Nigeria’s political landscape woke up to yet another intriguing upset on Tuesday when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Dauda Lawal Dare, was declared winner of the governorship election in Zamfara State, unseating the incumbent Governor Bello Matawalle, who was seeking re-election under the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer for the election, Professor Kasimu Shehu, while declaring the final results, said Dare scored 377,726 votes to defeat Matawalle, who polled 311,976 votes.
Zamfara has since erupted in jubilation, with Lawal and PDP supporters celebrating what many described as a hard-earned victory after a keenly contested election on Saturday.
However, Lawal’s victory did not come on a silver platter. The road to success was pretty rough for the former First Bank director, who fought four legal battles up till two weeks to the poll before he was finally affirmed as the PDP governorship candidate.
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PDP’s Lawal unseats Matawalle in Zamfara
Lawal’s first legal hurdle popped up in September 2022 when the Federal High Court in Gusau, Zamfara State capital, nullified the primary election that produced him as the PDP candidate.
A former federal lawmaker, Alhaji Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, had asked the court to nullify the election, saying it was marred by irregularities.
Justice Aminu Bappa nullified the May 25, 2022 primary and ordered that a rerun be held.
Although Lawal won the rerun, his victory was put on hold as Gusau went back to the same court to contest the exercise.
ANOTHER HAMMER FROM THE COURT
Again, Justice Bappa nullified the rerun and even added a shocker: PDP would not field any candidate for the 2023 governorship election in the state, he had ruled.
The rerun was nullified on the grounds of irregularities and non-compliance with the party’s 2017 constitution as well as its electoral guidelines for the conduct of elections.
Lawal didn’t give up. He, Adamu Maina-Waziri, the Chairman Primary Election Committee and Col. Bala Mande (retd) approached the Appeal Court Division in Sokoto to seek redress.
ENTERING 2003 WITH CHALLENGES
In January 2023, the appellate court in a unanimous judgment read by Justice Abubakar Talba quashed the Federal High Court ruling and reinstated Lawal as the PDP governorship candidate.
The respondents in the suit were Gusau, Alhaji Wadatau Madawaki, Hafiz Nahuche and INEC.
Justice Talba held that the appellants succeeded in proving all the seven grounds of appeal canvassed by their counsel and that the court resolved all in their favour.
The presiding judge held that the lower court was wrong to discountenance documents submitted by INEC, adding that it (the trial court) did not stipulate the period of conducting rerun election and notices of participation.
SIGH OF RELIEF
Another victory for Lawal, but the legal battle was not over as Gusau appealed the ruling at the Supreme Court.
On March 6, 2023, Lawal would eventually heave a sigh of relief when the apex court affirmed him as the PDP candidate.
The court, in a unanimous decision by a five-man panel of justices, dismissed Gusau’s appeal, challenging the legality of the primary election. Justice Inyang Okoro who read the lead judgement said the appeal lacked merit.
“The court resolved all the issues for determination against the Appellant and held that the appeal was unmeritorious and the same was dismissed. Parties were ordered to bear their respective costs,” Okoro said.
Lawal and previous court cases
Rounds of suits surrounding Lawal’s candidature appear to foreground his antecedent as a man whose fate is partly tied to legal wheels.
From May 2016 to 2021, Lawal slugged it out with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which accused him of money laundering and obtaining monies suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.
The case, which travelled from a high court up to Supreme Court, was brought to a close in March 2021 when the apex court ordered the EFCC to return N9 billion to the ex-First Bank director.
In a unanimous judgement, the five-man panel, led by Justice Muhammad Lawal Garba, dismissed the appeal filed by the EFCC against the judgement of the Court of Appeal which, among other things, ordered that:
“The decisions of the Federal High Court, Coram Judice: Hassan, J. delivered in Suit No: FHC/L/CS/13/2017 on 16th February 2017 are hereby set aside. The order of final forfeiture of the sum of N9,080,000,000.00 (Nine Billion and Eighty Million Naira) to the Federal Government of Nigeria is hereby set aside. It is hereby ordered that the said sum of N9,080,000,000.00 (Nine Billion and Eighty Million Naira) be returned to the Appellant forthwith.”
On October 7, 2020, the Federal High Court, Lagos Division had discharged and acquitted Lawal of the offences of money laundering, obtaining monies suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities and the other charges brought against him by the EFCC.
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