By Mohammed Ismail
A pervading and foreboding atmosphere of forlorn, confusion and disbelief is currently seething through Yola north/Yola south/Girei federal constituency of Adamawa State, as INEC and court verdicts return three different individuals as the federal lawmakers representing the same constituency.
Although there are many factors behind the seeming anomaly. One culprit that played a major role in the preponderance of the abnormality was the failure of the ruling party, the APC, to manage the internal bickering that greeted its party primaries conducted last year.
What started like a mild unattended outcry from aggrieved members of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), who cried of being shortchanged during the party primaries, suddenly snowballed into a huge conflagration that relegated the party into the realm of opposition, having lost the governorship election, two senatorial seats, 5 out of 8 federal constituencies and 14 out of the 25 state constituency seats.
The party has been thrown into a near state of anomalies following the conduct of its primaries which major stakeholders described as shambolic which left the party tethering on the edge of the precipice.
Unlike the governor, senators and majority of the reigning leaders of the party who were swept away by the raging storm of disunity in the party, the APC flagbearer of Yola south/Yola north/ Girei constituency, Abdulrauf Modibbo has managed to wade through the storm and emerged victorious at the general election conducted on February 23 2019.
But even before Modibbo could settle to savour the prospects of his electoral conquest and exult his overwhelming electoral victory, a Federal High Court sitting in Yola stealthily upset the apple cart by declaring the PDP candidate who was the first runner up in the general election as the winner, citing non compliance with procedures during the party primaries of APC which led the court to establish that the primaries was inconclusive and the party did not field a candidate.
Consequently, the court ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw Certificate of Return issued to APC’s Abdurrauf Abubakar Modibbo and give it to PDP candidate, Jafar Sulaiman Ribadu.
The Presiding judge, Justice Abdulaziz Anka, ordered that Abdurrauf, who was elected on February 23, should vacate the seat for the runner-up (Jafar Suleiman of the Peoples Democratic Party) on the ground that the primary election that produced him was inconclusive.
The suit, filed by Lawal Abubakar Garba, the incumbent APC member representing the constituency at the House of Representatives had the APC, Abdurrauf and the INEC joined as first, second and third respondents respectively.
“I hereby order the 2nd respondent, Abdurrauf Abdulkadir Modibbo, to vacate the seat for the member House of Representatives for Yola North/Yola South/Girei Constituency in the National Assembly,” Justice Anka ruled.
“I hereby order that INEC withdraws the certificate of Return issued to him and issue same to the runner up in the general election conducted on the 23rd of February, 2019. This is the decision of the court. All parties have right of appeal.”
But while the federal high court Yola division gave PDP victory, another legal tussle between Modibbo and the first runner up in the highly controversial APC party primaries Mustapha Usman was brewing at another Federal High Court, Abuja.
Delivering judgement, justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja disqualified Modibbo for giving INEC false information and directed that the electoral umpire should recognize Usman of APC as the winner of the polls.
Justice Inyang Ekwo also ordered the All Progressives Congress, APC to recognize Mustapha Usman, who came second in the party primary of October 7, 2018, as the winner of the February 23 National Assembly election for Yola South, Yola North, and Girei Federal Constituency of Adamawa State.
The court held that Usman has established the offence of forgery of Modibbo’s First School Leaving Certificate and his participating in partisan politics while serving as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) which violates Paragraph 9 of Section 4 of the NYSC Act.
As the political logjam persisted, FOMBINA TIMES sought the opinion of a legal luminary in Adamawa State, Barrister Joshua Wugira over who among the three personalities “is the rightful heir to the throne.”
Reacting to our inquiries, Wugira said the first judgement by the Yola Federal High Court came in two folds. The first one is that the court admitted that the APC did not field a candidate for the constituency in the general election which made the court to order INEC to withdrew the certificate of return issued to Modibbo and give it to the PDP candidate noting that unfortunately, the court said it has no jurisdiction to entertain the matter on the strength that the applicant filed the matter after the constitutionally provided window of 14 days.
” That was why INEC could not honour or obey the court order. That is why the parties including INEC, Modibbo and Lawal Garba all went on appeal.
“What INEC was saying was that the court having said it has no jurisdiction cannot make any consequential order by directing it to withdraw certificate of return from Abdurrauf Modibbo to the PDP candidate. That was also the appeal of Modibbo himself.
” The third cross appeal filed by the applicant Lawal Garba said he filed the matter within the 14 days constitutional window within which aggrieved party can file a suit.
“The contention was that his cause for going to court arose not on the day of the primaries which was October 7, 2018.
” What transpired was that he filed a petition and that was why the winner of the election could not be announced until when the NEC of the APC met on October 18, 2019 and it was the last day for political parties to transmit names of their candidates to INEC.
“As a result, of the situation, the APC NEC felt there was no time to conclude the primaries in Yola as a result, the party transmitted the name of Abdurrauf Modibbo to INEC,” he said.
Wugira noted that with the above argument, it could be well situated that Lawal Garba who later filed a suit on October 29, 2019 did it within the stipulated constitutional window adding that it is his fervent belief that the court of appeal will uphold the verdict of Federal High Court Yola.
Responding on the second judgement passed by a Federal High Court Division Abuja which gave the first runner up of APC victory, Wugira said the judgement could not stand the test of time because of the fact that Mustapha Usman did not participate in the election.
“The judgement is valid to the extent Abdulrauf Modibbo doctored his declaration of age while also going into politics while on National Youth Service. The NYSC by laws have explicitly and unequivocally bar any serving corps member from participating in politics. But that is the extent that the judgement will go.
” There are several supreme court authorities and appeal court authorities to the effect that where a candidate does not participate in election, he cannot reap from the outcome of the election in anyway. So the case of Amaechi and the likes is no longer applicable.
“INEC cannot issue certificate of return to the applicant in that case as directed by the court because he has not participated in the general election. The mischief of this is that the judgement is to some extent indicating APC did not participate in the election ultimately.
” The fact that he cannot participate and not eligible to participate in the election is unchallengeable but the truth of the matter is that applicant in the second case could not be given a certificate of return because he did not participate in the election. The seat will ultimately go to the PDP,” Wugira noted.