The declaration of a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, as the winner of the Kano Central senatorial election on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) has triggered a fresh round of political drama in the state, Daily Trust reports.
The returning officer of the senatorial district election, Professor Tijjani Hassan Darma, announced on Tuesday that Shekarau polled 456,787 votes to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Alhaji Abdulkarim Abdussalam Zaura, who polled 168, 677 votes with the candidate of the PDP, Laila Buhari, coming in a distant third.
Since the announcement of the results, social media and the Kano political sphere have become agog with permutations of what would likely happen, with many saying it might cost the NNPP victory and give the APC an advantage. They recall how Governor Bello Matawalle, then of PDP, became governor of Zamfara State in 2019 despite coming second in the poll due to primary election issues in the APC.
But the spokesman of the NNPP campaign council in Kano State, Sanusi Bature, who spoke to Daily Trust on behalf of Rufai Sani Hanga, the party’s senatorial candidate, allayed fears. He said the party has kick-started the process to correct what he termed a technical anomaly.
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He said upon the resignation of Shekarau from NNPP in August last year, the party conducted fresh primaries as provided by the Electoral Act where Hanga emerged as the winner and his name was sent to INEC.
However, because INEC insisted in September that Shekarau remained the NNPP candidate, the party approached the Federal High Court in Kano where it got a judgment recognizing Hanga as the candidate.
Bature said the Supreme Court is also expected to deliver judgment today (Wednesday).
He however said the subsisting judgment is that of the appeal court which recognizes Hanga as the candidate but that court documents had yet to be served on the electoral umpire before the Saturday polls. He said lawyers of the party were thus briefed early Tuesday to immediately bring the apex court judgment to the notice of INEC to correct the anomaly and restore the mandate given to Hanga by the people.
“We have won in two judgments, but the only missing gap was that INEC was not in receipt of the copy of the judgment and now we have directed our lawyers to get a copy of the judgment and submit to INEC along with the result which we are very optimistic that INEC will comply..
He said lawyers of the party were thus briefed early Tuesday to immediately bring the apex court judgment to the notice of INEC to correct the anomaly and restore the mandate given to Hanga by the people.
“We have won in three judgments, but the only missing gap was that INEC was not in receipt of the copy of the judgment and now we have directed our lawyers to get a copy of the judgment and submit to INEC along with the result which we are very optimistic that INEC will comply.
“This would be confirmed during the presentation of the certificate of return and we are very confident that Hanga would be given the certificate of return because we went to court three times in a row,” he said.
He added that naturally in the tradition of INEC, the electoral body does not usually appeal a judgment as it relates to fielding a candidate but it was suspicious that it did in the present case, which led to the matter going to the Supreme Court.
Genesis of the fresh crisis
Shekarau, a two-term governor of Kano State and current senator for Kano Central, had been at the centre of several controversies in Kano’s political terrain in the last year; first by leading a faction tagged G-7 to attempt to wrest control of the structure of the APC from the state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a move that culminated to his exit from the ruling party.
He then teamed up with his political foe, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in the NNPP and was promptly rewarded with an automatic ticket to return to the red chamber where he has been since 2019.
But a couple of months after, his political marriage with Kwankwaso fell apart and he again exited the NNPP and returned to PDP to lead the charge for Atiku Abubakar in the state.
In defecting from the NNPP, Shekarau had written to the INEC intimating the electoral umpire of his decision to abandon his senatorial race having resigned from the party that gave him the ticket (NNPP).
INEC, however, insisted that Shekarau’s name would remain on the ballot paper because the withdrawal came later than as provided for in the Electoral Act, even though the party replaced him with another candidate, Rufa’i Sani Hanga.
Speaking with Daily Trust on Tuesday, Dr Sule Yau Sule, spokesman for Shekarau, said his principal will decide soon on what to do with the development and communicate same to INEC.
He, however, said before the election, Shekarau had written to INEC to inform it of his withdrawal from the race, and that INEC acknowledged the letter but didn’t reply because at that time it was the party that had the mandate to withdraw the name of a candidate, which the party did.
“Normally, the correspondence before the election is usually between INEC and the party but after the election, it’s between the candidate and INEC. Oga will decide what to do because his name was the one on the ballot”, he said, adding that he believed many people still voted for the party with that in mind.
He, however, did not make any categorical statement on whether or not Shekarau will make attempt to claim the victory or maintain his earlier position of withdrawing from the race.
NNPP don’t have a candidate, we will head to court – APC
While effort to hear from the APC candidate, A. A. Zaura was not successful, the party’s state secretary, Ibrahim Zakari Sarina, told Daily Trust that the party has briefed its lawyers to kickstart the process of claiming the mandate for the party, insisting that with the development, NNPP does not have a candidate in the election and thus makes APC the winner.
“NNPP has no candidate, so they have no claim and Shekarau has no right to claim a victory from a different party because he does not belong to the party. So with that, it is only APC that came second that will claim the victory.
“I am already talking to our lawyers and we are claiming our victory by the grace of God,” Sarina said.
Reacting, the spokesman of NNPP, Sanusi Bature, told Daily Trust that APC’s attempt to claim the mandate is an exercise in futility.
“There is no way they (APC) can succeed if they challenge this because it is the responsibility of a political party to determine who is her candidate and in this case, we have complied with the Electoral Act by providing an alternative candidate (Hanga) within two weeks after Shekarau’s resignation,” he said.
Speaking with our correspondent, Dr Biodun Layonu (SAN), said legally, it’s not much of a complex issue for the NNPP to resolve since the law recognised that the party produced the candidate.
He said the party should bring to the notice of INEC any court judgment in its (NNPP) possession that supports its position that Hanga and not Shekarau is its candidate.
He, however, said the process could be complicated if the party that comes second in the poll, in this case, the APC, decided to challenge the outcome of the election on the basis of the confusion on who is truly the candidate of the party at the polls.