It is no longer news that the Supreme Court has in a landmark, unanimous, ruling, ceded Zamfara State to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after nullifying the party primaries which produced the APC candidates that contested for all elective positions in the state. What this means is that apart from the position of Presidency, every other post which was contested for including both the Federal (Senate and House of Reps) and state (Governorship and House of Assembly) related elections, all the candidates of the All Progressive Congress will not be recognised. This leaves the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to take full control of the affairs of the state as their candidates came second, behind those of the APC during the polls.
This ruling by the apex court in the country comes at a time when the case of the Presidential election is still being considered at the Presidential Election Tribunal. Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the PDP, has filed a case against President Buhari, as he believes that the results which were declared by the electoral umpire INEC, did not reflect the real votes garnered during the elections.
It’s been a tussle so far since the Tribunal started sitting, with a clamour from the PDP eventually leading to the head of the Appeal Court, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, recusing herself from the case as her husband was a senator -elect who contested on the platform of the APC. There have been claims and counter claims from all political parties involved in the case, it seems we may be set for a showdown eventually.
Back to the supreme court ruling, it has altered a major status quo in Zamfara state, as the state has never fallen under the leadership of the PDP, since this democratic dispensation began 20 years ago in 1999. What many may not understand however, is that this new situation may be a pointer to what may eventually happen in the legal tussle between Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC. Let’s see how.
First of all before we delve into that, we have to analyse the fact that the case which is currently at the Presidential Election Tribunal will eventually end up at the Supreme Court. The reason for stating this position is that, with the mannerism of both camps, it is obvious that whoever wins at the Tribunal would not accept defeat. Atiku on his part, has never lost a court case before, as he always seems to ensure he has his facts ready before heading to court. So if he loses at the tribunal, he is most likely to take his case to a higher court, until it gets to the supreme court at most. President Buhari as well, is not likely to give up if he loses at Tribunal, as he is sure to be egged on by his party who have done a whole lot to hold on to power, even if he may be considering making that move. So there we have it settled, President Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will most likely, square up at the Supreme Court.
Now back to the crux of the matter. The Supreme Court is under some sorts of pressure at the moment after the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, was suspended and eventually convicted by the Code of Conduct Tribunal for failing to declare his assets. This move was seen by many as a preemptive move by the APC government to frustrate any attempts by the PDP at getting justice should the elections become hotly disputed as it is now. No matter how much the Federal Government have tried to pass of the removal of the Onnoghen as completely devoid of ulterior motives, the timing of his removal leaves much to be desired.
So the Supreme Court as it were have been placed under scrutiny by the prying eyes of Nigerians to see if the court will begin to take decisions which are bias in favour of the President and his party the APC. The intrigues of the Zamfara case, and the judgment handed by the Supreme Court seems to be a major gain and a step in the right direction.
A look at how the case began and the progression of the case seems to suggest so. Two APC Factions in the state produced candidates which were not recognized by INEC as the electoral body said no primaries were held in the state. INEC then decided that the party will not be on the ballot. However, after the elections were postponed from February 16 to February 23, a court order which came before the 23rd of February gave a ruling that enabled the Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari faction of the APC to contest in the elections. This was after the state Governor, Yari, had said that he had spoken to the President who assured him that the matter would be resolved and also boasted that no election would hold in the state if the APC was not going to be a part of the elections. So that ruling may have seemed like it was handed because of pressure from above.
They won the elections alright but at the Supreme Court, their votes were declared as wasted, standing with the earlier position of INEC and declaring the runners up which happens to be the PDP as the valid winner of the polls. So the Supreme Court had tried its best to be neutral, while delivering judgment.It seems after all that the Supreme Court may not be influenced by any external forces at the end of the day as was feared when the former CJN was removed from office at a seemingly odd time.
So with this in mind, the Presidential Candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, may just be granted a fair hearing which may see him eventually coming out as the winner, as he always have, or maybe loosing out to Buhari and APC yet again. Either way, he is seemingly guaranteed of a fair hearing if the case gets to the Supreme Court which tips the scale in his favour, judging from his past records in court.
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