By Sani Bala
It’s an undeniable fact that the judiciary has been the only place to run to for justice by the common man and in the face of the glaring fight against corruption by the Buhari administration, more needs to be done to save our judicial system from abuse.
The recent and ongoing trial of the suspended Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, is an indication that there are efforts and determination to protect the sanctity of the nation’s judiciary. However, there appears to be still more to be desired.
Evidently, some faithless judges conspire with politicians to influence judgement in their favour. And the ongoing legal tussle rocking the Zamfara State Chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is a case to watch because its outcome can either make or mar the judiciary.
It has been a known issue that the Zamfara APC has not fielded any candidate for the February 16 and March 2 elections and the cause for the embarrassing situation is the inordinate and dizzying effort by Governor Yari to impose his former Commissioner of Finance, Hon. Mukhtar Shehu Idris Koguna, to succeed him.
Instead of allowing the APC followers in the state to vote for candidates of their choice through free, fair, and credible primary elections, Gov. Yari succeeded in heating up the polity and created rancor where so many people were injured and some innocent lives were lost.
He conducted a make believe and farce primary election using the state party controlled structure and came up with an invented list of his acolytes including his Commissioner of Finance, Mukhtar Shehu, as the elected candidates. But what the desperate Yari failed to reckon with is the fact that, primary election is a process guided by the Electoral Act and other extant legislation as well as the party guidelines. Therefore, any attempt to either circumvent or contravene the laid down procedures would in any case render the process and its outcome void and consequently a nullity: the results will be unacceptable.
As expected, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has outrightly rejected the list of the candidates submitted by the Yari led faction for some obvious reasons. First is that, the commission did not at any time monitor the election held by the Yari faction and secondly, the APC National Secretariat who are responsible to conduct the primaries were not a party to the mimicry conducted by the governor.
While Governor Yari has ran to the State High Court in Zamfara where he can conspicuously use his power and influence as a governor to get a favourable judgement, other faction instituted a case at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja. In Zamfara high court, Yari got what he wanted as the state high court danced to the tune of Yari and issued a judgement affirming the validity of the invalid primaries.
But the Abuja high court was convinced by the two witnesses, the INEC and the APC, who have testified before the court that primary elections were not conducted in Zamfara. They insisted that no candidate would be accepted until the adjudication of the pending cases at the appeal court in Sokoto and Abuja, respectively.
In compliance with the Abuja High Court judgement and its conviction that it didn’t monitor any election in Zamfara, INEC had, in a press statement, said based on the provisions of Section 87 and 31 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, the commission does not expect that “your party will submit names of any candidate from Zamfara state.
“For clarity, our position, therefore, is that the APC will not be fielding candidates for the Governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly elections”.
As desperate as he is, Yari has, instead of waiting for the judgement, flagged off campaign at Kauran Namoda and Birnin Magaji where he presented those barred by the competent law as his candidates.
It’s a brazen abuse and disrespect for the judiciary for Gov. Yari to start campaigning and canvassing support for his anointed candidate, Mukhtar Shehu Idris, and others who haven’t been accepted and recognized by the INEC in spite of the pending cases before the court of competent jurisdiction. It is sheer contempt of court.
There was an outburst by Gov. Yari that, if his candidates are not cleared to contest then there will not be election in the state! This is as prejudicial as it is contemptuous. The judiciary should not allow itself to be ridiculed by this desperate politician who is bragging to bribe judges and influence judgement to the detriment of the majority.
The good people of Zamfara State are keenly watching the unfolding events and the judiciary should without prejudice do justice to the people of the state by allowing them to hold peaceful, free, and fair primaries where the candidates of their choice will emerge. We are ready to reject imposition of candidates by Gov. Yari; especially those who served in different capacities in the present regime where government watched gleefully as innocent people got killed, kidnapped for ransom and what have you. Enough is enough.
It is not that we don’t have good leaders to lead us. It’s not that we don’t have people who care about our safety. It’s because those in power are trying all they can to stop our rescuers from taking over the mantle of leadership that would bring succor and respite to the masses. And our last hope now is the judiciary; we believe it would be fair and transparent and devoid of all the external influence and the alleged enticement.
The unflinching struggle by Sen. Kabiru Marafa for the betterment of the entire people of Zamfara State should not and would never be truncated using prejudicial means. We don’t expect to live in despondency and despair under the transparent stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari but Yari’s ineptitude has left us holding the short end of the stick in our land.
Bala write from Abuja