The decision of A Federal High court in Gusau, Zamfara State to nullify the primary election that brought in Dauda Lawan Dare as the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship candidate in Zamfara State, ahead of the 2023 general elections, has thrown the opposition party into confusion, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor.
Last Friday, a Federal High court in Gusau, Zamfara State nullified the primary election that brought in Dauda Lawan Dare as the Peoples Democratic Party’s governorship candidate in the state for the 2023 general elections. The court judgement, which climaxed months of post-primary election crisis that has rocked the party as some aggrieved gubernatorial aspirants refused to accept Lawan’s emergence as PDP flag-bearer in good faith.
The Nation gathered from reliable party sources that the development has created anxiety within the party as many chieftains and members of the PDP are bothered about the possible effect of the court judgement on the chances of the party in the 2023general election. Mixed reactions have been trailing the news of the nullification of Lawan’s candidature. While his supporters and many party faithful have been heartbroken, his opponents and their supporters are jubilating.
Not satisfied with the conduct of PDP governorship primary in Zamfara State held last June, three aspirants, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, Wadatau Madawaki and Aliyu Hafiz Muhammad had gone to court to challenge the emergence of Dauda Lawan Dare as winner of the election. The aspirants, in spite of appeals by state and national leaders of the opposition party, insisted that the process that produced Lawan was neither fair nor credible.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Aminu Bappa, while explaining the judgement, said the court granted all the prayers of the plaintiffs and cancelled the election of Dauda Lawan Dare as the party’s flag bearer for the 2023 general elections. “This court has granted the prayers submitted in this honourable court by the plaintiffs and hereby ruled in their favour” the judge added. The 109-page judgement will be presented to the counsels of both the plaintiffs and the dependants.
Barrister Ibrahim Aliyu, counsel to all the plaintiffs, while peaking with newsmen immediately after the ruling, said the court has nullified the election of Dauda Lawan Dare as the PDP governorship candidate according to the prayers they submitted before the court.“We believe in justice because the Court has seen reasons to nullify the election of Dauda Lawan Dare as PDP candidate in Zamfara state” We had in our prayers urged the court to nullify the election which was characterised by a series of irregularities and we are happy that our prayers have been granted”
A frontline contender for the ticket right from the very beginning of the race, though he newly joined the party then, Lawan had won governorship ticket for 2023 general elections with a landslide as an overwhelming majority of the delegates who participated in the primary election, gave him their votes. Adamu Maina, the Returning Officer for the primaries, while declaring the results in Gusau, the state capital last May, said Lawan emerged winner by polling 431 votes to win the ticket.
Maina said Ibrahim Shehu scored five votes to emerge second, while Wadatau Madawaki placed third with three votes. Before the commencement of voting, following interventions by some party leaders and other stakeholders, three other gubernatorial aspirants, Abubakar Nakwada, Wadatau Madawaki and Ibrahim Shehu, had offered to withdraw from the race. However, Maina declined to accept their withdrawal, saying it was without formal notice.
The returning officer announced that Lawal had satisfied all the requirements of the Electoral Act 2022, as amended, as well as the party constitution. “I, Adamu Maina, declare Alhaji Dauda Lawan, as the winner of the PDP primaries and flag bearer of the party in the 2023 governorship poll for Zamfara,” Maina said. He described the process as peaceful adding that it was supervised by the state Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Saidu Babura and other officials.
But hours after Maina’s declaration of Lawan as guber candidate, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, Wadatau Madawaki and Aliyu Hafiz Muhammad expressed their dissatisfaction with the process that produced the PDP governorship flagbearer and vowed not to accept his victory. “The election was full of irregularities, breach of constitutional provisions of the electoral acts 2022 amongst others. We are challenging the election that was conducted by the committee sent to the State by PDP national headquarters to conduct the governorship primary election in Zamfara state under the chairmanship of Adamu Maina Waziri,” Shehu had said last June.
Similarly, Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, Wadatau Madawaki, and Aliyu Hafiz Muhammad had petitioned the National Chairman of the party, citing irregularities in the primary process. In a letter of complaint, the aspirants accused the state party chairman, Col. Bala Mande (rtd), of working for Lawan, his preferred candidate, who they said was barely three days old in the party when he contested the primary election and allegedly won.
Shehu soon made good his threat as he challenged the party’s governorship candidate at the Federal High court in Gusau, the State capital, saying the primary election of the party was full of irregularities, praying the court to nullify the primary election and order a fresh one. The former federal lawmaker joined the PDP and the electoral committee chairman sent to the State to conduct the election, Adamu Main a Waziri and the State’s party’s chairman, Col. Bala Mande(rtd) in the suit. Other defendants were the state’s PDP flag bearer, Lawan and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He was soon joined in the suit by the two other aggrieved aspirants who also cited irregularities, inconsistencies, fraud, breach of the party’s constitution, provisions of electoral acts among others as reasons for seeking an outright nullification of the exercise. “We have a strong case and have presented our evidence that the exercise conducted by Adamu Maina Waziri was tainted by a lot of irregularities in total disregard to provisions of the party guiding conduct of primary election. And above all, the action of Adamu Maina Waziri who was the Chairman of the election Committee was a complete breach of constitutional provisions, the country’s Electoral Acts 2022 and so more.
“Our prayers are therefore; seeking the nullification of that election in its entirety and an order of court for a fresh exercise under the supervision of an unbiased umpire who will give all aspirants equal opportunities and a level playing ground in accordance to Party and the country’s rules and regulations guiding the conduct of Primary,” Barrister Ibrahim had claimed.
Read Also: Court nullifies Zamfara PDP governorship primary, orders fresh poll
Failed peace moves
In a bid to assuage the feelings of his angry co-aspirants and see if he could pacify them, he governorship candidate of the PDP in Zamfara State, Lawan, made effort to extend the olive branch by appealing to those that lost the primaries to join him in rescuing the state from the present administration. On the advice of party leaders and other stakeholders, he was said to have also reached out to the aggrieved aspirants on many occasions.
Lawal had, after his controversial victory, commended those he said demonstrated a preference for unity by withdrawing their aspirations in his favour even before the commencement of the primary election. Lawal, who attributed his victory to God, said “I’m extending a hand of friendship to my co-contestants and my friends, Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Gusau, Alhaji Wadatau Madawaki, and Alhaji Hafiz Nahuce, to set aside your perceived grievances and join me and work with the party in achieving a cause that is bigger than all of us.”
His efforts were however rebuffed as the angry aspirants vowed to pursue their court case to the very end. Interventions by other party leaders within and outside the state also failed to yield much success as the post primary election crisis ravaged the opposition party, culminating in Friday’s nullification of Lawan’s nomination by the Court.
Amidst the anxiety created by the crisis over the governorship primary, stakeholders within the party expressed fear that litigations and other unresolved issues arising from primary election may cost the opposition party victory at the polls. A group called Concerned PDP Volunteers, through its spokesperson, Isa Kwatarkwashi, had decried what he described as the nonchalant attitude of the party’s leadership in Abuja in resolving the lingering crisis around the overnorship primary election.
He said the party leadership was expected to be just and fair to all aspirants who took part in the exercise. Kwatarkwashi described the crisis that ensued as capable of consuming the party and marring its chances of producing the next governor of Zamfara State. He recalled how internal crisis within the then ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) cost the party the governorship seat in 2019, which paved way for Governor Bello Matawalle to occupy the number one position in the State.
“Had former Governor AbdulAzeez Yari, Senator Kabiru Marafa and other factional heads managed their differences …., the then APC wouldn’t have lost the state at on a platter of gold to Matawalle who was the PDP candidate in 2019. We must avoid repeating the ugly history that has led to the fall of others in the political scene of this country.We must learn from the experiences of others and use them to guide our actions by ensuring that right things are done.”
“Internal crisis kindled by supremacy frictions among party leaders who would want their anointed candidates occupy positions often lead to disastrous end for the party at the poll due to fielding of unpopular and non-committed members whose only motive for standing an election is personal aggrandizement, rather than service to people and country,” he warned back then.
Also, last August, while the litigations against his candidacy were still raging, Lawan had to debunk claims making the rounds across the state and on social media, that he was planning to abandon his gubernatorial ambition and defect to the ruling APC. A statement issued by the Dauda Lawan Media Office (DLMO) said the claims were false and mischievous and aimed at misleading the public. The media office stressed that Lawal is ready and confident in his cause to unseat the ruling APC, to wipe away the tears that the incumbent administration has inflicted on the people. “To our dear supporters and party members of Zamfara State, do not listen to any rumour purporting that Dr Dauda Lawal is making plans to defect to the APC.
“This is an absolute fallacy and could only have happened in the imagination of the rumour peddler. Peddling rumour of Dauda Lawal’s defection is a sign that the ruling APC in Zamfara State is already jittery, having seen the massive acceptance of Lawal and the PDP across the length and breadth of Zamfara State. We call on the good people of Zamfara to ignore any rumour claiming that our candidate has perfected plans to defect to any party or that he is no longer in the race. Dauda is very much in the race, and he is winning, by the special grace of Allah and the support of the good people of Zamfara State,” the statement read back then.
While efforts to speak with Lawan and or his media aides following Friday’s judgement proved abortive as they could not be reached on phone all through the weekend, sources close to the embattled politician told The Nation that efforts are on within his camp and the party to quickly appeal the judgement of the High Court. According to a leading chieftain of the party from Zurmi Emirate, the party leadership is solidly behind Lawan and will not abandon him. “We will soon issue a statement on the development. There is no cause for alarm,” he said.