The death of Prince abubakar Audu, the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress in the November 21st, 2015 governorship election in Kogi State has created numerous problems.
Principal among the challenges created by his demise is constitutional crisis. Prior to this development, there has been no judicial or political precedent or constitutional provision on how either a governorship or presidential election will be managed if no candidate has been returned elected before a contestant in such a poll dies.
The Electoral Act of 2011 as amended, unfortunately, did not make any provision for this in clear terms as the closest provision to this can be seen in Section 181 subsection one of the 1999 Constitution which states that: “If a person duly elected as Governor dies before the and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Office, or is unable for any reason whatsoever to be sworn in, the person elected with him as Deputy Governor shall be sworn in as Governor and he shall nominate a new Deputy-Governor who shall be appointed by the Governor with the approval of a simple majority of the House of Assembly of the State.
The Electoral Act of 2011 did not also specify on what happens if a candidate dies when an election has started but hasn’t been completed. The provision made by the Electoral Act in Section 36(1) states that “if after the time of the delivery of the nomination paper and before the commencement of the poll, a nominated candidate dies, the Chief National Electoral Commissioner or the Resident Electoral Commissioner shall, being satisfied of the fact of the death, countermand the poll in which the deceased candidate was to participate and the Commission shall appoint some other convenient date for the election within 14 days.
The above has created a lacuna as there is no precedent for this in our democratic history and has also left the judicial interpretation to the Attorney-General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice. though the Minister has directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to conduct supplementary election to conclude the process; the Peoples Democratic Party are not in support of this and as such are calling for the cancellation of the election since the APC candidate who started the electioneering process is dead and whomever the APC wants to use to conclude the election did not start the election ab initio.
Though, I am not a member of any registered political party, it will be fair if the APC led Federal government will allow the election to be cancelled and for it to start afresh. If the APC insists on substituting a candidate for the late prince Audu, it will be resisted by the PDP as the electorates voted for Abubakar Audu primarily and the APC secondarily. One reason why the PDP will not accept substitution as directed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and the APC is because if a fresh election is held in Kogi State, the PDP may win because the new candidate of the APC may not be popular and may not have the loyalty of the electorates as Audu did. So, the APC should allow for fresh polls and the parties should test their popularity once again.
Legal experts have been trying to offer possible legal solution to this but it seems the tune of discord will persist for a while. Prof. Itsey Sagay, a renowned constitutional lawyer argued that the closest remedy to this challenge will be for the Deputy-Governorship candidate under Audu ticked to be given the ticket of the APC as its flag bearer in the rescheduled election as it can be argued that some of the votes the APC got was because some people voted for Faleke who is the Deputy-Governorship candidate.
The closest political similarity, death has drawn in our democratic journey was in 2010, when the former President Umaru Yar’ Adua was terminally ill before his death and the Nigerian Senate invoked what was known as the Doctrine of Necessity which empowered the then Vice-President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to function as the Acting President before becoming President when his boss died. Olusegun Adeniji captured this in his book “Power, Politics and Death. My emphasis is not on deaths per se, but on the constitutional crisis that has been created as the directive of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice is being challenged by the Peoples Democratic Party and also the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada has said he might challenge the directive of the Attorney-General in the law court.
This is definitely not the best of time for the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission as the umpire is facing crucial test within weeks of the
swearing in of its national chairman and how they handle this development from the Kogi election will in a way determine the level of confidence the populace will have in the umpire.
Sequel to the above, the APC led Federal Government should not use the popular “Federal Might“ to intimidate the incumbent Governor and his cabinet to avoid crisis in the state but should allow common sense to prevail. I will also use this medium to implore the people of Kogi State to be law abiding and wait for the legal and political fireworks to reach a peaceful end and should not be used as a tool in the hands of power hungry politicians to disrupt the peace of the state as the November 21st election was adjudged to be crisis free.
These are surely trying times for us as a country in our quest for democratic consolidation and I am optimistic that we shall scale through this hurdle having made history on May 29, 2015 when a new party defeated the incumbent in the presidential election. Our desire to become a democratic example in the comity of nations will be a reality.
Long Live Kogi State! Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!
As written by Eze Nwosu