Since his emergence at the helm following the death of his principal in 2010, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has kept his weaknesses in election matters very close to his chest, with the opposition unable to find a way to convince the judiciary to upturn his perceived victory along the line. The man has maintained what could ordinarily be seen as his political indomitability in the face of stringent and dynamic opposition from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which had, since 1999 been unable to break a sort of a stranglehold of the politics of Yobe state by elements in the so-called progressive milieu. Each time the PDP tried, it has met with an iron cast shield and even when it believed it had a good case at the tribunals it still met the same fate.
The just concluded elections in the state, which produced the same pattern of results may however generate a more radical shift, going by the apparent watertight nature of evidences which the PDP was able to secure, evidences that are seen generally as very germane and critical in tilting the direction of litigation this time around. Perhaps, the PDP tended to have learnt decisive lessons from the failures of the past which were seen by informed persons as its greatest undoing, exacerbated mainly by a seeming lack of capacity to, through diligent patience and investigation, obtain the kind of evidence to sway victory to their side, and not because electoral malfeasance and other sharp practices in contravention of electoral laws had not taken place. It is argued that all along, Governor Ibrahim Gaidam has benefitted more from the untidiness and unpreparedness of the PDP all along to put together key evidences to make it easier for the judiciary to reach favaurable conclusions. That appeared to have been taken care of this time around. What exactly are the key issues at the heart of the case against the victory of Gaidam, such that its incontrovertibility will lead to the upturning of the victory and to what degree is it likely going to be different from the cases before it?
At a well attended press conference in Abuja, the Governorship candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri, appeared confident and somewhat cocksure of a job well done by his team in gathering key evidences, which will hopefully provide incontrovertible reasons on why the election in Yobe must be cancelled and why the APC candidate should be disqualified. He said he is challenging the eligibility of Governor Gaidam to contest the election based on subsisting Supreme Court judgments that have defined the tenure of the president and governors to be a maximum of two terms of four years each. Alhaji Adamu Waziri noted that it is in line with its judgment that the Supreme Court determined the tenure in the case of Murtala Nyako of Adamawa state and Idris Ibrahim in Kogi state. ‘’The Supreme Court also in 2003, had declared that under the 1999 constitution, neither the president nor the governors can be sworn in more than twice.’’ This is a very interesting argument, whose conclusion would have far reaching implications for democracy and its sustenance in Nigeria.
The point is that if a governor is sworn in the morning and for whatever constitutional reason, the deputy takes over in the evening, finishes the term and wins a second term, can he, at the end of the second term insist on re-contesting for another term on the basis that the first term was not his? The second contentious point on which Adamu Waziri hinges his case is the evidence he claimed to have obtained which showed that the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Yobe was compromised. A source in Damaturu revealed that the Yobe state government had been reckless to the point that the Bank tellers of payment of millions of Naira into the account of the Resident Electoral Commissioner were easily accessed and obtained. A Kaduna based lawyer, Barrister Aliyu Shehu believes that with this incriminating evidence, chances are that APC‘s Gaidam will have a tough time extricating himself from complicity in obtaining victory through foul means.
The third and final charge, on the basis of which the Adamu Maina Waziri team hopes to make a strong case is the issue of card reader, ‘’we also have evidences to show that in many parts of Yobe state, contrary to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) directive, card readers were not used for conduct of the election. Fourthly, we also have grounds to say that in a number of places, the conduct of the election was not free and fair due to intimidation of our agents by security forces as well as traditional rulers.
Finally, we also want to say that contrary to the national environment, in Yobe state, it is said that more people came out for the governorship election than the presidential election, which is contrary to what happened nationwide.
The seriousness of these allegations can be located within the context of the history and nature of politics in the state which dwells more on the mantra of change from a sitting government that has appeared to run out of ideas or how to impact positively on the lives of the people, to a government perceived by the people as corrective and capable of making life more bearable for them. The Gaidam administration is largely seen as an offshoot of the Bukar Abba Ibrahim contraption that has been accused of cornering power by foul means and of not utilizing the opportunity to ensure sustainable growth of the state. Yobe has largely remained its rural self with poverty and despondency glaringly etched in a poor population that has grown to learn to put up with a leadership deficit that has done more damage than good. The same yardsticks that were used to justify the defeat of Jonathan are the same variables that were at play in Yobe; the same disenchantment with the Jonathan administration by the populace, which led to the victory of General Buhari was the same pivotal reason that has reinforced people’s desire for change in Yobe. Prior to the elections, the majority of the people of Yobe have indicated an abiding willingness to effect a popular change and to do away with a government that had been anything but effective in dealing with myriads of problems, which have condemned the people to an unending bout with avoidable economic and social problems. A section of the people of the state has even alleged that the Gaidam administration has exploited the unfortunate insurgency in the state to mismanage resources, even in the face of multitude of other serious developmental problems.
With the dislocation of the economy of the state, slump in trading and other subsistence activities in which majority of the people are involved, the constant movement of people displaced by the insurgency and government’s inability to intervene in critical areas that would cushion the negative effect on the people, Yobe had become more of a junkyard where you find carcasses of damaged automobiles all over the place.
Hopes of the people for a lifeline have been irrevocably dashed, as schools remained closed for a very long time due to government’s apparent helplessness to take measures to come up with solutions that will stand the test of time. The people felt abandoned by a government that claimed to enjoy the mandate of the same people, while their resources were being frittered away on mundane, cosmetic and unhelpful misapplication and mismanagement of scarce resources. Since 1999, Yobe has struggled to live under the stranglehold of political vampires who have mastered the art of cutting corners in order to keep and misuse power between themselves and their stooges, while Yobe has remained stagnantly underdeveloped.
This underdevelopment is at the heart of the problems that have bothered all lovers of Yobe state. Although the potentials are there for a more prosperous Yobe state, this same political undertakers have refused to yield in order for the state to unchain those budding potentials for the good of all. This summation is the constant cry of the ordinary Yobe man and woman, a cry for help and effective leadership that will identify and manage the resources and potential of the state so that the common man can live under bearable conditions in line with their potentials and the natural wealth of the state.
For the common man in Yobe state, the decision by Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri to challenge the so called victory of Governor Ibrahim Gaidam offers one last opportunity to get things right and remedy a situation that has always proved to be the shield against the effort to make Yobe work in the true sense of the word. The ultimate decision of who, between the people’s choice on one hand and the slave takers of Yobe politics on the other, takes the day will begin to take the front burners until the judiciary concludes what promises to be a decisive moment for a poor state
Dr Mohammed Goje Mubarak,
Nigeria Prisons Service, Damaturu.