*Sweet, bitter but victory for democracy, Zamfara, says Marafa
*Justice has prevailed – Atiku
*PDP govs congratulate Mutawallen
*Ozekhome says parties must maintain internal democracy
*INEC to decide on Monday
By Tunde Opalana, Abuja
Mixed reactions have greeted Friday’s Supreme Court judgement that voids all votes cast for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara state in the last general election.
The unanimous judgement by justices of the Supreme Court laid to rest conflicting court verdicts that followed the case instituted against the party by Senator Kabiru Marafa representing Zamfara Central Senatorial District.
While Sen. Marafa described the judgement as sweet and bitter, said it’s a huge victory for democracy, Zamfara state and the country as a whole, the Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar said justice must prevail in all circumstances.
Marafa’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) charged political parties to maintain internal democracy while Bayelsa state Governor, Seriake Dickson on behalf of PDP governors congratulated the PDP governorship candidate in Zamfara state, Dr. Bello Mohammed Muttawale.
In a statement on Friday in Abuja, Sen. Marafa, who said no matter how long, truth will always prevail over falsehood, stated that “today’s judgement is a victory for democracy, triumph of truth over falsehood and redeeming of the integrity of the judiciary.
“As we all know, the APC was unable to conduct primaries in Zamfara state following Yari’s thuggery and violent machinations. With this, lesson has been served that only strict adherence to the rule of law and due process will take the country to the next level as being advocated by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“This judgement has shown that the President is religiously sincere with his non-interference stance on the functions of other arms of government. He has further endeared himself to Nigerians and the world for resisting all efforts by Abdulaziz Yari to force him to interfere on the judgement.”
Marafa, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), urged his adversaries to take the judgement as the will of Allah and a lesson that only Allah, the Almighty can crown a king.
Commending the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad for leading the apex court justices aright, he said the judiciary remains the last hope of the common man.
“The acting chief justice and the justices that delivered the judgement have with this judgement, laid the foundation for the redemption of the battered image of the judiciary as painted by the likes of justice Bello Shinkafi.
“I will like to thank the judiciary, especially the Justice Tom Yakubu team at the Appeal Court and now the team in the Supreme Court, the courageous position of INEC, the unflinching support of the people of Zamfara state, my family for their wonderful support and prayers, my well -wishers and admirers in Nigeria and Diaspora for their overwhelming support.
“The judiciary remains the last hope of the common man; therefore, all hands must be on deck to strengthen it,” he said.
Atiku Abubakar, commended the judgment, describing it as upholding the rule of law, declaring the PDP as winner of the gubernatorial election in Zamfara state as well as in the state House of Assembly elections.
He said nothing is as pleasing to the ears of believers, as justice being served in the holy month of Ramadan and commended the justices of the apex court for putting aside the interests of the powerful and upholding the interests of Nigeria and Nigerians.
He said that “God first, Nigeria second, must be our priority as trustees of the people. When justice prevails, the people rejoice, chains are broken, freedom is multiplied and society is enriched.”
Atiku is hopeful that the Supreme Court justices will let justice have full reign in other petitions that will come before them and that good conscience, fear of God and the rule of law will prevail.
In so doing, he said, the justices will write their names for good on the sands of time and avoid the infamy that oppressors wish to thrust on them as their legacy, while commending the Supreme Court for siding with justice.
The former vice president congratulated the Governor-elect, Bello Matawalle and the people of Zamfara, who will finally have a government that will address the issues that have made life an ordeal in that great state.
“The storm is over and peace and calm are coming to Zamfara,” he concluded.
Governor of Bayelsa state and Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, Seriake Dickson, congratulated Dr. Bello Mohammed Mutawalle, on his return as the governor-elect for Zamfara and the victory of other PDP candidates in the state by the Supreme Court.
The governor also congratulated the leaders of the party and its teeming supporters in Zamfara for their dedication, commitment and resilience which culminated in the party’s victory at the polls in Zamfara.
Dickson thanked the judiciary for standing up to the expectations of all well -meaning Nigerians as an impartial arbiter of justice, asserting that it was rather reassuring and commendable for the judiciary to display such a high level of courage and professionalism, especially given the unusual times.
He said that the ruling by the five-member panel of the Supreme Court read by Justice Paul Adamu Galinji on Friday, which annulled all the votes of the APC and returned Mutawalle as winner was victory for justice and democracy in action.
The governor commended the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, for his exemplary display of leadership which has resulted in several victories for the PDP even during the prevailing circumstances.
Counsel to the Kabiru Marafa-faction of the APC in Zamfara state, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) in a statement Friday said “what the apex court has done today is to deepen, widen and strengthen democracy and our democratic precepts.
“It shows that parties must maintain internal democracy and cannot whimsically, capriciously and arbitrarily operate outside their constitution, guidelines, the Electoral Act and the constitution.
“The Supreme Court has redefined our jurisprudence, showing that when a party damages its primaries, it can never reap the proceeds of its illegalities.
“That is why and how the PDP that came second has today produced the governor, all senators, all House of Representatives and House of Assembly candidates today in one fell swoop.”
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will come out with a decision on what direction to take on Monday.
INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Information, Festus Okoye in a statement on Friday, said INEC will hold an emergency meeting today to consider the court’s decision.
Okoye in the statement said that “the Supreme Court ruled that the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not hold valid party primaries as required by law.
“It held that all the votes scored by the APC in the said elections are wasted votes and declared that the candidates of political parties with the second highest valid votes and the requisite spread should be declared as having been elected.
“The commission will meet again tomorrow May 25 to further deliberate on the issues arising from the said judgment, while the final decision on the matter will be communicated to the public on Monday.”