The contention is between Albishir, on one hand and the Independent National the Electoral Commission, INEC and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP on the other, over a case of substitution.
To the joy of many supporters of ideal democracy, the Court of Appeal, sitting in Jos, had, some months ago, granted an out of time appeal to Albishir who had filed a fresh appeal through a conventional court, challenging the ruling of the Maiduguri High Court which had, in 2007, declined jurisdiction to hear his case when he sued the ANPP and INEC for wrongful substitution.
For the very first time, it appeared the court had finally decided to tow the line of Nigerian courts and hear the merit of Albishir’s case in this era of justice of substance when the appeal court granted Albishir’s quest for fresh appeal and gave time for him to file application. And since then, a date has not been fixed for commencement of hearing and this has begun to raise questions on the integrity of the judiciary.
All along, the INEC and ANPP have deployed different technicalities to ensure that the merit of the case was never heard. Their fears were clearly based on the similarities between Albishir’s case and that of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State in which case the Supreme Court has since set precedence for all courts to follow.
Senator Usman Albishir, like Amaechi, won the Yobe governorship primary elections with 382 votes in 2007, defeating the late Mamman Ali, who scored 88 votes. Albishir was, on winning the primaries by landslide, awarded a certificate of candidature by his party, the ANPP and his name was forwarded to the INEC as Yobe governorship candidate. Just like the PDP did to Amaechi, Albishir was later substituted in a very controversial circumstance with the late Ali by undemocratic elements in the ANPP in collaboration with Iwu’s kind of INEC. The reason for Albishir’s substitution was like that advocated by the PDP in the case of Amaechi, which was that Albishir’s name was contained in the list of some persons prohibited from contesting election by EFCC on the authority of Malam Nuhu Ribadu, a man already caught up by nemesis.
Albishir’s offence, according to the Ribadu’s EFCC, was that he allegedly collected a loan of N14million from a bank and didn’t pay back on time. The bank in question, which has its debt recovery machinery, even if it were true, said the claim was false. The bank even declared Albishir’s companies as amongst its valid customers.
Back to the court issue, it is becoming crystal clear that the court of appeal in Jos under Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa is, may be, unknown to it, acting the scripts of INEC, ANPP and Governor Ibrahim Gaidam for delaying the commencement of hearing because, all along, lawyers from the two bodies have usually given one reason or another, apparently to delay the hearing. There was even a time it was said that one of their lawyers was sick and the case was adjourned. At another time, it was another delay tactics, that the INEC and ANPP needed written submissions by Albishir and also needed time to study them even when the case was known to all parties and they could make oral debates on the case as they have done before.
The general fear now is that the people of Yobe State may never know who their rightful governor in this political dispensation and if this happens, it will forever undermine the confidence the people of Yobe and other Nigerians have in the Nigerian judiciary. Even at the moment, that confidence is in serious doubts because the delay in this case by the court of appeal is already a justice denied and that is a serious setback for Nigeria’s democracy.
Abbagana, esq wrote from Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island, Lagos State and can be reached at email@example.com