The Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the election of Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, ending the controversy that had surrounded the rightful occupant of the state governorship seat.
The court gave the decision after listening to arguments by counsels of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate in the election, Idris Wada, running mate to the late candidate of the All progressives Congress on the first day of the election, James Faleke, and that of the governor.
Opening the session, Wale Olanikpekun, counsel to Mr. Faleke, said their appeal seeking the nullification of Mr. Bello’s election, was premised on three grounds.
According to him, Mr. Bello was not qualified to have emerged candidate of the party, having not participated in the election from its onset.
He said according to section 141 of the Constitution, a person cannot be regarded as the winner of an election, which he did not take full part in, adding that Mr. Yahaya could not be credited with votes cast for the APC when he was not the flagbearer for the party.
Mr. Olanikpekun also said the constitutional provision for the substitution of a candidate was flouted by INEC when it declared the election inconclusive and decided to continue from where it had stopped during the November 21 election, after accepting a new candidate for the APC.
Mr. Olanikpekun said the law allows for substitution, in the event of the death of a candidate, but argued that INEC should have started the election all over, when the substitution was made.
The lawyer also argued that having participated in the election until it was 95 per cent complete, his client should have been returned as the winner of the election.
He therefore prayed the court to nullify the election of Governor Bello, as it was concluded after the December 5 supplementary election.
Counsel to Mr. Wada also argued that the APC and INEC were wrong in assuming that one person can inherit the votes of another.
His point was supported by two other parties to the matter, namely the Labour Party and the Africa Democratic Party, ADC.
“Votes cast are not APC votes but the people’s votes for APC. So, after the substitution, they should have started afresh.
“A party needs a candidate to conduct an election. The party cannot just bring a person to come and inherit the votes of another person,” said the counsel.
Mr. Bello’s lawyer, Joseph Daudu, argued that the grounds on which Mr. Faleke’s appeals were based do not hold substance, because he was unable to prove that Mr. Bello was not qualified to have emerged as candidate.
He also said Mr. Faleke had failed to prove his allegation that the substitution was wrongly done, or that the votes cast cannot belong to his client.
“It was one and the same election. The election of November 21 was only declared inconclusive and then concluded on December 5. The beneficiary of the votes in both elections are Yahaya Bello,” Mr. Daudu said.
Regarding the applications made by the two other political parties, Mr. Daudu noted that the lower courts had ruled that the parties failed to initiate any complaint before the expiration of the stipulated period for contesting INEC’s decision.
He added that the tribunal was the only body that had the right to decide whether the substitution of Mr. Yahaya was wrong, but that the tribunal allowed it because it saw nothing wrong with the process.
The seven-man panel of justices led by Sylvester Ngwata ruled that the decisions of the lower courts were affirmed by the apex court and dismissed the appeals accordingly.
The court said it will give its reasons on September 30.