By Clifford Ndujihe, Charles Kumolu, Gbenga Oke & Omezia Ajayi
LAGOS—DIVISION was the lot of lawyers, yesterday, over how the country could proceed with the Kogi State governorship election following the death of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship Candidate, Prince Abubakar Audu.
With results from the 21 local councils of the state, Audu with 240,867 votes was on his way to a historic third electoral victory after six attempts as his closest challenger, Governor Idris Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 199,514 votes.
However, instead of being declared as the winner of the election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced yesterday afternoon that the election was inconclusive, saying that there would be re-run polls in 59 polling units which have about 49,000 registered voters.
Audu died shortly after the announcement raising questions on how the exercise could be concluded because the the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act are silent on what should be done if a candidate dies while the election is on-going.
There should be fresh election – Braithwaite
Speaking on the issue yesterday, Second Republic politician and legal icon, Dr Tunji Braithwaite said the demise of Prince Audu calls for a fresh governorship election in Kogi.
His words: First, it is sad that Audu died. Our thoughts are with his family at this time. However, coming to mankind, life and activities must go on. If the front runner in an election drops dead, the next person with higher votes cannot automatically be declared winner.
‘’The deceased according, to INEC scored higher votes. Audu’s death calls for another election. The incumbent, Capt Idris Wada will continue as governor until another election. There must be another election.’’
Just another election – Adegbuyi
Dr Braithwaite’s views were shared by Barr Bisi Adegbuyi, a stalwart of the Afenifere Renewal group, ARG.
‘’There is nothing other holding another election. APC should be allowed to present another candidate. Since the election has not been concluded, the deputy governorship candidate cannot take his place, he is not the candidate,’’ he said.
The re-run polls should be concluded – Basorun
However, Chief Olorunfunmi Basorun, Second Republic politician and Secretary to the Lagos State Government under Governor Lateef Kayode Jakande, said the re-run polls in 59 polling units should be concluded and the winner declared by INEC.
Reason: ‘’It is the party that matters. The party sponsored the candidates. In 1999, when Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was nominated as Vice presidential candidate, although the Adamawa governorship election had been concluded, the deputy governorship-elect, Boni Haruna, stepped in. So, the INEC should conduct the election in the remaining polling units and declare the winner.’’
Audu’s running mate should step in – Quakers
In his reaction, Mr Norris Quakers, SAN, said since the Nigerian Constitution did not envisage what has happened, it makes it tricky and dicey.
He however said, “In my thinking, if you read sections 36, 39 and 40 of the Electoral Act as amended, I think the Independent Electoral Commission will have to conduct elections in those areas where they are inconclusive. What the party that was affected needs to do is to allow the deputy governorship candidate run as its governorship candidate while a new deputy governorship candidate is picked”.
Ticket belongs to APC – Ngige
On his part, Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, said: ‘’There is no lacuna. In Adamawa, after Obasanjo picked Atiku, who had already won the governorship election in the state to be his running mate, the opposition led by Bala Takaya kicked against the decision to pick Haruna as a replacement for Audu. The opposition went to the Federal High Court to stop it and the matter dragged to the Supreme Court that it was right for Haruna, who was Abubakar’s running mate to become the governor. The opposition demanded for fresh election but that was rejected by the Supreme Court. ‘’However, this is a peculiar situation. What is happening now is a combination of a lot of issues. In Rotimi Amaechi’s case the court ruled that it was the party that owned the ticket. It also said that the party owned the votes. So, such a scenario may play up this time again. The situation we have at hand is called a reccondite situation in law. And it will require a lot of interpretations. I foresee a very stormy and testing period for INEC. The judiciary will also be put on trial.
‘’In Amaechi’s case, he had no running mate but since the court had ruled that the party owned the ticket, Ikuru, who was Omehia’s deputy, became his deputy. In my opinion, I will say that the APC owns the ticket. INEC should go ahead with the elections and conclude it because the votes belong the the APC.’’
A source at the INEC headquarters in Abuja said yesterday: “Ordinarily, the commission would normally cancel the polls and fix another date for the election, but since an election has been conducted, INEC can give seven days to the party to announce another candidate before the conduct of the supplementary polls.”