP, did not attract the seriousness of Governor Abba and his party to fight with all available means at their disposal, but instead, and surprisingly, ended up conceding their case without inviting a single Presiding Officer (PO) as a witness. Is this not weird and inexplicable?
Of considerable note, especially to NNPP and Governor Yusuf, as they prepare for appeal, is that the Tribunal had already delivered the following orders:
1. It is hereby determined that the 2nd Respondent was not duly
elected by a majority of lawful votes at the election.
2. It is hereby determined that the Petitioner, NASIRU YUSUF GAWUNA having scored a majority of lawful votes and having met the constitutional requirement, is hereby declared the winner of the election and returned elected as the Governor of Kano State.
3. That the Certificate of Return issued to the 2nd Respondent by the 1st Respondent is hereby set aside as invalid and a nullity.
4. The 1st Respondent is hereby ordered to immediately issue and serve a Certificate of Return in favour of the candidate of the Petitioner, NASIRU YUSUF GAWUNA as the winner of the 2023 Gubernatorial election for Kano State held on the 18th of March, 2023.
Therefore, the success or otherwise of NNPP’s defense at the Appeal is hinged on the material facts and strength of the witnesses account of which the only witness called by Governor Yusuf, had made an egregiously injudicious, lax and sloppy job that costs his principal his seat.
The magic or miracle that can upturn the decisive and landmark judgment of the KGEPT of Wednesday 20th September is what every keen observer anxiously waits to see.
Would the victims of Governor Abba’s demolition, who have been praying loudly and silently relent, or would the sack of their oppressor by the Tribunal is now sufficient enough to energize them to pray more?
Indabawa is an independent researcher, activist, public affairs analyst and a professional farmer.
Saturday, 23rd September 2023