Zamfara: How APC shot itself in the foot

Oshiomhole and Yari

Gov. Yari and Adams Oshiomhole.

Gov. Yari and Adams Oshiomhole.

“In war, the damage you inflict on the enemy might be immediately apparent. The damage you inflict on yourself in doing so will only become apparent later.”

The above quote by an American actor, Stewart Stafford, appears apt in describing the fate that befell the outgoing Zamfara State Governor, Abdul-Aziz Yari and Senator Kabiru Marafa, who today appear to have lost everything they both have been labouring for politically, since 2011.

Yari had vowed to end the political careers of senators Sani Yerima and Marafa, including threatening to kill the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, for insisting that due process must be followed in the deciding choice of candidates for the 2019 elections in the state.

But by the time the Supreme Court handed down its verdict last Friday on the conduct of APC primaries in the state, Yari, who thought he had triumphed over Yerima, whom he seized his senate ticket, and Marafa whom he stopped from getting the governorship ticket, had his dream of going to the Senate and having his anointed as successor, crumbled like packs of card.

The apex court in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices led by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, held that the APC did not conduct valid primary elections to nominate candidates for any elective position in the state and as such did not have any valid candidate in all the elections that held in Zamfara State.

The justices maintained that the Sokoto Division of the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the APC did not file any eligible candidate in the 2019 general elections in Zamfara State. The verdict was prepared and delivered by Justice Paul Galinje, who also awarded a cost of N10million against the APC.

“I find that the lower court was right in holding that there were no primary elections in Zamfara State. The appeal had no merit and it should be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed.

“The party that has no candidate cannot be declared a winner of the election. Therefore, all votes that are credited to such party are deemed as wasted votes. Candidates of parties with the highest number of valid votes cast with the required spread stand elected in Zamfara”, the Supreme Court held.

The implication of the verdict is that all candidates of the APC that won elections in Zamfara State, including its governor-elect, Alhaji Mukhtar Idris, are in the face of the law deemed not duly elected. In complying with the verdict of the court, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), last Saturday, announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the governorship election, all the National Assembly seats and all but one state Assembly seats.

After explaining the rationale behind the commission’s decision, INEC boss, Mahmood Yakubu, said: “I wish to seize this opportunity to draw the attention of all stakeholders, but particularly the political parties, to the implications of the Supreme Court judgment on the Zamfara matter.

“It is clear that properly conducted party primaries are cardinal to the proper internal functioning of political parties, the electoral process and our democratic system at large.”

Ironically, APC’s loss was predicted by Daily Sun in its July 4, 2018 edition where in the wake of the crisis, it warned that “… unless the Adams Oshiomhole-led leadership walks its talks by looking into the matter with a view to resolving it, APC, investigations reveal, may as well bid farewell to Zamfara State in 2019.”

The court’s verdict marked PDP’s second coming to the state by default. Historically speaking, since 1999, the PDP has never won the state. But it once had the fortune of governing it.

At the beginning of 2007, the state was retained by the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the dominant party in the state since 1999. Later that year, Zamfara, fell through the defection of the then governor, Alhaji Mahmuda Shinkafi, to the PDP.

Interestingly, Shinkafi’s tenure, from 2007 to 2011, was adjudged by many in the state, as remarkable. He had assumed office with a passionate resolve to build infrastructure in the state, a thing that was allegedly neglected by his predecessor. And he performed well within his first year in office so much so that his administration earned the sobriquet of “A Gani A Kasa”, meaning “project of reality, which we can see on ground.”

Going into the elections in 2011 therefore, he was looking good to carry the day. But members of his party revolted against him due to imposition of candidates. One of those denied ticket at the time, and who eventually got sympathy votes from the electorate was Marafa, representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District.

The result was a massive rejection of the then ruling PDP. Even when the PDP was in control of the centre at the federal level, state and councils at the time in Zamfara, Zamfara central, Marafa’s senatorial district gave him (Marafa) 203, 000 votes to defeat the incumbent senator that polled 93,000 votes.

The massive rejection of the PDP by Marafa’s senatorial district was what made Yari the governor in his first coming in 2011. That was how PDP lost the opportunity of winning the state it had the fortune of governing by default.

Genesis of the crisis

Long before the APC’s congresses, which culminated in its national convention in June last year, Marafa and Yari had been having a running battle over the party structure in the state. Yari wanted to go to the Senate. Marafa seemed not have issues with that since they are not from the same senatorial district. Marafa wanted to run for the governorship, but Yari seemed to have issues with that.

As a matter of fact, one of Yari’s special advisers, Alhaji Salisu Isah, at a press conference in Kaduna in February last year declared: “Yes we are going to kill him (Marafa) politically; we are going to bury his political ambition in 2019. He wants to be governor; he is not going to get it, even the Senate he is not going to return.”

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And the governor was able to carry out his threat by allegedly shutting the door at Marafa and his supporters during the congresses.

According to Daily Sun, most of the states, including Zamfara, APC congresses were conducted without recourse to the election guidelines as issued and released by the party’s national headquarters. This, it was further learnt was responsible for why the party had parallel congresses in more than half of the 36 states of the federation, including Zamfara.

What the party’s guidelines say

Among other things, the APC guidelines for the Ward, Local Government and State congresses allow for consensus. But, it went further to state that where there is a dissenting voice by any stakeholder, elections must be held to decide the fate of the contestants.

It further stated that forms must be obtained (upon the presentation of bank tellers) filled and returned at least 24hours before the commencement of elections, and that the congress committee should have a list of ad hoc staff (three per ward) whom shall be posted to wards other than theirs to conduct the elections. The guidelines also stated that the names of contestants shall be displayed in each ward where elections will be held, and that the congress shall be conducted using a comprehensive list of registered party members.

Investigations, however, revealed that none of the above party guidelines was adhered to by the committee. For instance, it was gathered that the election committee arrived Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, less than 12 hours before the commencement of the election on May 4, 2018, Daily Sun reports.

Confirming this, Marafa said: “In spite of the fact that they arrived late, we were given 1400 forms only as against 4704 forms that we duly paid for. The committee had no register of registered party members, which the guidelines say they should use to conduct the elections. The committee also had no list of ad hoc staff for the purpose of supervising the congress as envisaged by the party’s election guidelines.”

Since no consensus was reached by the stakeholders of the party, Marafa and his supporters wrote a letter, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Sun, to the chairman of Ward and Local Government Congresses Committee, Ambassador Dauda Danladi, before the commencement of the exercise on Saturday, May 5, 2018.

The letter was copied INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Zamfara State, Police Commissioner and Director of State Security Service (SSS).

But the governor was said to have insisted on having his way, and he eventually did, as all his candidates “who never obtained forms as at the time of election, as stipulated by the guidelines were all affirmed and returned elected,” Marafa added.

And to make assurance double sure for his group, it was gathered that on the day of the ward congress, Gusau was cordoned off, from 8am to 1pm, as there was no entry or exit, ostensibly on the orders of the governor, to prevent Marafa’s supporters from participating in the exercise.

Also, on May 12, 2018, the day for the Local Government Congress, Marafa, a statutory delegate, being a serving senator, was allegedly refused access to the venue in Tsafe council, as his personal security was allegedly disarmed and arrested by “an over- zealous Mopol commander.”

But the governor, through his aides who refused to be quoted denied all the allegations. However, Alhaji Lawan Muhammad Liman, state chairman of the APC, who emerged from the contentious congresses, dismissed Marafa’s claims.

Until the morning he became the chairman of the party, he was the Commissioner for Health. Technically, he had no opportunity of resigning his position before emerging as chairman of the party.

Regardless, he told Daily Sun in a telephone interview at the time that he had no idea of what Marafa was ranting about. Asked if he obtained any form before contesting the election, Liman said: “I don’t know anything about the crisis in Zamfara. You were at the convention of the party, was Zamfara listed among states where we had crisis? After the inauguration, they mentioned just three states, Imo, Delta and Oyo and they were urged to go and settle. We have since moved on in Zamfara because the governor is interested in a united party ahead of the elections.”

Again, when asked specifically if he thinks Marafa had a case, Liman said, “as a party, there are procedures, if he thinks he has issue with the governor, he should go back and settle with the governor. We are not aware we have any issue with him (Marafa) as a party. He has gone to the Appeal Committee, if he had case, the committee would have listened to him. In Zamfara, we don’t have any crisis.”

Marafa’s appeal

Marafa appealed to the party’s Appeal Committee and provided all supporting documents to prove his group’s case, including producing audio clip as evidence that the chairman of Ward and Local Government Congress Committee, Danladi, did invite them to come and collect their forms, but on presentation of their bank tellers, he (Danladi) confessed that they did not have the forms.

Following APC’s inability to resolve the issue, Marafa approached the court for a redress. His decision to approach the court followed the attempt by the leadership of the party to present what it termed a consensus candidate, other than Yari’s anointed candidate. He was opposed to Yari’s candidate no doubt; he was equally opposed to the attempt by the party to “short-change” him, just as Yari too threatened to kill Oshiomhole if he tempered with his group’s list.

In the end, he lost out. Yari lost out. The party also lost out. Will the party and the actors learn next time?