The National Assembly Elections Petitions judgment sitting in Jos on Monday declared former Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, winner of the Plateau South Senatorial election.
Lalong, who is the current Minister of Labour and Employment, contested the Senatorial election held on February 25 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
The tribunal upheld the petition filed by Lalong and his party while invalidating the declaration of Napoleon Bali of the People’s Democratic Party by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
In declaring Lalong the winner of the Senatorial election, the Tribunal ruled that the votes scored by Napoleon Bali in the February 25, 2023, general elections were wasted votes as he was not validly nominated by his party, the PDP. The tribunal equally noted that at the time of Napoleon’s nomination, the PDP had no valid structure in Plateau State.
However, the ruling by the tribunal declaring Lalong winner confused political circles in the state on Monday as the tribunal had in several rulings last week, refused to nullify PDP candidates’ victories on the basis that the party had no structure in the state.
In two of the decided cases at the tribunal, for instance, the Labour Party candidate for the Plateau North senatorial election, Gyang Zi, had filed his petition against the election of the senator representing Plateau North, Simon Mwadkon, while Adamu Muhammad Alkali of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) had filed his petition against the election of Musa Agah of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the House of Representatives election for Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency.
The crux of the two petitions was that both Mwadkwon and Agah were not qualified to vie for the election as they were not validly nominated by their party, the PDP.
The petitioners had contended that the process that produced the duo as their party’s candidates was flawed because PDP, at the time of the nomination, did not have what could be said to have constituted a valid state executive council. In other words, the petitioners had averred in the petitions that the ruling party, which was then in opposition, had no structure to have produced candidates for the 2023 general elections at all levels.
During the hearings, the petitioners had canvassed that because the PDP had a tumultuous state exco, which was not validly elected at any state congress, any candidate the exco presented for the 2023 election could not have been said to be so validly nominated.
The petitioners, in their thinking, were hoping for a replay of the Zamfara scenario, where the apex court sacked all the elected officials of the APC because the party did not have a lawful exco that conducted the primary election that produced the candidates for the 2019 general elections.
However, the tribunal, in a lead judgment delivered by Justice Mohammed, held that the Labour Party and it’s candidate, Gyang Zi, lacked the locus standi to challenge the nomination and sponsorship of Senator Simon Mwadkon because they did not take part in the primary election of the PDP, the party that sponsored him in the election.
In the case of Musa Agah, the tribunal, among other reasons, held that its responsibility was to determine whether or not the respondent was an independent candidate and if he was actually sponsored by a political party and not to concern itself with whether the party had a structure at the time of the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate.
The tribunal equally held that only party members or the party itself have the locus standi to challenge the nomination and sponsorship of a candidate, stressing that besides that, the issue of the nomination and sponsorship of a party candidate is a pre-election matter.