The judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal sitting in the Plateau State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal today has ordered the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Governor Caleb Muftwang of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) after the conduct of the March 2023 General Election in Plateau State and award the certificate of return to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election, Dr. Nentawe Yilwatda.
The judgment of the Appellate Court has left many citizens restive with accusations that the current leadership of the APC is tirelessly working towards making the country a one-party state.
Interestingly, one thing is to allege, another is to justify the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. This has raised the necessity to discuss the circumstances that justify the development in Plateau State as an unavoidable endpoint for PDP in the state.
Most importantly, we should recall that declaring the PDP candidate, Mutfwang, as the duly elected governor at the INEC collation center in Jos on Monday, March 20th, 2023 the state Returning Officer said that the PDP candidate polled 525,299 votes to defeat his closest rival and the candidate of the ruling APC, Dr Nentawe Yilwatda, who polled 481,370 votes.
Now, with the ruling of the court, it means 525,299 voters in Plateau State wasted their efforts because of a political power-play that can never be blamed on the APC or the judiciary but on the members of the PDP in Plateau State.
Before going into a deep discussion of the leadership of PDP in Plateau State sacrificed the Governorship Seat of the state to the APC, it is relevant to note that the Court of Appeal legitimately based its ruling on Section 177 (c) of the 1999 Constitution which says "A person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if: he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; of which, Governor Muftwang was not sponsored by any political party, not even PDP. This requisite was also enshrined in Section 80 of the 2022 Electoral Act, as amended.
How Muftwang of Plateau was Sacrificed by PDP Leaders
Before a candidate could be sponsored by a political party into an election, the 2022 Electoral Act, as amended, requires that the candidate must have emerged from a party on either consensus or must have earned the simple majority votes cast during the primary organized by the party which may be direct or indirect.
It was however stated that a candidate cannot emerge through consensus if at least one of the aspirants who purchased the Expressed of Interest Form is not satisfied with his choice. In this case, the party must adopt Direct or Indirect Primary to choose their candidate.
Remarkably, Caleb Muftwang was backed by the former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, which was against the interest of Jeremiah Useni. The Plateau State chapter of PDP went into the 2023 General Election in pieces but Jonah Jang was strong enough to deliver the state to the party through ballot during the governorship election despite the crisis that rocked the party.
The peak of where PDP got it wrong in Plateau State in 2023 was never new, as it was similar to what happened to the APC in Zamfara State in 2019.
Jonah Jang's faction of PDP had the support of the National Working Committee of the party, and because of the interest the camp has in Muftwang, it did not allow the party to hold its State, Local Government, and Ward congresses ahead of the primaries unto the 2023 general elections.
This is nothing different from what happened between the camp of former Governor Abdulazeez Yari and Senator Kabiru Maraca which cost Mukhtar Shehu Idris and every other APC candidate in all elections that took place in Zamfara their seats in 2019.
In Plateau, PDP had no Congress and no ward, local government, or state party's excos to conduct primary elections or give an endorsement in consensus for the party to be able to sponsor their candidates. Rather the party relied on the endorsement of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party which is known to the constitution. Section 82 of the 2022 Electoral Act demands, compulsorily, that every political party must notify the party at least 21 days before the date of its congresses which the Plateau State chapter of PDP never did.
The NWC nominated all the candidates PDP presented during the 2023 elections, and failed to hold a primary or reach consensus simply because the party did not have excos to do that.
Interestingly, some people suggested that it is pre Election matter and could only be challenged by a PDP member citing the fact that Senator Marafa of the APC was the one who filed a case against his party before the 2019 election which later cost the party all the elected seats in the state.
This is wrong as the Constitution has two regards to such a petition. A petition related to the qualifications of a candidate is termed a "pre-election" matter only for any members of the party who bear a grudge against the choice of the candidate, and such members of the party will have no right to challenge the candidate after the election. Considerably, at this pre-election period, members of another party have no right to challenge the qualifications of a candidate that is not contesting under his party.
To substantiate this, take a look at the case of Bayelsa in 2019/2022 where the PDP and its governorship candidate, Mr Diri Douye, filed a suit against Messrs Lyon and Degi-Eremienyo, and INEC, seeking the disqualification of the APC deputy governorship candidate.
They had claimed that Mr. Degi-Eremienyo gave false information in his CF 0001 form submitted to INEC, and on this ground, APC's David Lyon was disqualified a few hours after his swearing-in.
Having violated Section 177 (c) of the 1999 Constitution and Sections 80 and 82 of the 2022 Electoral Act as amended, if there is anyone to be balmed with the political developments coming from Plateau State, it is never the APC or the judiciary but the PDP leadership in the state and the party's NWC which refused to conduct congresses in the state and presented duly elected candidates for the election.
We have just seen the news of Governor Muftwang's removal, it will cut across as it happened to APC in Zamfara; PDP has just lost every elected seat it won during the 2023 General Election to either APC or Labour Party based on which party was the runner up at the poll.
Tag: Plateau Governorship Seat APC PDP Nentawe Yilwatda Caleb Muftwang
Written by Omooba Alekuwodo (omoobaalekuwodo)
Published 11/19/2023 8:37:13 PM