The absurdity of APC’s democratic monarchy
Following the death of Prince Abubakar Audu — former APC gubernatorial candidate of Kogi state — on Sunday 23rd November, members of the ruling party have adopted his son, Mohammed Abubakar, as a replacement for a supplementary election for the local government areas where the vote count was inconclusive.
Aububakar Audu died Sunday morning on the cusp of victory after garnering 240,867 votes just 41,353 votes more than Captain (Rtd.) Idris Wada, the incumbent governor and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had announced that the state’s gubernatorial poll was inconclusive based on preliminary evidence of voting irregularities.
As expected both state and national members of the PDP have moved to condemn this decision that is reportedly backed by a directive from the new Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), recently appointed by APC President Muhammad Buhari. According to the PDP, the correct decision would have been for INEC to declare Captain Idris Wada as the winner of the gubernatorial election held on the 21st of November, or conduct fresh polls.
A tricky situation
Neither the Nigerian Constitution nor the country’s Electoral Act has express provisions on what should happen if a candidate dies before assuming office and if the election is declared inconclusive. Legally, officials find themselves in uncharted territory. Some lawyers have suggested that the AGF’s directive which calls for a substitution to conclude the election runs afoul of Section 181(2) of the 1999 Constitution which states:
“Where the persons duly elected as Governor and Deputy Governor of a State die or are for any reason unable to assume office before the inauguration of the house of Assembly, the Independent National Electoral Commission shall immediately conduct an election for a Governor and Deputy Governor of the State.”
In other words, rather than substitution, there should be fresh elections. They argue that it is not legal to distribute votes intended for one individual to a substitute — in this case, his son — to conclude the elections.
Under normal circumstances, according to Section 181(1) of the Constitution, Audu’s running mate for Deputy Governor, James Faleke, should assume the office of Governor. However, the inconclusive election results mean that Falake is not technically Deputy Governor-elect and therefore not legally able to fill the position of Governor-elect.
According to Punch, following the demise of Audu, Chief Clement Ebri. a former governor of Rivers state and an APC supporter, had suggested that the party adopts one of Audu’s sons as a replacement, even though Nigeria operates a democratic system of government. “I agree that this is a democracy and not a monarchy; but to my knowledge, more than one of the late Audu’s children have the capacity to take up the ticket. I have seen them and I know them to have the capacity. So, why the party is still thinking of what to do, here is a suggestion – put another Audu in there,” Chief Ebri said.
By all indications, the party listened to Chief Ebri. However, by appointing Muhammad Abubakar, son of Audu, as his replacement without the input of the voting public, the APC runs risks of being perceived as fundamentally antidemocratic. For a party that birthed a new wave of democracy with the widely reported and talked about March 2015 general elections, nothing spells deceit more than their clamour for a monarchical government.
Allowing the APC to substitute its original candidate means the party would field two separate candidates in the same election. Such a scenario is clearly strange to Nigeria’s electoral laws and to democratic practices the world-over. The Nigerian Constitution and Electoral Act does not support the substitution of candidates for election in the middle of the ballot process. The action of INEC, backed by the prompting of the AGF, threatens an imminent collapse of Nigeria’s democracy.
At this point it seems that the fair option would be for INEC to conduct a fresh election according to Section 181(2) of the Constitution as opposed to the directive of the AGF, which seem to support the development of a monarchical system of government. Other parties like the Democratic Peoples Congress are demanding that a fresh gubernatorial election be conducted in Kogi State.