Following the ruling of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja which upheld the election of Mr. Darius Ishaku as the duly elected governor of the state, jubilation spread across Taraba Thursday afternoon.
As the news filtered in that the governor won at the Appeal at about 3:20pm, the governor’s supporters in his home town Takum and across other towns like Chanchanji, Wukari, Gembu and Zing took to the streets in celebration.
In a unanimous judgment of the court of appeal headed by Justice Abdul Aboki held that the tribunal acted outside its jurisdiction when it invalidated Ishaku’s election on the premise that he was not validly nominated by the PDP.
The appellate court maintained that the issue of nomination of a candidate by a political party “is clearly a pre-election matter which no tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertain”.
It also held that neither the All Progressives Congress, APC, nor its candidate, Senator Aisha Jumai Alhassan, had the locus-standi to query the outcome of the governorship primary election of the PDP, since it’s purely a domestic affairs.
“There is no dispute whatsoever in this case that the 1st and 2nd respondents have not said that the appellant is not a member of a political party. From the pleadings and facts, it is obvious that the appellant is a member of the PDP”.
The court held that under section 87(9) of the Electoral Act, only those that participated in the said PDP primary election has the right to challenge its outcome at the Federal High Court or State High Court.
“The right to complain is severely limited to participants in the primary election. Whether the primary election was done rightly or wrongly cannot be subject of an election petition. “The most important question to be asked here is, was the appellant a member of a political party or sponsored by a party to participate at the election?
“All evidence before the tribunal pointed to the fact that the appellant was duly sponsored by the PDP and INEC duly received his nomination. INEC did not at any time queried his eligibility to participate in the election. “Both oral and documentary evidence before the tribunal clearly showed that the appellate was a member of the PDP and was validly sponsored.
The Appeal Court hold that the 1st and 2nd respondents have no right to challenge the primary election at which the appellant emerged as none of them is a member of the PDP. “Nomination of a candidate to participate in an election is the sole responsibility of a political party. Issue of nomination of candidate is within the domestic affair of a political party”, the court held.
Also the court held that the tribunal “grossly misdirected itself”, when it not only nullified governor Ishaku’s election, but went ahead to declare the candidate of the APC, Alhassan, winner.
Justice Aboki held that the lower tribunal erred when it directed that Aisha Alhassan be sworn in, saying the tribunal had no power whatsoever to declare a person that came second at an election as the winner.
It said the best the tribunal could have done under section 142 of the constitution was to order for a fresh poll. “The judgement of the lower tribunal is hereby set aside. We are of the view that the appellant’s appeal is meritorious and is hereby allowed.
“I hereby make the following consequential orders. The order of the tribunal made on November 7 is hereby set-aside. The election and return of the appellant in theApril 11 election is hereby upheld.
“The Certificate of Return issued to the appellant by the 4th respondent in this matter remains valid. I make no order as to cost”, the court held.
At the time of filing this report, there was no celebration of any kind in Jalingo the state capital as the city was very calm with people going about their normal businesses.
Speaking to National Mirror on phone, State Commissioner for Environment, Mrs. Rebecca Manasseh described the Appeal ruling as victory for democracy and a new dawn for the people of Taraba.
She congratulated the governor for the victory and the people of the state who freely gave the governor their mandate on April 11, saying the will of God cannot be thwarted by anybody.
Rebecca commended President Muhammadu Buhari for not interfering in the judgment and called on the people of the state not to over celebrate, but remain calm and law abiding.
Former commissioner for information in the state, Mr. Emmanuel Bello in his reaction congratulated the governor and the judiciary for coming of age, describing the judgment as ‘victory for common sense.’
Efforts to get the APC’s reaction in the state failed as the state chairman Mr. Ardo Jika and other staunch APC’s stewards in the state could neither picked their calls nor reply text messages sent to them.