Abubakar Audu is dead. Scratch that. Abubakar Audu is not dead. The fellow with an aristocratic bearing sits astride in Kogi. He is not buried. He is not quiet. His spirit, like that of Shakespeare’s Banquo or Hamlet, is walking the night of Kogi politics.
Like novelist Mark Twain noted, stories of his death have been greatly exaggerated. It has roared out of the decision of INEC to call the election inconclusive. It snorts in the APC’s order to foist Yahaya Bello on the ticket. In the fulmination of Audu’s ethnic loyalists. In Abiodun Faleke’s rage at being wronged. In the fiery pros and cons of lawyers.
“Oh dead who have always refused to die,” lamented Leopold Senghor in one of his poems on his ancestors. Audu will not sleep. He will howl and rage until justice is done in Kogi State.
It all began when the umpire missed its step. It declared the election inconclusive based on the voter’s register of 49,000 persons. This must be an INEC without memory. In their last round of elections, did we base the process on registered voters or PVC voters? The resident electoral officer knew the PVCs were far fewer than registered voters. The difference between Audu/Faleke ticket and Governor Wada was about 40,000 votes.
On the average across the country, the PVCs were far less than 70 per cent of the registered voters. INEC has not denied reports that the 91 remaining units account for about 25,000 PVCs. That makes the election conclusive and a victory to Audu/Faleke ticket. And on account of Audu’s death, we should have shed tears for Audu and shed the state of crisis. Faleke would be governor-elect, and we will be looking forward to Bayelsa State where the imperial, baton-wielding policeman Governor Seriake Dickson is sweating over the bulala of defeat that awaits him December 5.
The word quagmire has haunted the process. INEC did not ease tension by asking the APC to substitute Audu and fixing December 5 for a supplementary election. It has bad legal advisers, so did the APC brass. INEC wanted to quickly get out of the morass. No law tells us how to substitute when more than 80 per cent of the election has happened. If the party is to substitute, the party must conform to the law. And the law says that a 21-day notice must go to INEC before primary. But the election will hold only December 5. Even at that, it applies only to elections that have not taken place. Here, only 91 units are left. The election has been concluded. INEC has no power to cancel it because the constitution gives only two conditions to cancel an election. That is, when there is violence and over-voting. None of these conditions apply.
If the APC makes Bello its candidate, it will fall into the hands of the PDP because Bello did not abide by the rules of 21-day notice. They will invalidate his victory. He might have been second in the primary, but he was not part of the election. The APC is overthrowing the principle of justice by bypassing Faleke. Audu chose him as deputy. The principle of the constitution allows the deputy to take over in case the governor candidate cannot continue either by reason of death or any other kind of incapacity before the election, as governor-elect and governor. The unlegislated period was about 24 to 48 hours before the declaration of result. That lapse in concentration by the law drafters precipitated the crisis.
Otherwise, the deputy is successor. The law always asks the deputy to take over to affirm the unity of the ticket. If Audu won the primary, the law empowered him to pick a successor. And if the law asks him to pick his deputy before and after the election, it means the constitution has moved the ticket beyond the primary. Once one leaves, the next fills in. It is a simple principle of justice. That explains why the deputy campaigns with the governor candidate as a joint proprietor. But the law omitted the election time. Hence Edmund Burke quipped that “bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny.” And Henry Thoreau said, “the law never made anyone a whit more just.”
When the law fails, we call for justice. But lawyers often forget that the law was made for justice and not for egos. Hence they play strict constructionist, when convenient, by seeking the letter of the law and not the spirit. They forget the intention of justice rather than the vanity of the written text.
If the party ought to pick the candidate, the party must abide by law and justice. If Faleke was a part of the elections so far, some have argued that it does not matter because the law recognises not candidate but parties. The law here contradicts itself. It cannot give rights and roles for candidates and subsume them conveniently under the party banner. The law that asks deputies to succeed the leader cannot wipe out the candidate. The contradiction can only be resolved when the candidates negotiate with the party towards a resolution. While it still poses a conundrum, the constitution clearly shows that the candidate matters. The Amaechi example is sometimes interpreted out of context.
But the matter will eventually be resolved in court. It will decide that the election was conclusive and Faleke should have been declared governor.
Part of the problem lies in the Jonathan syndrome. Faleke comes from what they call the Okun in Kogi as against the Igala. Jonathan’s succession to Yar-adua was resisted because he was no Hausa-Fulani. The Otueke shoeless man gained nationwide sympathy and hence he became president. We have a miniature play of that politics in Kogi. Justice is the victim. But just as Bob Enyart noted, “It is not a justice system. It is just a system.”