THISDAY – Yusuf Tuggar was the governorship candidate of the now defunct Congress for Progressive Change in Bauchi State at the 2011 general election. He speaks on the 2011 post-election violence in the state and how APC can win the governorship election in 2015, in this interview with Chuks Okocha. Excerpts:
What do you think was responsible for the post-election violence witnessed in Bauchi State in 2011?
What happened after the elections was, indeed, an unfortunate incident. The issue is that after the presidential election, some supporters of the PDP decided to use the outpouring of disappointment that the CPC candidate, General Buhari, at that time did not emerge overall winner, because he won flat in Bauchi, to instigate violence. At the time when this thing happened, I was actually invited by the director general of State Security Service and the Commissioner of Police to go and calm down the protesters. If Isa Yuguda was that popular, why was he not called upon to talk to the protesting youths, even from his constituency? In the aftermath of the presidential election in which CPC got with 1.3 million votes against PDP’s 250,000, violence broke out in some parts of the state. I was called upon by the security agencies to go out and appeal for calm, at a risk to my own life. At some point, I was caught in a crossfire between PDP thugs and the mobile police. The violence was used as an excuse to impose a curfew and postpone the governorship election in Bauchi from the 26th of April to the 28th, which meant that the police were drawn in from other parts of the country where elections were concluded for “active duty”. Election materials were distributed under a curfew and additional restriction of movement, which meant that in many places, our agents were not allowed to witness the distribution. Elections in two out of the 20 local government areas in the state – Misau and Ningi – were cancelled on the spot due to the brazen rigging witnessed by visiting INEC Commissioner Nuru Yakubu. That notwithstanding, we still won where votes were counted in earnest. Even in the contrived results, I was placed as having come second after Isa Yuguda, and we still won a number of legislative seats, ACN led by Senator Baba Tela won one state legislative seat, and ANPP led by Senator Suleiman Nazif came fourth with no seats won.
Will you still contest the state governorship election in 2015?
I will, by the will and the wishes of the people for Bauchi and so far as there are many people that are indicating that they would like me to contest again.
APC, the main opposition party in the state, appears to have too many governorship aspirants. How do you think the party can present an acceptable candidate ahead of 2015?
APC can present a candidate this time around by ensuring that there is internal discipline within the party. We need strong party structures so that there will not be frivolous court cases that will impede the progress of the party and the mandate in any shape or form, to ensure that the candidate that they present has a good understanding of what the party stands for, its manifesto and its progressive nature and what change actually means as regards politics. Because there is a difference between a politician and an aspirant we have a lot of people that are just aspirants that are just looking for position then we have people that are politicians that are passionate about bringing about change and bringing about progress to the people. We should focus on policy programmes and not just fly by night opportunist.
Do you think APC can make much impact in Bauchi State, which is generally seen as a PDP state?
If the truth of the matter must be told, Bauchi State has remained an opposition state for quite some time, but today it is more than ever an APC state. PDP simply used its incumbency to take away the wishes of the people in collusion, unfortunately, with the security agencies, in collusion with even INEC. We had a situation where in 2011, with the governorship election, Bauchi and Kaduna were the only two states that had their elections postponed from the 26th to the 28th. They were the only two states that had the election on the 26th and on the 28th. In Bauchi, out of the 20 local governments, the result of 18 were supposedly brought forth, elections were cancelled in two local governments on the spot because one of the commissioners of INEC happened to visit those two councils and there was no way, knowing that his presence was known to people across the state, that he could have witnessed what he witnessed in those two local governments and not push for cancellation of the results. That was why the results of Missou and Ningi were not included in the overall tally.
What role did the judiciary play in 2011 when you contested as CPC governorship candidate?
I contested the primaries in January 2011 with seven other aspirants and emerged winner. Three of the contestants who lost to me – Sadiq Mahmoud (former Permanent Secretary of the Petroleum Ministry and Principal Private Secretary to General Abdulsalami Abubakar), Mohammed Dewu (an architect, close friend of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and presently chairman of the ABU Council) – took me, the party and its leadership to court. They continued to appeal judgements, leading some to accuse them of working for the PDP. In spite of this, I embarked on a mass-based campaign, visiting 200 out of the state’s 212 wards, premised on a solid policy programme, the fulcrum of which was an integrated agricultural project with a hub-farm system.
Part of our election planning was weekly strategy sessions in which we decided to distribute cameras that we used to record a lot of footages of the primitive thumb printing that went on. We took our case to the Bauchi State election tribunal chaired by Justice David Mann, along with Justices Isah Aliu and C.O. Emembolu. It was the first time in the history of the state that a governorship candidate took his case to election tribunal. We also brought in forensic experts from South Africa and applied to INEC to examine ballot papers in the custody of INEC, which we did. With this, we were confident we had enough evidence to win our case, particularly, since during the course of the tribunal sitting, 11 out of the 13 rulings went in our favour. To the surprise of most in Bauchi people, however, the judgement went in favour of Isa Yuguda.
You appealed the judgement.
Knowing that we had a strong case, we appealed to the Court of Appeal sitting in Jos. But, mysteriously, the case was surreptitiously moved to Abuja to be presided over by Justice Ladan Tsamiya, a judge that had recently been involved in controversy over his conduct at the Benue State election tribunal. The judgement was so swiftly pronounced that to date there is no written judgement delivered but simply a verbal pronouncement. The flawed nature of the judgement meant that we had weighty reasons for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
What transpired at the Supreme Court?
A panel of five judges presided over by Justice Mahmoud Mohammed heard the preliminary objection by Yuguda’s lawyers on March 1, 2012, in which they accepted that the Court of Appeal judgement was flawed but sought for the highest court in the land not to entertain the appeal because it had no jurisdiction and that the right thing to do would have been to send us back to the Court of Appeal. Yet that also was not feasible because the 120 days stipulated by the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) had elapsed. Our lawyers, on the other hand, cited section 22 of the Supreme Court Act, which bestowed the Supreme Court with the power to act as if it were a court of first instance if need be, saying it should in this instance where the Electoral Act would otherwise preclude a citizen from his right to seeking redress. The panel was convinced by our lawyers’ arguments and set March 5, 2012 as the date to listen to the case and determine it on its merit. Sadly, however, we got to the Supreme Court on that day and met a fresh panel of five judges presided by the Chief Justice of the Federation Dahiru Mustapher, seconded, shockingly, by Justice Ibrahim Tanko of Bauchi State! The panel from the outset insisted on revisiting the issue of the preliminary objection by Yuguda’s lawyers, and when our lawyers reminded them that the previous panel had ruled on it, they insisted they wanted to hear it again. One of them even said the ruling was a mistake. They listened to the arguments again, rose for an hour and came back and overturned their colleagues’ decision, stating that they lacked jurisdiction. During the drama, I had consulted my lawyers about objecting to the inclusion of Justice Ibrahim Tanko from Bauchi State on the panel and the fact that he appeared to be running the show, what in my opinion amounted to a conflict of interest. But I was advised that if they brought it up, the hearing would be adjourned and we would be asked to take our complaint to the National Judicial Council, which is chaired by the very same CJN Dahiru Mustapher. By the time NJC was done with us, the 60 days for hearing election cases at the Supreme Court would have elapsed. We were completely hemmed in.
In view of the above, what are the chances of APC this time around?
As usual, our chances are very good. In 2011, there was a situation where you had three opposition parties. We had CPC, ACN, ANPP, and now CPC for which I was the governorship flag bearer really won the elections. Now we still managed to win some state House of Assembly seats and House of Representative seats, ACN won one state House of the Assembly seat in Warji local government and ANNPP did not win any seat. But, nonetheless, the point I am trying to make is that all three opposition parties have now come together. So we’ve actually grown in terms of support and the people of Bauchi are yearning to have APC form the next government in Bauchi. We need to consolidate; we need to have strong party structures, we need to have internal party discipline and at the same we need to prepare ahead of time so that the injustice that was meted out to us in the judicial system and process does not reoccur. I think lessons have been learnt. It was the first time ever in the history of Bauchi State that a governorship election went to tribunal, we did not only take it to the tribunal but we went all the way to the Supreme Court and I think we’ve learnt very important lessons and we’re hoping that with the departure of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, and the reforms being put in place by the current CJN, this time around if in a worst case scenario we end up in the tribunal, we’re not going to face the same injustice.
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Posted by Bilkis Adams
on Jan 20 2014. Filed under AFRICA, ANNOUNCEMENT, FEATURE, FOR THE RECORDS, From The Press, Front Page Story, NEWS, News Across Nigeria, POLITICS.
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Category: Bauchi State News