November 19, (THEWILL) – Nigerians are watching with keen interest the manner with which the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Federal Government, which it produced, are romancing many leaders of the opposition and they are worried that the party may drag the country to a one-party state.
Many political analysts have expressed the opinion that with the way the APC- led government is accommodating members of the opposition, the party may become too strong to be matched by any other political party in the country before the next general election.
This position was also shared by former Vice President and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate in the 2023 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, last Tuesday as he called for a merger of opposition parties against the ruling party.
Atiku said this was necessary as he warned that Nigeria’s democracy is “fast becoming a one-party system” and noted that the project of protecting democracy in the country is not about just one man.
The former vice president pointed out that a formidable coalition is necessary to address the perceived decline in democratic values and to prevent Nigeria from becoming a de facto one-party system.
Atiku made the call on Tuesday in a statement issued by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, when he hosted the national executive committee of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC) in Abuja.
Two judgements of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Thursday and Friday on governorship elections in Zamfara and Kano, where the two governors that belonged to the PDP and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), respectively, were sacked in favour of the APC candidates has reinforced the fear of APC pushing Nigeria to a one-party state.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja affirmed the tribunal judgment which declared the APC candidate, Nasiru Gawuna, winner of the governorship election in Kano.
The Tribunal, led by Justice Oluyemi Osadebay, had nullified the election of Governor Abba Yusuf by declaring 165, 663 votes belonging to him invalid.
The tribunal held that the ballot papers were not signed nor stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
Displeased by the tribunal verdict, Yusuf appealed against the judgment.
Delivering judgment on the matter on Friday, the Appeal Court held that Yusuf was not qualified to contest the election.
The three-member panel led by Justice M.A Adumeh held that Yusuf was not in the membership register of his political party.
Citing a provision of the electoral act, he said a party must have the names of its registered members both in hard and soft copies.
In her reaction to the judgement, a human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu said the judiciary is on the path of destroying Nigeria’s democracy.
Yesufu posted her reaction on X: “The judiciary is really on the path to destroy democracy completely in Nigeria. In 2019, Kano people rejected APC, yet the rigging magic was done and now this.
“When you take away the legitimate will of the people you give room for the illegitimate will to be exercised”
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had earlier on Thursday declared as inconclusive, the governorship election that was held in Zamfara State on March 18, 2023.
In an unanimous decision, the three-member panel led by Justice Oyebisi Folayemi, and supported by Justice Cordelia Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo and Justice Sybil Nwaka Gbagi nullified the return of Governor Dauda Lawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the governorship poll.
Justice Nwaka, who read the lead judgment, ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a fresh election in three local government areas of the state, where elections had not been held previously or where results from various polling units were not counted. The affected LGAs are Maradun, Birnin-Magaji and Bukkuyum.
The court held that it was wrong for INEC to rely on information that it obtained from its INEC Result Viewing (IReV) portal to collate the final result of the governorship election.
The judgment followed an appeal that was brought before the court by the immediate past governor of the state, Bello Matawalle, who was the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the election. Matawalle was later appointed by President Bola Tinubu as the Minister of State for Defence.
According to INEC, Matawalle was roundly defeated with over 65,000 votes. Specifically, INEC credited Lawal with 377,726 votes, while Matawalle was said to have scored 311,976 votes. The tribunal on September 18 upheld Lawal’s election, but Matawalle proceeded to the Appeal Court.
THEWILL recalls that there were reports in July that Matawalle brought 19 witnesses before the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to testify that Dauda Lawal-Dare of People Democratic Party was not validly elected as the state governor during March 18, 2023.
Matawalle, among other things, claimed that the March 18, 2023 election was marred by irregularities and asked the tribunal to proclaim him the winner based on the majority of legitimate votes cast.
In addition, he requested the tribunal to order the Independent National Electoral Commission to grant him a new Certificate of Return.
Earlier last Wednesday, Senator Sheu Sani said the appellate court should save Nigeria’s multi-party democracy by not sacking the governors of Kano and Plateau States. He urged the court not to upturn the wishes of the people of both states.
Many opposition members are alleging that the APC is trying to use the judiciary to foster a one-party state.
However, the ruling APC has faulted former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his call for the merger of opposition political parties, saying the Peoples Democratic Party should focus on resolving its internal party crisis.
Reacting through a statement titled, ‘Atiku, APC is strengthening democracy, not stifling it’, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Barrister Felix Morka, mocked the former VP, saying he was still struggling to come to terms with reality after his loss at the presidential poll.
He said, “It is pitiful that a statesman of Atiku’s standing would so easily conflate the wide acceptance of our great party among Nigerians with his irrational fear of one-party dictatorship. Perhaps, the Turakin Adamawa needs to be reminded that Nigerians are highly percipient and can differentiate between political deviance of the PDP and demonstrable commitment of the APC to deepening democracy and fostering our common good.
“Before its epic defeat in 2015, the PDP proclaimed and flaunted its plan to rule Nigeria for a minimum of 60 years. At that time, Atiku was willfully blind to fear of a PDP one-party dictatorship but now appears to be under the influence of a distorted vision inflicted by the debilitating serial trouncing of his party at the polls.
“The PDP’s brigandage, impunity and profligacy of 16 years remain unforgettable. In its brief period at the helm, the APC has implemented far-reaching reform of the Electoral Act and introduced technological innovations, including the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System and the INEC Results Viewing Portal all aimed at improving electoral transparency and deepening our democracy.”