Tribunal sacks Ishaku as Taraba governor, declares Alhassan winner

Mama Taraba Aisha AlHassan

Nigeria is set to have her first elected female governor as the Taraba State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja Saturday sacked Darius Ishaku from office.

The tribunal headed by Justice Musa Danladi Abubakar declared Hajia Aisha Alhassan  winner of the governorship election held on April 11, 2015.

Ishaku was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the election while Alhassan contested on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform.

The three-member tribunal held that 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.

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, 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.

Ishaku later told a news conference in Jalingo on Saturday that he would appeal the verdict.

He said he believes the Court of Appeal would reverse the judgment and give him back his victory.

Alhassan, who is popularly known as Mama Taraba, is one of the ministers-designate expected to be sworn in by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday.

She had approached the tribunal to challenge what she described as “daylight robbery” by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).