After three opposition governors were removed from office by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in response to rulings by the Appeal Court, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) accused the APC of attempting to create a one-party state in Nigeria.
The Abuja Court of Appeal removed Plateau State Governor Mutfwang from office on Sunday. Daily Sun reports that a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Elphreda Williams-Dawodu ordered the INEC to revoke Mutfwang’s certificate of return and issue a new one to APC candidate Nentawe Goshwe, whom the court deemed a legitimate victor in the governorship election held on March 18.
Within three days, the Court of Appeal had dismissed not one, but three opposition governors, including Mutfwang. Since the March governorship election was declared inconclusive, the appellate court earlier on Thursday also removed PDP governor Dauda Lawal of Zamfara State.
The next day, the same court declared NNPP governor Abba Kabir Yusuf’s election invalid in Kano State.
This comes at a time when the PDP has already asked Olukayode Ariwoola, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), to look into claims made by APC leaders that members of the judiciary, particularly at the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, are willing to do their bidding in electoral cases.
Seize, seize, flee
The APC’s “snatch, grab and run” policy was criticised by former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who weighed in on the matter.
Paul Ibe, a media adviser for the PDP presidential candidate, made the accusation that the APC was being handed over what they lost in the 2023 elections in the states of Nasarawa, Zamfara, Kano, and Plateau via the legal system. States ruled by opposition political parties were the ones where the courts had made “controversial declarations,” he noted, finding it intriguing.
Even while variety of thought is fundamental to democracy, he said, the ruling party was destroying the opposition.
We can no longer have faith in our political and judicial systems, and these warning signs show that our democracy is in danger. Furthermore, the ruling party’s indignation over the’snatch, grab and run away with power’ mentality is undeniable.
More concerning perhaps is the fact that the current developments in the Plateau governorship election petition validate the warning voiced by an APC lawmaker in a now-viral video, which claimed that the ruling party would undermine the legal system to guarantee its eventual triumph in court. So, it’s clear that these are dark times, and we have a long way to go before we can free our democracy from these renegade power brokers. It also implies that all morally upright individuals should unite for this shared national objective.
What is happening, though, does not surprise us. Opposition became a holy grail in Lagos State, the state in which Tinubu rules as godfather. The judges were among those coerced into joining his party. Even in the Lagos State House of Assembly, where one PDP lawmaker was suspended and detained for gunrunning in 2018—charges that were eerily dropped the moment he moved to the APC—the opposition was ruthlessly crushed.
During a news conference in Abuja, the NNPP’s acting national chairman, Abba Kawu Ali, urged the international community to protect Nigeria’s multi-party democracy from the APC’s attempts to consolidate power.
Claiming that Alhaji Abba Kabir Yusuf was not a member of the NNPP during the 2023 general election was, in his opinion, the most heinous act that anyone could perpetrate.
Recent court rulings at the Appeal Court dismissing a number of opposition governors were not accidental, according to Hashimu Dungurawa, Chairman of the NNPP in Kano State.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, issued a statement on behalf of the party, stating that the remarks made by an APC lawmaker from Plateau State, Yusuf Gagdi, regarding the lawsuit surrounding the governorship race, had shocked and outraged Nigerians.
In light of the recent string of biassed rulings handed down by the Plateau State Election Appeal Court Panel, it is reasonable to assume that the ruling APC has assembled a special team—including two current and former APC governors—along with a prominent North East zone APC leader—to influence the appointment of judges to rule against the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Judgement in the appeals involving the same subject matter, facts, circumstances, and applicable laws was inconsistent, contradictory, and conflicting, and Hon. Gagdi’s declaration may provide light on why the panel of the Plateau State Election Appeal Court took the victories won by PDP candidates in the state’s National Assembly elections and gave them to the defeated APC candidates.
Worryingly, “the integrity and honour of our country’s highest temple of Justice has been directly put at stake” because to the APC’s public declaration that it has individuals even at the Supreme Court.
PDP and Atiku Ganduje are causing unnecessary concern
According to Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, the PDP and Atiku’s spokesperson disregarded due process when they attacked the judiciary’s credibility and levelled baseless accusations against Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president of Nigeria.
According to the statement, the PDP, together with the former vice president and his spokesman, have been extremely eager to pin their problems on President Tinubu and the judiciary, a crucial branch of Nigerian government, following the unsuccessful performance of several elected party governors in the appeals court.
By shifting the blame to others, Atiku and his party have not shown that they had considered the gravity of their claims before making them public.
“Although we do not pretend to defend the judiciary, we implore Nigerians to give no credence to the false claims made by the PDP and its candidate, who claim that President Tinubu, while serving as governor of Lagos, stifled dissent, bribed judges, and intends to install a one-party dictatorship by designating “loyalists” as RECs.
To his very heart, President Tinubu is a democrat. We state with confidence that he has not, in his capacity as president, meddled with court decisions. We were there when the PDP governor of Osun state beat the APC in court while he was in office.
The PDP governor of Bauchi also prevailed over the APC in an appeals court dispute.
“President Tinubu has denied Atiku’s repeated claims—which his party and spokesperson have now repeated—that he intends to establish a one-party state.
“The purpose of these accusations is to stir up unnecessary political tension and sow discontent in our nation.
“The PDP and the ex-vice president are the only ones who can imagine them existing.
The world has recognised President Tinubu, in contrast to Atiku, for his record as an exemplary democracy and a staunch supporter of the rule of law.
Despite what Atiku Abubakar would have the public believe, his political domination in Lagos was not the result of any undemocratic behaviour, but rather of his record of service as governor, which saw enormous advancements in numerous aspects of the state.
On the other hand, out of the six governors of the now-defunct Alliance for Democracy, only Tinubu managed to survive the electoral theft that Atiku’s party committed in the South West in 2003. This confession is public record.
“We would like to inquire of the former vice president where he was in 2019 when the court ruled against the All Progressives Congress in Zamfara State. Atiku and the PDP are now making a big deal out of the Appeal Court verdicts on the governorship polls in Nasarawa, Zamfara, and Plateau States. All of the positions gained by the APC were subsequently awarded to the PDP by the court.
“Where was Atiku in 2019 when the court prevented the APC from fielding a candidate in the Governorship and House of Assembly elections in Rivers State?
“Where were Atiku and the PDP in 2019?” I asked. During that year, on the night before David Lyon was to take the oath of office as governor of Bayelsa, the Supreme Court awarded the APC victory to Governor Diri, despite the fact that Diri had been defeated by the voters of Bayelsa.
After receiving these trophies from the courts, Atiku and the PDP enjoyed them as small triumphs for the party and praised the judiciary for safeguarding democracy.
After the courts nullified PDP victory due to the party’s flagrant illegality, the PDP began smearing the judiciary and President Tinubu.
We beg Atiku and the PDP once again to end their smear campaign and extortion of the judiciary and its honourable members. Law and evidence form the basis of judgements. The Electoral Act and the Constitution, and not personal feelings or opinions, form the basis of election petition cases.
“The opposition’s decision to undermine a crucial branch of our government after disobeying the law is both irresponsible and harmful to our country.”