ANALYSIS: Kogi; Did Professor Kucha Goof Or Under Pressure To Make His Declaration?Featured, Latest News, News Features/Analysis, Tajudeen Balogun Friday, November 27th, 2015
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
Perhaps for the first time, the Nigerian political and legal circles as well as the general public are embroiled in confusion of this magnitude and such nature. Almost a week after the shocking passage of the former ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Kogi Governorship candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu, the politicians, legal Practitioners and the public up till the moment, are still differ with respect to the best way forward. Amidst this, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has allegedly, base on the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), fixed the North central State supplementary election for Saturday 5, 2015.
Death is inevitability and it comes most of the time unexpected. Probably too, the Kogi people and the entire Nigeria would have been saved the ongoing legal and political uproar, if they were to contend only with the demise of the late grassroot politician. But this could not be, as the Saturday, November 21, Kogi Governorship poll INEC Presiding Officer, Professor Emmanuel Kucha, for only ‘God known’ reason (s) threw another big spanner in the process, when he shockingly announced in the evening of Sunday, November 22, 2015, that the election held in the 21 local Government areas of the State was inconclusive!
Given his esteemed position, as the Vice Chancellor of University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Professor Kucha would easily be excused to goof in understanding and applying simple texts of constitutional provisions. And now that sanity is gradually resuming into the country’s electoral system, it might be very extreme to assume and accuse someone of his (Professor Kucha’s) status, of ‘inducement’ – to bend the rule or manipulate the process to favour a particular interest.
Still, the declaration last Sunday in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital by the University don has provoked many fundamental questions and elicited worries, by the lawyers, public affairs commentators, politicians and other individuals.
This is expected in view of the reason adduced by the Returning Officer for his worrisome declaration. According to Professor Kucha, the exercise was inconclusive as the total number of votes canceled was in the excess of difference between the votes polled by late Audu and his first running mate as well as the sitting Governor of the State, Idris Wada. This position has been proved to be faulty and therefore countered.
Which arithmetic or logic the academia was actually adopting or deploying here? There were 91 polling units said to be affected and they have, by INEC record 50,000 registered voters. A simple analysis will unarguably establish that not all the registered voters would have collected their Permanent Voters Card (PVC) for various factors; that not all those who collected PVC came out on the Election Day for accreditation and even if they did, not all of them would eventually come out to vote.
Again, rightly or wrongly, the ruling APC has come up with an argument that the entire voters in contention was about 12,000 (the number collected PVC out of 50,000) on Voters’ register. Obviously, this number if at all, would all vote (not possible anyway) falls short of the difference between the vote garnered by Late Audu and the first runners up, Governor Wada! The margin between the two candidates, going by the yet be officially declared result was over 40,000. And this is beside the fact that the winning candidate has won overwhelmingly in 16 out of the 21 local Council areas of the State.
If these were to be the facts of the matter, why the inconclusive declaration by Professor Kucha? Simply put, if the last Saturday poll were to be conducted a thousand of time, the APC and its late candidate would have conveniently won. So simple a situation and very easy an event, one might conclude. Then I ask again, why a whole Professor and VC of a revered Citadel should fall into this avoidable error?
Expectedly, the don’s action has caused avoidable electoral, legal and political dilemma, leaving the stakeholders to remain at loggerheads with one another and locked in a serious confusion, before deciding on what to do.
The Lawyers have cited constitutions which have bearing on the issue in question, but the one of interest to me is the provision of section 33 of the Electoral Act, 2010. which is now a clear constitutional provision of section 181(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended)] which states: “if a person duly elected as Governor dies before taking and subscribing the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, the person elected with him as Deputy governor shall be sworn in as Governor and he shall nominate a new Deputy-Governor who shall be appointed by the Governor with the approval of a simple majority of the house of Assembly of the State”.
Having carefully gone through the section and in particular, the part which states: “if a person duly elected as Governor dies before taking and subscribing the Oath of Allegiance and oath of office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever…” I began to wonder what evidence is left for the INEC, political parties and politicians to conclude on the right step to take and why the debate that the constitution was not categorical about the situation at hand? Or does the phrase “…or is unable for any reason whatsoever…” does not capture the circumstance as witnessed in the case of late Audu?
I wish to state here that I am not really keen to dwell far on the option of Audu’s running mate succeeding him. The reason is simply strategic. For sure, opinion is divided over this, even within the winning party – APC and this to me, has link in the direction the entire saga has drifted so far. More on this later. Therefore, dragging this aspect of last Saturday Kogi gubernatorial exercise will neither do this piece, nor the writer any good.
Again, the legal heads have debated that the AGF should approach the Supreme Court, asking it to make a legal pronouncement on the next move. This approach I personally feel is the wisest, as no one can contest the pronunciation in any other court of law again. But, events had overtaken this as the INEC has scheduled date for the finishing poll and directed the affected party to substitute its late candidate.
I can suspect you might want to accuse me of contradicting myself, regarding my earlier position on the section of the law quoted above and now, preference for court pronouncement. The reason is simple. Trust Nigerian politicians, the INEC directive has been countered already; the AGF has been asked to resign on alleged over bearing and I expect the issue will soon be contested in law court (even if those grumbling eventually participated in the supplementary poll), except if starved of enough liquidity to execute legal action. That is the way of typical Nigerian politician.
As for the APC which has announced its decision to conduct a fresh primary to elect new candidates, the approach although, is civilized, yet, the party should be ready for legal brick wall from the oppositions after the poll. Yet, congratulations (in advance) if such legal action, as anticipated is not taken against it, after the poll; declaration of the result and subsequent swearing-in of the winner.
Now back to Professor Kucha’s shocking declaration and the time late Audu was purported to have died. Recall, the late former Kogi State Governor reportedly gave up the ghost as early as 5.00am last Sunday morning; the strange INEC declaration was made past 4.00pm and the disclosure about the death followed barely an hour later. This to me, was too far and strange to be a COINCEDENCE.
To this end, INEC, given its relevance and link to late Audu at that particular point in time, must have since been intimated about the passage of the candidate. Consequently, I feel that the electoral body expectedly would be shocked and confused. And to worsen the matter, I suspect that the same body would have been pressured to make a declaration which would not necessarily favour the party as a whole, but a section of its interest in the Kogi (APC caucus) at that ‘moment’, but in the end, the party will still be perceived to benefit.
I assume it is all of these factors that might have informed the delay in the announcement of inconclusiveness and which strangely, shortly after, followed with the transition disclosure. It is because of this resenting interest that I decided not to fault the obvious position that Audu’s running mate, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke should take over the joint mandate with Prince Audu.
It also most likely due to the conflicting interest of certain Kogi APC stalwarts and those outside the State, that swayed Professor Kucha in making the unpopular declaration.
Definitely, the last is yet to heard of the Last Saturday Kogi Governorship poll and many circumstances that followed it.
Above all, there is a lesson for the country to learn in the saga. Since it is generally agreed that the country’s laws do not provide for the situation like Prince Audu’s circumstances, this throws one serious challenge. And it is about the need for the Nigerian law making process to be further critical, pre-emptive and always be categorical on every issue as well as on those that are directly or indirectly related.
This is to check manipulation by parties that are involved in the matters. Had the constitution for instance, be specific, those who deviously created the unfolding confusion, surrounding the death of Prince Audu in the midst of the poll he contested, would have found it tight to have their way. When the law says: and any other(s); such provision and pronouncement is open ended and it is subject to multiple but debatable and endless interpretations, just as it is being experienced presently.
Finally, I wish to submit that the survival of the APC as a political party in Nigeria still requires some fence mending exercise, ideological x-ray and reconciliation. The reason is that there are still some elements within the party that the agenda they set out to achieve is personal and sectional. To those folks, they care less if the party really fulfills its campaign promises to the teeming Nigerians who voted for common goals – CHANGE in Nigeria or not. All they are after is for personal agenda to be achieved by whatever means. So, who are those ‘outcasts’? By their “words and actions, we shall know them”. It is a matter of time, Nigerians will know the real and true progressives and those who merely rode on the platform to achieve their almost dashed political ambition!
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