Three weeks to the conduct of the governorship election in Kogi State, an eligibility crisis has erupted in the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Murtala Yakubu (Ajaka) and Abenemi Sam Ranti are the governorship and deputy governorship candidates of the party for the November 11 election.
But, it is no longer at ease with the duo and their supporters as allegations of Perjury, False Declaration, Use of False Document and Possession of Forged Record are not only drizzling literally on their ambition, they are pouring seriously and obliterating any moral compass they have to stand for election and canvass for votes.
The latest scandal is now at the centre of every discussion among voters in the Confluence State. With official confirmation by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to the Department of State Services (DSS) that the running mate allegedly forged the 1979 GCE secondary school certificate he presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the duo may have kissed their dream of occupying the Government House, Lokoja bye bye.
In fact, legally, the candidate and his running mate are not on the ballot, going by similar cases in the past.
Documents obtained by Freedom Online in the build up to the election show that it is going to be an exercise in futility for the duo and they may have to wait till the 2027 election, that is, if genuine documents certified by government agencies are presented.
In essence, all votes cast for Yakubu and Abenemi on November 11 will eventually be declared by the Tribunal as wasted, win or lose, due to the established legal incapacity of Abenemi and SDP’s nomination as a whole unless they are able to provide admissible facts to the contrary.
Due to the alleged illegality involved in the documents submitted, the Director of Public Prosecution, Kogi State Ministry of Justice has preferred a four-count charge bordering on Perjury, False Declaration, Use of False Document, and Possession of Forged Record contrary to the provisions of the Kogi State Penal Code Law, 2019, against Abenemi Sam Ranti at the High Court of Justice, Kogi State.
Documents obtained by Freedom Online have shown that Yakubu and Abenemi are neck deep in allegations of submission of false information and forged certificate to INEC.
In a petition dated June 2023 and directed to the DSS and the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), it was also alleged Yakubu might have submitted a forged certificate to INEC as the Date of Birth submitted to the electoral body on his Form EC9 – (Substitute) was 13/02/1978, whereas the Date of Birth on the WAEC certificate submitted to INEC upon verification shows that the Date of Birth on same is 2/11/1978.
It was, therefore, alleged that Yakubu might have submitted false evidence on oath to INEC.
On July 5, 2023, one Shaibu O. Abdullahi, in a petition written to the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the DSS, alleged that the “WAEC GCE Notification of Result with number 14709101 issued on 16/05/80 to one ‘Abenimi Ranti Samuel’ in respect of a General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level December 1979 Examination’ is forged or fake.”
The said Notification of Result was submitted to INEC by Abenemi for the November 11 election.
Details have now emerged that the DSS investigated the allegation of forged Certificate, and found that the candidate number stated on the said GCE Notification of Result submitted by the Deputy Governorship candidate belongs to another person and not Abenemi.
In response to official enquiries by the DSS, WAEC reportedly confirmed that the Deputy Governorship candidate was not the owner of the Candidate Number and the result contained in the GCE Examination Notification of Result submitted to INEC.
It was revealed that the candidate with the number sat for five subjects instead of the two stated on Abenemi’s alleged forged certificate. Investigation also revealed that in his Form EC9-(Substitute)(Affidavit in Support of Personal Particulars), which the Deputy Governorship Candidate submitted to INEC on 26/5/2023, he stated on oath that he possesses a WAEC Certificate obtained in 1979, and, as evidence, attached the allegedly forged GCE 1979 Notification of Result.
His form EC9 also showed that while he claimed on oath to have a First School Leaving Certificate obtained in 1971, he did not attach same to the Form EC9.
Hence, the only Certificate submitted by Abenemi in support of his qualification for the office of Deputy Governor of Kogi State was the allegedly forged 1979 GCE Notification of Result.
Consequent upon the foregoing, the Director of Public Prosecution, Kogi State Ministry of Justice preferred a four-count charge bordering on Perjury, False Declaration, Use of False Document, and Possession of Forged Record contrary to the provisions of the Kogi State Penal Code Law, 2019, against Abenemi at the High Court of Justice, Kogi State.
While the proceedings are ongoing, the development has raised concerns as to the eligibility or legal capacity of the candidates to participate in the elections and the overall effect of the alleged forgery should the SDP win the election.
With or without the conviction of Abenemi by the court, the fact of the forgery, having been confirmed by WAEC, has already created a burden for SDP and its candidates.
While the SDP will not be precluded from participating in the election on the basis of the forgery, it is generally believed that there is no useful value to the party’s participation.
More or less, it would amount to an exercise in futility, according to political analysts and legal experts.
Interpreting the scenario, a frontline lawyer and activist from one of the Northern states, who spoke with Freedom Online on the condition of anonymity, said, “All votes cast for the party at the election will eventually be declared by the Tribunal as wasted votes, win or lose, due to the established legal incapacity of Abenemi and SDP’s nomination as a whole.
“The reasons for the foregoing prognosis are very clear: Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria prescribes the qualification criteria for a person to contest as a Governor and Deputy Governor (see 187(2)). One of such criteria (paragraph 177(d)) is that such a person ‘has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.’
“Hence, if a person does not have a minimum requirement or qualification to contest for the position of Governor/Deputy Governor of a State, it means that he is not qualified to so contest for the position.In the case of Abenemi who has only presented a GCE Notification of Result, which has been verified to be forged by WAEC, it is clear that he is not qualified to contest for the position of Deputy Governor, hence the joint ticket, automatically becomes invalid by virtue of Section 187(2) of the 1999 Constitution(as amended).
“Another reason is the fact that Section 182(1)(j) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which provides for grounds for disqualification of a person from contesting the seat of Governor/Deputy Governor of a State specifically disqualifies a person who has provided a forged certificate to INEC in the following words: No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if … he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.’
“The foregoing provisions which are clear and unambiguous and which must be given their natural meaning gives no room for any doubt as to the fatal effect of the forged GCE Notification of Result submitted to INEC by Abenemi.
“It is clear that in the event of the SDP winning the elections, the victory will no doubt be nullified on the basis of the candidates’ legal incapacity occasioned by non-qualification and presentation of forged certificate to INEC by Abenemi.
“This is reminiscent of the Supreme Court case of PDP & Ors v. Degi-Eremienyo & Ors (2020) LPELR-49734(SC) (Pp. 8-16 paras. D-D) where the joint ticket of David Lyon and his Deputy Governorship Candidate in Bayelsa State was held to be vitiated by the disqualification of the Deputy Governorship Candidate based on submission of false information/document to INEC.
“In fact, both candidates were disqualified by the Supreme Court and ‘deemed not to be candidates at the governorship election conducted in Bayelsa State.’
” It is generally believed that this is the fate which awaits Yakubu, Abenemi and the SDP at the election, should they win, according to opinion polls. Also, in the case they do not win the said election, the SDP and their Candidates’ locus standi to challenge the victory of the winner of the election at the Tribunal will be incapacitated as the issue of their qualification may be raised in response to their petition or as a cross petition. However, Section 33 of the Electoral Act 2022 allows political parties to substitute their candidates only in the case of death of the nominated candidates or withdrawal. In the case of withdrawal, there is a deadline for such substitution.
For the Kogi election, the deadline for the substitution of candidates set by INEC expired on May 26, 2023. Indeed, this window of substitution brought in Yakubu and Abenemi as SDP candidates on May 20, 2023.
“Hence, the only ‘remedy’ which is most impracticable is death which nobody prays for. Sections 33 and 34 of the Electoral Act 2022 provides copious provisions on this process,” the lawyer said.
It must, however, be noted that in the entire history of democratic elections in Nigeria, only one substitution (arguably) occasioned by death has been recorded and coincidentally same occurred in the 2015 Kogi State Governorship Election which produced the current Governor, H.E. Yahaya Bello.
Going by this statistics, it is impracticable near impossible that this will repeat itself to save the troubled SDP ticket.
While the SDP will not be precluded from participating in the November 11 election based on the certificate forgery scandal, the futility of the party’s participation in the election is a big source of worry to the party, according to a top national SDP official who spoke in confidence to our reporter.
Culled from Freedom Online