Why Zamfara Supreme Court judgment should be reviewed

CJN Mohammed

The Supreme Court judgment which nullified the elections of all the candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in Zamfara State in the 2019 general elections came as shocking in many respects.

Though the Supreme Court is the final court in adjudication, its finality in the matter came as a burden and devoid of the usual reprieve as many wish the matter should not end there.

For a long time in Nigeria’s judicial history, there was a righteous indignation about how the cause of justice had not been served.

Many pointed out that it is trite in law that the court does not grant what was not asked for.

But in the case of Zamfara not only did the court grant what was not asked for but it even awarded victory to a party that was not joined in the matter.

The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Zamfara was aware of the litigation over the process of the primary elections in Zamfara but did not ask to be joined and while it is a well known fact that primaries remained the business of parties, the Supreme Court overreached itself by extending a favour to an interested outside the boundary that the issue covered.

This, needless to say, has shaken the faith of the populace in the judiciary as it questioned the justice in awarding judgment in favour of party that failed to get the people’s mandate through the ballot box.

Elections the world over are known to be parameters for judging party and candidates acceptance by the people but the PDP in Zamfara fielded candidates in the 2019 general elections but were roundly rejected by the people of the state across board.

Going by the votes candidates of the PDP scored at the elections it can be said without fear of contradiction that the party and its candidates do not come near what the people of Zamfara wanted in terms of governance and representation.

The results of the Zamfara governorship elections showed for instance that while the APC candidate, Muktar Idris polled 531,541 out of 810,782 across 14 local governments in the state, Bello Matawalle of the PDP polled only 189, 452 votes to come second while Saidu Dansadau of the National Rescue Movement polled 15, 177 votes to come third.

A thorough analysis of the votes polled by each party and its candidate reveals that the APC candidate polled only a paltry of the total number of votes cast because 189, 782 votes is substantially insignificant a number in an election involving 810, 782 voters.

What this implies is that while over 60 percent of the voters in Zamfara wanted the APC candidate less than 25 percent of the voters in Zamfara had rejected the PDP and its candidate.

But while delivering the judgment, Justice Adamu Galunje held that the Appeal Court in Sokoto was right when it agreed that the APC did not conduct primaries in the state and extended that to mean that a party that has no candidate cannot be said to have won an election, hence the votes cast for the APC in the election were wasted.

Consequently, the five-man panel of judges led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, declared that the party with the highest number of votes cast at the election outside the appellants is the winner of the election.

But in declaring that the party with the second highest number of votes as the winner of the election, the court did not take into cognizance the fact that any vote cast against a party and its candidate in an election stands for rejection of that candidate.

Hence going by the statement made by the people of Zamfara through the ballot in respect to the 2019 election, more than 75 percent of eligible voters in Zamfara had said they do not want the PDP and its candidates to either govern or represent them at the parliament.

The error becomes more pronounced when viewed against the backdrop of the fact that the Supreme Court had ruled in the much celebrated case of  Rotimi Amaechi that the mandate given in an election belongs to the party.

What this implies in the case of Zamfara is that even f the APC had through default been found not to have conducted primaries during the election, the electorate which had no way of knowing that at the time the election held since the logo of the party was placed on the ballot papers have spoken and voted for the APC irrespective of the internal squabbles within the party.

But the Supreme Court preferred to overlook the sensitivity of the choice made by the people of Zamfara to impose on them the very candidates they rejected at the ballot.

As Justice Chukwudifu Oputa has noted . the supreme court is not final because it is infallible but it is infallible because it is final.

That means that where it is proven that there is an error in its judgment, there is the need to ask the justices to review the judgment and there are several instances where the court has been so approached.

A more recent exampl is the case of Imo state where the declration of Chief Emeka Ihedioha as the winner of the governorship election was upturned to make way for the APC candidate, Hope Uzodiunma to be declared winner of the election.

Ihedioha has gone to the Supreme Court asking it to set aside the judgment it delivered on Jan. 14 which nullified his election as Imo governor and declared Uzodinma as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.

In the application Ihedioha said that the apex court was misled into giving that judgment, describing the apex court judgment as a nullity and asked that the decision be set aside.

The Zamfara judgment also poses similar questions, that is whether the decision of the Supreme Court is right and whether by declaring the party that came second in an election can harvest the votes of a more popular party due internal wrangling in the party and whether a party that was rejected at the polls by the people can be returned as duly elected by the people through court judgment.

The Supreme Court need to consider all these to take the issue of reviewing the judgment seriously as the greatest victims of that ruling are the good people of Zamfara who by ideology and  identification with party manifesto and programme recognize only the APC.

Since the return to democracy in 1999, the people of the state have roundly been saying no to the PDp for the several times it fielded candidates during elections.

What the Supreme Court judgment has done is to impose on them strange bed fellow as their choice thereby doing incalculable damage to their psyche by denying them the right to choose.   

Zubairu writes from Gusau

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