Almost four months after his inauguration, Kano State Governor Abba Yusuf was yesterday sacked by the Election Petition Tribunal.
But the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Bauchi, Bauchi State, affirmed Governor Bala Mohammed’s victory. It said that Mohammed was properly declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC).
Enugu State Governor Peter Mbah, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and his major challenger, Chijioke Edoaga of the Labour Party (LP) will know their fate today at the tribunal.
The three-man Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, led by Justice Oluyemi Akintan-Osadebay, declared Nasiru Gawuna, candidate of the APC, winner of the March 18 poll.
The court ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return earlier presented to Yusuf, who ran on the platform of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and issue a new certificate to Gawuna.
Gawuna was deputy governor under former Governor Abdullahi Ganduje, who is now the national chairman of the APC. Ganduje hailed the judgment as “God’s will.”
But the NNPP rejected the verdict, describing it as a miscarriage of justice. It vowed to head for the Court of Appeal.
The verdict was transmitted virtually via Zoom.
The tribunal deducted 165,663 votes from Yusuf’s total votes and declared them as “invalid votes.” It said that it was satisfied that the ballot papers of the affected votes were not stamped or signed.
INEC had declared that Yusuf scored 1,019,602 votes against Gawuna’s 809,705 votes.
But dissatisfied with the poll outcome, APC asked the tribunal to declare Gawuna the winner, insisting that its candidate scored the majority of the valid votes.
The APC also argued that Yusuf was not a member of the NNPP at the time the election was held.
The APC, through its counsel, Offiong Offiong (SAN), pointed out that Yusuf’s name as Abba Kabir Yusuf was not in the membership register of NNPP submitted to INEC at the time of the election.
The petitioner prayed the tribunal to declare that the NNPP had no candidate during the election.
Delivering a seven-hour judgment, the judge said the petitioner had proved the allegation of invalidity of some of the votes and non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, 2022.
The tribunal ruled that the invalid votes wrongly credited to Yusuf were expunged from those counted and added to the petitioner.
It then recounted the votes, after which Gawuna emerged with a majority of valid votes.
The court consequently declared Gawuna the winner of the poll, saying he had satisfied the provision of the law.
Also, the tribunal ruled that party membership was a constitutional matter, stressing that Yusuf never followed the laid down rules to become a member of the NNPP.
APC hails judgment
Hailing the verdict, APC said owners of demolished buildings will be compensated.
The state chairman, Abdullahi Abbas, said the judgment was God’s answer to the cry of the masses.
He recalled that he led thousands of APC supporters to pray at Kofar Mata Eid Ground, the site of one of the multibillion-naira shopping complexes pulled down by the NNPP administration.
Abbas said: “The prayer session was to thank the Almighty Allah for the party’s victory at the Kano State Governorship Election Tribunal, which returned our candidate, Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, as the winner of the March 18, 2023, election.”
He added: “Beloved Kano people, we are back to correct the wrongs and the imperial tendencies meted out on you. Be assured that things will return to normalcy and your businesses will boom again.
“We are going to return all demolished shops to those who were victimised, whose hard-earned wealth was destroyed. This is a promise, and we will certainly fulfil it.
“Kano, a commercial nerve centre of Northern Nigeria, has been relegated to the background in the few days of the illegal NNPP government. With the APC back in the saddle, sanity will be restored.”
However, until the final determination of the matter, at the final court, the Kano State Governor is constitutionally allowed to remain an officer.
Uneasy calm in Kano
There was tension in Kano yesterday, following the judgment that sacked the governor.
There was a heavy presence of security in strategic locations in the ancient city before and after the judgment.
The Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Usaini Gumel, warned Kano residents to obey the 24-hour curfew imposed by the government.
He said in a statement: “Going forward, Kano State residents are called upon to note that combined security forces have been dispatched to the nooks and crannies, including the entry and exit points of the state to ensure enforcement and strict compliance of the 24-hour curfew as communicated by the state government.”
Ahead of the judgment, there was anxiety as the former Commissioner of Lands and Physical Planning, Adamu Kibiya, threatened to kill the judges if their verdict was not in favour of Yusuf.
However, in reaction to the threat, Justice Osadebay assured the petitioners and respondents of transparency, saying: “We will be fair. Be assured that we will read what the law says and we will read it to the best of our knowledge.”
The governor consequently sacked Kibiya and distanced himself from his “unguarded utterances”.
Ganduje: It’s God’s will
Ganduje applauded the judgment, saying that Allah had favoured APC in Kano State.
Ganduje, who spoke with reporters in his Abuja residence, thanked Allah for providing an enabling environment for the judiciary to adjudicate on the APC petition in a fair and transparent manner.
The former governor urged calm, assuring that the next APC administration will provide a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive.
Gawuna, who also addressed reporters, said: “Today is a historic day. We thank Allah for providing an enabling environment for the judiciary to deliver fair, transparent judgment in our favour and judgment that is true.
“We thank the judiciary, our party leaders in our state. We thank the business community and the various support groups. We have to commend everybody in Kano state for being patient and continuous prayers for Allah to give us victory.
“We urged them to continue to be peaceful, to continue to conduct themselves peacefully. We assure the business community that our new government if we come in insha Allah under our able Governor, Dr Yusuf Gawuna, that business will flourish in Kano.
“We thank Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who is now in America, for creating an enabling environment for the judiciary to flourish in Nigeria. We thank members of the press for giving coverage to enlighten and educate the people. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and God bless you.
Attributing the victory to God, Gawuna added: “Today, Allah has made it fruitful for us to emerge victorious, based on the judgement of today and Alhamdulillah, we have to thank the judiciary for being fair.
“We know Allah is the one that has done it. He is the one that has done it for us before, He is the one that has done it now and Insha Allah, He will do it for us in the coming time. We pray that Allah will give us the health and life to be able to deliver to the people on the right path.”
Acknowledging Ganduje as his mentor, Gawuna said he will continue the good work of the former governor, adding that his administration will be fair to everybody.
He also promised to ensure the security and intensity fight against drug abuse in the state.
Hundreds of APC stalwarts thronged the Abuja residence of Ganduje to celebrate the judgment.
The stalwarts include the former Kano State governor, Sen Kabiru Gaya, Nasiru Aliko Koki, former and serving state and National Assembly members and members of the business community.
Also, the weekly meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party was postponed.
Although members of the NWC had converged on the party secretariat for the meeting, Ganduje packed his files and left for his house after the verdict.
A member of the committee told The Nation at the party’s secretariat that the weekly meeting had been postponed.
He said: “We are all heading to the residence of the National Chairman to rejoice and celebrate the Kano State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal judgment.”
NNPP rejects verdict
The NNPP rejected the judgment, saying that it would be appealed.
Its Acting National Chairman, Alhaji Kawu Ali, said the judgment was laughable and a miscarriage of justice.
In a statement, he said the party would appeal the judgment because it was capable of destroying public confidence in the electoral system.
The statement reads ‘New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) receives with utter incredulity and disbelief the judgement of the Kano State Election Petition Tribunal on the March 18, 2023, Govemorship election.
“The reported judgment nullified the free, credible and globally acclaimed fair election of our Governorship Candidate, Engr Abba Kabir Yusuf and brazenly awarded the election to the APC Candidate, Nasiru Gawuna.
“The Tribunal arrived at this unjust judgement by unfairly subtracting 165,663 votes from the Governor’s tally in order to enable it to unfairly award the election result to the Candidate of the ruling APC.
“In doing so, the Tribunal obviously affirms its belief that the vote tally of the APC Candidate was sacrosanct.
“The judgment of the three-man Kano State Governorship Election Petition is laughable and nothing but a pure miscarriage of justice.
”The decision of the tribunal Is a slap on the face of constitutionalism and rule of law and is capable of further discouraging the electorate from having confidence in the judiciary.
“The NNPP recalls with regret that this Tribunal has simply replayed the unholy script of 2019 by overturning the will of the people and awarding election results to those who evidently lost the election.
“The NNPP will appeal this most unfair judgment. We call on millions of our supporters In Kano and in the rest of the country to remain calm and maintain the peace. This lopsided judgement cannot stand on the altar of natural justice.”