By a unanimous verdict, a five-member panel of the Supreme Court on Friday gave its legal imprimatur to the electoral victory of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 gubernatorial election in Yobe State.
The apex court entered the verdict after it found no merit in the three issues raised for determination of the appeal maintained against Gaidam’s election by Mustapha Yunusa Mmaihaja and dismissed the case accordingly.
In the lead judgment by Justice Sidi Dauda Bage, the court said Gaidam, as against Mmaihaja’s contention, was qualified to have contested the 2015 governorship election even when he served the tenure of the late Governor Ali Mamma in 2009 as the Deputy Governor.
“There is no dispute as to the fact that the 1st respondent become governor by operation of Section 191(1) of the Constitution, upon the demise of the then governor of Yobe State. Put differently, the 1st defendant did not assume office as governor in 2009 as a result of his election into the office.
“He was constitutionally ‘holding’, and held the office in trust for the duration of the remaining tenure of the late Governor Senator Ali Mamman. Section 182(1)(b) of the Constitution does not affect or impact on when tenure is spent-out by operation of Section 191(1) of the same Constitution.
“The 1st respondent, by necessary implications, only stepped in and completed the tenure of the late Senator Ali Mamman as governor in holding capacity. Therefore, the 1st respondent validly, legally and constitutionally contested and won for the first time as governor of Yobe State in his right in 2011, and thus qualified to contest the governorship election in Yobe State in 2015.
“In my candid opinion, the 1st respondent had not been elected into the office of governor of Yobe State twice prior to the holding of the governorship election on the 11th of April 2015 in Yobe State. He therefore, qualified to contest the April 2015 election which he had already contested and won,” Justice Bage said.
On the allegation that Gaidam submitted forged academic credentials to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the court said Maihaja was unable to prove the allegation as required under Section 135 of the Evidence Act.
Justice Bage added: “I see no logical or legal basis for disturbing the mandate of the 1st respondent on this ground. The existence of those facts, if at all, only resonate in the imagination of the appellant, who has refused and or failed to prove that there is no ‘Yunusari Primary School’ that could have issued such certificate or that the 1st respondent was not born on the 15th September 1956 being the date declared in Form CF001.”
On the appellant’s challenge of the outcome of the primary that produced Gaidam as his party’s candidate for the 2015 election, the court said Maihaja was incompetent to challenge the primary having not participated in it.
On the issue of primary, Justice Bage said: “I hold that, by his own affidavit evidence, the appellant did not participate in the primary election conducted by the 2nd respondent (APC) on 4th December 2014 and thus unable to take benefit of the provisions of Section 87(9) of the Electoral Act.”
Other members of the panel, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, Justices Musa Dattijo Mohammad, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and Ejembi Eko agreed with Justice Bage’s reasoning in the lead judgement.
The court upheld the July 26, 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeal, Abuja division and dismissed the appeal by Maihaja.