The Governorship Election Petition Tribunal for Taraba on Saturday nullified the election of Taraba Governor, Darius Ishaku, of the Peoples Democratic Party.
The Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress and a Minister designate, Aisha Alhassan, as the winner of the April 11 governorship election in the state.
The three-member tribunal held that Mr. Ishaku was not validly nominated as candidate of the PDP and therefore did not qualify, from start, to contest the governorship election.
Specifically, the tribunal held that the governorship primaries purportedly conducted by the PDP in the state was done in violation of section 78 (b) (1)(2) of the Electoral Act which guides parties nomination to the position of governorship candidate.
It held that contrary to the provision of the section, PDP conducted the purported primaries at its national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in Abuja with no clear delegation from the local government areas in the state.
The tribunal sustained the testimonies of the head of election monitoring of Independent National Electoral Commission that the commission was not aware of any primaries conducted by the party in line with the provision of the electoral act which produced Ishaku as the party’s flagbearer.
Section 78 (b) (1)(2) of the Electoral Act states: In the case of nomination to the position of Governorship candidate, a political party shall where they intend to sponsor candidates:
(i) hold special congress in each of the Local Government Areas of the States with delegates voting for each of the aspirants at the congress to be held in designated centres on specified dates.
(ii) the aspirant with the highest number of vote at the end of the voting shall be declared the winner of the primaries of the party and aspirant’s name shall be forwarded to the commission as the candidate of the party, for the particular state.
The tribunal said the defence by the PDP that the primaries were shifted to Abuja because of security challenges in the state was rejected by the tribunal.
It sustained the evidence of the INEC official that there was no primaries election in the state and the emergence of Mr. Ishaku through the purported election in Abuja was after the statutory stipulated time for party primaries had elapsed.
It held that since Mr. Ishaku was not duly sponsored by the PDP, the party had no candidate in the governorship election in the eyes of the law.
The tribunal therefore voided the votes of the PDP and Mr. Ishaku in the election saying “it is a waste’’ and declared the APC and its candidate, who came second, as the valid winner of the April 11 election.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to APC, Abiodun Owonikoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said the judgment was a landmark being the first time the election of a governor would be nullified on the doctrine of wasted votes.
He said with the judgment, the era of impunity in party primaries was gone and it would be a lesson not only for PDP but all political parties.
On whether Mr. Ishaku will vacate the seat immediately, Mr. Owonikoko said the judgment “is not the end of the road, there is opportunity for all the parties to explore whatever the grievance they have’’.
Mr. Owonikoko added that if the governor or the party did not appeal within 21 days, Ms. Alhassan will be sworn-in as governor.
The counsel to the PDP was not available to comment on the verdict of the Tribunal as they all rushed out of the venue after the judgment.