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Monday, 9 November 2015

Alhassan: Between wasted votes and scoring first

In the heat of the Taraba governorship election re-run held on April 25, 2015, what was uppermost on the lips of many people was the probability of the emergence of the first fe­male elected governor of a state.
Dame Virgy Etiaba who held forte for her boss Peter Obi during the im­peachment saga in Anambra state in 2006 was a “child of circumstance” and left the seat in the same abrupt man­ner she emerged.

Since the nation’s inde­pendence in 1960, no female politician has ever inched so close to the seat on a popular platform. The Taraba election therefore, deservedly attracted much interest and concerns. And it was not just because Hajia Jumai Aisha Alhassan is a female. Her political odyssey reeks of several firsts. She was the first woman to become a Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of Taraba state. She was the first woman to be appointed secretary of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Judicial Council, and lat­er Chief Registrar of the high court of FCT on December 17, 2003. She was also the first elected female senator from the state. With this intimi­dating resume, expectations were therefore high when she launched her campaign. In the January 2011 primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, she defeated the incum­bent senator, former Ambas­sador Manzo Anthony. It was then bandied about that she was a protégé of former gov­ernor Jolly Nyame, who alleg­edly positioned her to defeat Manzo, in the belief that he would then proceed to trounce her. However, after winning the primaries, Alhassan ran an energetic election campaign, drawing Christian support de­spite her Muslim background . She eventually beat her sup­posed godfather, Nyame in the election with 114,131 votes , while Nyame polled 92,004. She was one of four women elected on PDP ticket. The others are; Nkechi Nwaogu( Abia Central) Helen Esuene, (Akwaibom south) and Nena­di Usman( Kaduna south) She was in contention for the seat of Senate president.

For a career that has been so illustrious, her interest to gov­ern Taraba state was received with acclamation and excite­ment. Before the election was declared inconclusive by the Independent Electoral Com­mission, INEC on April 13, 2015, the rising consensus was that at long last a female elected governor was in the making, notwithstanding the fact that the PDP candidate Darius Dickson Ishiaku was ahead with result from one lo­cal government pending. Her popularity was also running against the grains of the reli­gious tendencies and division in the state.

Doctrine of wasted votes

The Taraba Election Pe­tition Tribunal which sat in Abuja had predicated its rul­ing on the fact that Governor Darius Ishaku was not val­idly nominated by his party, and ipso facto, the votes he garnered at the election were “wasted”. This, according to the tribunal is in breach of section 78(B) (1)(2) of the electoral act which guides po­litical parties in the selection of their governorship candi­dates. Ishaku’s emergence as candidate was done at the Wa­data National secretariat of the party without clear delegates from the local government areas of the state The section states:” In the case of nomina­tion to the position of gover­norship candidate, a political party shall where they intend to sponsor candidates(1) hold special congress in each of the Local Government Areas of the states with delegates voting for each of the aspi­rants at the congress to be held in designated centers on speci­fied dates. (11) The aspirant with the highest number of votes at the end of the voting shall be declared winner of the primaries of the party and the aspirant’s name shall be for­warded to the commission as the candidate of the party for the particular state”.

This is the first time an election petition will be de­cided on this premise. Ishiaku , who won with 310,805 votes as against Alhassan’s 261,326 votes must be wondering how these votes have been declared wasted. If he appeals within the 21 days guaranteed by law, the nation may still wait a little longer for the last word.

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