By; FAROOQ A. KPEROGI
In a predictable, premeditated, and carefully choreographed judicial charade, the Court of Appeal on Friday, upheld the verdict of the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal that reversed the electoral triumph of NNPP’s Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State. I sincerely hope this assault on justice isn’t the spark that ignites an inferno in Kano—and in the country.
The signs had been evident since early October that a predetermination had been made that irrespective of the facts, the flawed, preplanned judgment of the election petition tribunal must be preserved at all costs.
For example, on October 6, the Head of the Legal Department of INEC in Kano State by the name of Suleiman Alkali wrote a curious letter stating that INEC, which had declared NNP’s Yusuf as the validly elected winner of the governorship election in Kano, was no longer interested in defending its declaration.
“I have been instructed by the commission headquarters that INEC as an umpire has no reason to appeal any judgment,” he wrote. “Consequently, the National Commission in charge of Legal Services and National Commissioner in charge of Kano zone directed that the appeal be withdrawn and all processes for all appeals should be forwarded to the Kano Office.”
In response to the jolt and outrage that the letter generated, Sam Olumekun, INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, said Alkali wasn’t authorized to write the letter, pointing out that the letter had “since been withdrawn and the officer reprimanded.” We weren’t told the nature of the “reprimand” because it was a lie.
That was exactly what played out when INEC acted in cahoots with Ahmed Lawan to steal APC’s Bashir Machina’s Yobe North Senatorial District primary win, which the Supreme Court affirmed in a shameless show of what I called judicial banditry.
(Retired Justice Musa Dattijo Muhammed quoted his colleague’s quotation of my abrasive censure of the Supreme Court in his parting shots at his colleagues even though he and his colleague didn’t give me credit— and slightly misquoted me. I said in a February 6 article titled “Lawan and Supreme Court of Shameless Judicial Bandits” that “Nigeria’s Supreme Court is, without a doubt, a rotten gaggle of useless, purchasable judicial bandits. The highest bidder gets their judgement.” Dattijo used “voter” where I used “rotten.”)
Anyway, on September 5, 2022, an INEC lawyer by the name of Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, had filed an affidavit at the Federal High Court to discredit the result of its own election that had declared Machina as the winner of the Yobe North APC senatorial primary election.
In the aftermath of the shock and fury that attended this, Festus Okoye, at the time INEC’s National Commissioner and chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee Festus, repudiated Ikpeazu’s affidavit and said, “the Commission will review its quality assurance protocols, including the preview by appropriate ranking Officials of all processes filed on its behalf to ascertain their correctness in all material particulars with all reports and all information at its disposal before their presentation so that a situation like this is not repeated.”
Well, that situation was repeated in Kano in October this year, almost exactly a year later. It seems to be a well-practiced pattern. INEC first flies a kite, sees how high it flies, then crashes it. But the whole point is to prepare the minds of the public for what is being hatched so as to minimize its shock value when it finally materializes.
If the outcome of the Ahmed Lawan and Bashir Machina case is any guide, it means INEC is deeply complicit in Ganduje’s chicanery and plot to steal Yusuf’s governorship. It might also mean that the “judicial bandits” I talked about at the Supreme Court are waiting in the wings to feast on another stolen electoral dinner. I hope I am wrong.
The second indication that this appeal court judgment was a well-rehearsed theater came when the appeal court completed its deliberations on November 6 but deferred its judgment until November 17 and then requested that security be heightened in Kano in anticipation of the publicizing of its judgement. Only people in a dry run for the abortion of justice ask for anticipatory protection from their potential victims.
As I pointed out in my September 23, 2023, column titled “Why the Kano Verdict Can’t Stand,” it is apparent that former Kano State governor and current APC national chairman Abdullahi Ganduje has resolved to damn all consequences and use the federal might at his disposal to wrest the power that his party and his flunkey lost to Rabiu Kwankwaso and his son-in-law in the governorship election.
“APC appears intent to get back through judicial manipulation what it lost through the ballot box,” I wrote. “It’s a higher-order, more sophisticated, and less primitive version of the broad-day electoral heist they perpetrated in 2019 after former Governor Abdullahi ‘Gandollar’ Ganduje lost to the same Abba Yusuf.”
In a defiant disregard for potentially untoward consequences, Ganduje—of course, with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s blessing—has decided to pull all strings to snatch judicial victory from the jaws of electoral defeat.
As I will show shortly, both the election tribunal and the appeal court are not even pretending to be fair in their judgments. They have already been handed a verdict and mandated to fish for evidence to justify it. The verdict, of course, is that NNPP’s Abba Yusuf must go and must be replaced by APC’s Nasiru Gawuna.
In rhetorical studies, we call that finalism, that is, a conclusion in search of evidence. Psychologists call it “motivated reasoning,” that is, tendentious interpretation intentionally designed to produce a predetermined outcome. Philosophers call that armchair hermeneutics, that is, reasoning that ignores the evidence.
The Daily Trust reported Justice Moore A. Adumein as predicating the nullification of Yusuf’s victory on the fact of his not being a member of the NNPP when he was nominated by the party. “As rightfully found, Yusuf Abba was not a member of the NNPP at the time he was purportedly sponsored by his party and he was not qualified to contest the March Governorship Election,” Justice Adumein reportedly said.
Yet, in quashing the election of APC’s House of Representatives member Musa Iliyasu Kwankwaso and reinstating NNPP’s Yusuf Umar Datti as the validly elected member to represent Kano’s Kura/Madobi/Garun Malam Federal Constituency seat, the same appeal court said two weeks ago that “the issue of membership of a political party is an internal affair, which no court has jurisdiction on,” according to the LEADERSHIP newspaper.
I had thought that this was settled law. As I wrote in a previous column, “A May 26 Supreme Court ruling also says rival parties have no right to question the validity of the internal decisions made by other parties unless they can prove that they suffered demonstrable harm as a result of the internal decisions another party took. So, the Kano governorship election tribunal’s verdict on this issue will be as dead as a dodo upon appeal.”
The question now is, why is NNPP’s Yusuf being held to a different standard? I get that Kwankwaso and Yusuf didn’t handle their victory well. Instead of being happy, their victory roused destructive vengeance and mean-spiritedness in them. But that’s no reason to steal their legitimately earned victory.
I am certain that NNPP will take this case to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court is guided by its precedents, which is never guaranteed, I have no doubt that it will invalidate the judgements of the lower courts.
But this is clearly not a legal issue. It’s a battle for political supremacy in Kano between Ganduje and Kwankwaso in which Ganduje is deploying the courts as cudgels to fustigate Kwankwaso.
My advice for President Tinubu is to be very watchful because this is really treacherous territory. Righteous anger over obvious injustice—on top of ongoing existential torment in the country—can spark violence whose consequence we can’t predict.
Farooq A. Kperogi can be reached via Twitter: @farooqkperogi