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LIVE UPDATES: Tension in Kogi, Bayelsa Over Guber Polls

Ninety one polling stations would take part in today’s supplementary governorship elections in Kogi State, following the judgement of a Federal High Court In Abuja, which declined jurisdiction over the multiple cases filed by the candidates of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP Captain Idris Wada, the Peoples Democratic Change, PDC and Honourable James Faleke of the All Progressives Congress, APC. In Bayelsa, the battle line is drawn between PDP and the APC. ANDREW OOTA writes on the state of affairs in the two states.

The uncertainty over whether or not, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC would so along with the scheduled supplementary elections in the 91 polling stations of Kogi state today was settled by the judgment of the Federal High Court presided and delivered by Justice Gabriel Kolawole who in a landmark judgement declined jurisdiction and okayed that the commission proceeds with the concluding part of the election.

The incumbent governor of Kogi state and candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP in the November 21st, 2015 Captain Idris Wada had approached the High Court to compel INEC to declare him winner in the inconclusive elections which, would have stalled the conduct of the polls today.

Honourable James Faleke of the All Progressives Congress, APC had also approached the High Court challenging the decision of the his party in choosing Mr. Yahaya Bello as replacement for the late candidate of the APC in the inconclusive election , Prince Abubakar Audu in which he was a running mate as well as to stop the supplementary elections.

According to Justice Gabriel Kolawole only the election petition tribunal had the jurisdiction to hear the cases and further permitted the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to continue with the supplementary election in the state, scheduled for this Saturday, December 5.

His words, “Only the election petition can entertain this case. The court does not have the affirmation to make definitive pronouncements,” the judge averred.

Equally determined to stop today’s supplementary elections in Kogi before the High Court ruling of yesterday was the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Change, PDC, Emmanuel Daiko who asked that the supplementary election be declared illegal; and Raphael Igbokwe (a PDP member of the House of Reps), who also asked the court to order INEC (the first defendant) to hold a fresh election in the state.

Similarly, Johnson Jacob equally asked the court to cancel the election. At its penultimate sitting, the high court had consolidated the various cases and reserved judgment in three prayers sought for yesterday barely 24 hours to the conduct of the supplementary polls.

As it stands, following the position of justice Kolawole that beyond the issues of lack of jurisdiction, it would amount to “idle judicial indulgence to proceed with the suit”, it therefore means, the 91 polling units across the state, where election results were cancelled would return to the polls this morning to decide.

According to the justice Kolawole , the prayers sort by the candidates of the PDP, PDC as well as the Honourable Faleke can only be addressed by an election tribunal, adding that the goal of the judgement is to create a judicial and permissive order for INEC to conduct supplementary polls where the court does not have affirmative declarative powers and jurisdiction.

While for Kogi state, it is a supplementary in about 90 polling stations, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has announced that both sensitive and non-sensitive materials have arrived the state.

The late Audu was leading with total of 41, 000 votes before the cancellation of about 48, 000 votes stalled his victory. Prince Abubakar Audu was said to have died shortly after the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC temporarily put his victory on hold by declaring the elections as inconclusive.

This decision and, death of the APC candidate, Prince Audu created no small anxiety and uncertainty in Kogi state and the country at large owing to the fact that the 1999 constitution of Nigeria as amended and the Electoral Act did not envisage such a scenario, hence the commission was forced to consult the Attorney General For the Federation and Minister of Justice for advice, although there were arguments in some quarters that INEC ought to have approached the Supreme Court, not an appointee whose employer and, in this case, the President and Commander -In -Chief is a member of the APC and by implications, his judgement may be biased and partisan.

Apparently based on the advice of the Attorney General for the Federation and Minister of Justice, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC requested the APC to replace the late Prince Abubakaar Audu with another candidate who would complete the race from where death terminated the late Audu’s ambition to, again rule Kogi and the lots fell on Alhaji Yahaya Bello, but late Audu’s running mate, Honourable James Faleke kicked, challenged the decision of the party before an Abuja High Court praying the court to declare him winner of the November 21, 2015 governorship elections in Kogi.

According to Honourable Faleke, the decision of INEC to declare the elections of November 21, 2015 was in error.

To some analysts, HonourableFaleke, who did not take part in any of the processes including primaries of the party but was merely picked as running mate by the late Audu could only lay any claim to the victory, if the results of that elections were declared in favour of his party before Audu’s death. They have also argued that Honourable Faleke, who made frantic efforts to emerge candidate of his party the APC to replace late Audu in the supplementary elections, but lost out, could not, in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act replace Audu because he did not take part in any process the led to emergence of a candidate in the kogi elections, therefore fielding him would mean, donating victory to the PDP through the tribunal or Appeal Court.

It is curious that, it was after losing his bid to replace his late boss, that Faleke suddenly realized that indeed he should have being declared governor-elect by INEC, for this double standard, many are of the opinion that Faleke is either playing a spoiler’s script since he could not have his way or merely playing to the gallery.

Faleke is not alone in court, the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP and incumbent governor, Captain Idris Wada is also in court, laying claim to have won the November 21, 2015 kogi governorship elections, coincidentally, both Faleke and Audu are at the wrong places, because the Electoral Act says elections related cases shall begin at the election Tribunals, it did not say such cases should start from an regular court, therefore, anybody laying claims to that particular victory before a regular court may be acting in cumulative ignorance or simply playing to the gallery.

For Bayelsa, it is a full elections in the 8 local governments that constitute the state , the Nigerian Police Force has deployed its personnel to the oil rich state to ensure that today’s elections are violence free and without the usual ballot stuffing.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC has vowed that Smart Card Readers must be used for accreditation for today’s elections in Bayelsa and, on no account should manual accreditation be allowed.

Like Kogi state before the death of the APC candidate, the two leading candidates in today’s Bayelsa governorship elections, Honourable Seriake Dickson of the PDP and the APC candidate, Mr Timipre Sylva have both governed the state, while Sylva was governor of Bayelsa state between 2007 and 2011; the PDP candidate is the incumbent state governor.

Like, Kogi whoever wins in today’s Bayelsa state governorship elections between the APC and the PDP candidates would only do one term, having done a term each.

The police personnel deployed to Bayelsa state, with just 8 local governments underscores not just the difficult terrain of the river line state, but also to checkmate and possibly neutralize the anxiety and fear of crisis, following the drums of war from the oil rich state by supporters of both parties as well as the uncharitable comments of former president Goodluck Jonathan believed to be designed to widen the gulf and sow a seed of discord when he told the people of the state during one of the rallies of the PDP candidate Seriake Dickson that the PDP was an Ijaw party.

President Jonathan, to many, was simply on a familiar path of regional, sectional and religious bigotry, which contributed immensely in sending him out of Aso Rock during the April 2015 Presidential elections which he lost by vilifying Muhammadu Buhari.

LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that, such comments believed to be unnecessarily incisive, informed the decision of the police and sister agencies to deploy enough personnel to ensure that the people of Bayelsa are allowed to freely exercise their constitutional rights by voting for any candidate or political party of their choice without being harassed or intimidated.