Confusion Thursday trailed the judgement of the Kaduna State Gubernatorial Election Petition Tribunal which upheld the election of Governor Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC), while dismissing the petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial candidate, Hon. Isah Ashiru Kudan.
However, in a majority judgement, two panel members ordered a rerun of the poll in four local government areas of the state.
While Governor Sani of the APC lauded the judgement, Mr Kudan, the PDP candidate, expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling and promised to take his case to the appellate court.
The judgment by the three-man panel of judges namely; Justice Victor Oviawie (lead), Justice K. Damlat and Justice N. Nonye, which lasted five and half hours, saw the tribunal struck out the petition on the ground that the preliminary notice was filed out of time, after the seven days prescribed by the constitution, and was therefore deemed to have been abandoned.
But in a split judgment, Justice Oviawie said the preliminary notice was filed outside the seven days prescribed by the constitution from the day when the main case was filed, adding that the petition was deemed to be abandoned and this judgment was also supported by Justice Nonye.
Differing, however, Justice Damlat noted in his own verdict that the preliminary notice was properly filed and was not abandoned.
And while looking at the merit of the petition despite being dismissed in the lead judgment, the tribunal in a majority judgement supported by Justices K. Damlat and Nonye said the petitioner was able to prove beyond doubt that the election was invalid in 22 polling units across four local government areas.
They also said the number of registered voters in the four local governments was more than the 10,806 votes margin with which Sani defeated Ashiru, thus making the election inconclusive.
But the lead judge, Justice Overawe differed, declaring that the allegations that the elections were invalid in those 22 polling units within four local governments were not proved beyond doubt.
Reacting to the judgment, counsel to the APC, Barr. Sanusi Musa said they were happy with the judgment, adding that they had no cause to file any appeal as the lead judgment was fully in line with their arguments and the facts presented before the tribunal.
“The tribunal has dismissed the petition filed by PDP and its candidate in the lead judgment. The tribunal ruled that the petition has been abandoned and it was dismissed. We are happy with the judgment because it affirmed the election of Governor Uba Sani in line with our argument that our client truly won the election,” he said.
Speaking on the other judgment by the tribunal which looked at the merit of the case, Musa said: “When the tribunal looked at the merit of the petition, two of the judges said election in 22 polling units is inconclusive because the number of registered voters in the polling units is more than the margin between the winner and the runners-up.”
Also in another reaction, counsel to the PDP, Barrister Baba Aliyu, said they were not fully satisfied with the judgment, adding that they wanted the election upturned and their client, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, Hon. Kudan declared winner of the election based on their arguments and facts before the tribunal.
He, therefore, said they would appeal the judgment, saying with the evidence before the tribunal, the election should be upturned.
Gov lauds victory
Reacting to the judgement, Governor Sani described the ruling as a clear affirmation of the popular mandate given to him by the people of Kaduna state.
In a statement personally signed by him Thursday, the governor said: “I am extremely delighted and humbled by the ruling of the Election Petition Tribunal affirming my victory in the 2023 Kaduna State Governorship Elections. The judgement is an unequivocal affirmation of the popular mandate graciously given to me by the people of Kaduna state. I commend the Tribunal for their thoroughness and lucidity. They have enriched our jurisprudence and practice of electoral democracy.
“I also commend my dear brother, Hon. Isah Ashiru Kudan for approaching the Tribunal to ventilate his grievances. This is a clear demonstration of his belief in the principles of democracy and the imperative of civility in the conduct of political actors. I call on Hon. Isah Ashiru and members of the opposition parties in Kaduna state to join hands with us as we strive to move our dear state to a higher level.
“We are all stakeholders in PROJECT KADUNA. It is not about personal glory. Our people want all hands to be on deck to address the myriad of challenges confronting the state. If political actors are united, a clear signal will be sent to our people that the quest for peace, security, progress and development of our state are the driving forces of our participation in politics.
“I call on our party faithful to moderate their celebration of this victory. They must individually and collectively extend an olive branch to our brothers and sisters in other political parties. Instead of celebrating, we should bow down in prayers to the Almighty God for His continued guidance and protection. Let us focus on the tasks ahead.”
Kudan rejects verdict
Unlike Sani however, the PDP gubernatorial candidate rejected the verdict and assured the people of Kaduna state that he would pursue the mandate they gave to him to a logical conclusion.
While promising the verdict at the appellate court, he urged the people of the state to remain calm and be law abiding.
Kudan said: “I give glory to God Almighty for the progress made so far in our effort to reclaim the mandate given to us by the people of Kaduna state. I also thank the people of the state for widely believing in me and the PD P. While urging them all to remain law abiding while we pursue the appeal process. One thing I can assure the good people of Kaduna state is that I will pursue this mandate you freely gave me to its logical conclusion and by the grace of God, victory is on our side.
“Given the ruling of the Kaduna state election tribunal, it has become necessary to share with our teeming supporters, the true position of the ruling. On the preliminary objection, the tribunal, based on the majority of 2:1 judges upheld the preliminary objection of the respondent to the effect that the application for pre-hearing was done prematurely i.e. before the service of the last set of petitioners’ reply to the 2nd respondent’s reply to the petition was served.
“However, the law enjoins the tribunal, as a trial court, to proceed to pronounce on the merit of the substantive suit so that in the event the Court of Appeal finds that the trial tribunal was wrong in its decision on the preliminary objection, it would have the benefit of pronouncing on the decision of the tribunal in the substantive matter.”
“Accordingly, the trial tribunal finds merit in the aspect of the petitioner’s case relative to the margin of win between the two leading candidates. The tribunal by a split decision of 2:1 accordingly, nullified the election of the Governor of Kaduna state, ordered that the certificate of return be retrieved and fresh elections be conducted in some polling units in four local government areas and the outcome thereof be reckoned with before the declaration of the winner of the governorship election in Kaduna state,” said the PDP standard bearer.