Faleke lost at the tribunal

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja Monday dismissed the petition James Faleke the running mate to the late governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Abubakar Audu in the last governorship election in the state.
Faleke had challenged the emergence of Yahaya Bello as the governor of the state and sought to be declared winner of the election on among other grounds, that his joint ticket with the late Audu won the election.
Delivering the judgment of the three-man tribunal Monday, Justice Halima Mohammed held that Faleke’s petition lacked merit, the petitioner having failed to participate in the election to the end.
The tribunal was of the view that the initial part of the election, in which Faleke participated as the running mate of the late Prince Audu Abubakar, was inconclusive and did not produce a winner.
The tribunal held that the APC, as a political party, was legally empowered to nominate and sponsor a candidate for an election because the Constitution did not recognise an independent candidate.
It further held that Faleke was without the requisite locus standi (the right to institute a suit in court) to challenge Bello’s victory because “he was never a governorship candidate in the election.”
The tribunal further held that APC duly nominated and sponsored Bello as its candidate for the election and having originally nominating the late Prince Audu, the party was entitled to inherit the votes cast in the initial part of the election held on November 21, which INEC declared inconclusive.
Before determining the main petition, the tribunal ruled on the preliminary objection by Bello. It upheld the objection and held that Faleke lacked legal capacity to file the petition, holding that the November 21 election which he claimed to have won was inconclusive as declared by INEC.
The tribunal held that contrary to Faleke’s contention, the November 21 election was not conclusive and therefore, the right had not accrued to petitioner to step into the late Audu’s shoes going by the provision of section 181(1) and (2) of the Constitution.
It noted that the Independent National Electoral Commission is the only body charged with the responsibility of declaring an election conclusive or inconclusive.
“The provisions of Section 181 of the Constitution contemplate only situation where declaration has been made and the governor-elect and deputy-governor-elect have been returned.
“It is hereby observed that the situation where the petitioner can step into the late Abubakar Audu’s shoes has not arisen in the instant case.
“And there is no evidence before the tribunal that the petitioner had been declared deputy governor-elect.
“Section 181 of the Constitution does not contemplate a situation when none of the candidates who participated in the election has been returned,” the tribunal said.
While considering the main petition, the tribunal held that Faleke was never a governorship candidate of the APC at any stage of the election and did not participate in the primary leading to APC’s choice of its governorship candidate for the November 21 governorship.
It added that the petitioner was never nominated by the APC as its governorship candidate for the December 6 supplementary poll.
The tribunal further held that since Faleke was never a governorship candidate, he lacked the competence to present the petition before the tribunal by virtue of section 137(1) (a) of the Electoral Act.
It also held that the issues contended by Faleke bordered on the power of a political party to nominate its candidate, a decision which Justice Mohammed ruled that the tribunal lacked jurisdiction to interfere with.
The tribunal added that Faleke having not participated in the said primary, he lacked the locus standi to challenge Bello’s nomination by the party.
It added that going by Supreme Court’s decision on supplementary election in the case of Peoples Democratic Party vs Rochas Okorocha, the votes polled on November 21 belonged to the various political parties thus, the APC had the right to replace its flag bearer upon Audu’s death.
It also held that there was evidence that Bello participated in and emerged as the first runner-up in the primary from which the original governorship candidate of the party, the late Abubakar Audu, emerged as the party’s flag bearer.
“It is a fact that the second respondent participated in the primary and came second in the primary.
“It is equally a fact that the second respondent participated in the December 5, 2015 supplementary election.”
The tribunal also dismissed Faleke’s contention that Bello was not qualified to run for the office of the Governor of Kogi State.
It held that contrary to the petitioner’s argument, (Bello) fulfilled the conditions for qualification as contained in Section 177 of the Constitution, requiring that a candidate must be a member of a party, sponsored for the election by the party, a citizen of Nigeria, more than 35 years of age and educated up to the level of secondary school certificate or its equivalent.
The tribunal faulted Faleke’s argument that Bello’s election was invalid as he contested the December 6 poll without a running mate.
It held that contrary to Faleke’s argument, remained the deputy governorship candidate of the APC in the December 6 supplementary poll having failed to withdraw his candidacy as the running mate in the manner stipulated by law.
It noted that rather than send his withdrawal letter to his party, Faleke erroneously send the letter through his lawyer to INEC.
The tribunal will Tuesday deliver judgment in the petition by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in the election, Idris Wada, who is also seeking to unseat Bello.

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