The National Vice Chairman South-South of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), Mr. Hilliard Eta captured the feeling of his colleagues, when he described the loss of Zamfara State to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as a sad development.
Indeed, members of the Comrade Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) could not comprehend the declining fortunes of the party at an emergency meeting on Friday, at the National Secretariat of the party in Abuja, shortly after the Supreme Court verdict to deliberate on the matter.
The party chieftains, who were locked in intense blame game, were subsequently driven to the Presidential Villa at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to explore avenues of managing the situation.
The self-inflicted damage has further compounded APC’s woes in the North, which hitherto was regarded as the party’s traditional base in view of the fact that Zamfara State has now joined its peers in Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba and Benue states, which are already in the PDP fold.
The sad development further weakened the party’s numerical strength in the National Assembly with its 65 senators now reduced to 62, while its members in the House of Representatives plunged to 217 from 224.
In fact, there are very strong indications that ahead of the National Assembly leadership election, the APC aspirants for the Senate presidency – Senators Ahmed Lawan, Danjuma Goje and Mohammed Ali Ndume could be forced to concede the Deputy Senate Presidency and chairmanship of some key committees to the PDP, which now boasts 49 senators in the upper legislative chamber.
The YPP still occupies one seat, while the fate of two outstanding seats “won” by outgoing Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, and Senator Ben Uwajumogu are yet to be determined by the courts.
Already, one aspirant for the speakership of the House of Representatives, Mohammed Umar Bago, conscious of the realities on ground has openly promised to share committee chairmanship seats with the opposition parties on equal basis, in defiance of the APC leadership.
Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, who is the APC top contender for the speakership is said to have made concessions to the PDP caucus in order to achieve his goal.
However, Lawan, yesterday, assured that his chances would not be affected despite the changing dynamics and reduced strength of the APC in the Senate.
He said: “I have talked to 98 percent of all the senators-elect across all the political platforms of APC, PDP and YPP, and they are happy with that. So, it’s not a question of numbers, but that of interacting and to extracting commitments of our colleagues.
Numbers would only come to play during the election of presiding officers, but I want to tell you that we are very comfortable; we are very confident that we have told our story to our colleagues because its a story of truth; its a story of struggle right from 1999 to make things better for the country.”
The PDP caucus in the House of Representatives while felicitating with the people of Zamfara State applauded the Supreme Court for the verdict, which saw the emergence of Mr. Bello Matawalle as Governor-elect of the state.
House Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, expressed optimism that the PDP would record more victories at the court in the days ahead.
He noted: “Indeed, it is sad to recall the autocratic tendencies and barefaced electoral manipulations undertaken by the APC during the last elections. But we feel consoled by the Nigerian judiciary’s boldness in discharging its responsibilities on the issue of barefaced anti-democratic practices flagrantly perpetrated in Zamfara State.
“Yari’s ‘magic’ was such that all the state’s three senatorial constituencies, seven House of Representatives seats and the entire 24 state House of Assembly positions were buccaneered into a very total, but unscrupulously-contrived APC victory.
“Like millions of Nigerians who never expected such manipulations that have short-circuited the people’s will, we anxiously wait to see a bold interpretation of the law and the truth in other electoral petitions that are now before the courts across Nigeria; PDP is sure of winning more seats.”
Eta, the APC’s National Vice Chairman in the South South, says the Zamfara debacle is a reminder for all political parties to play by the rules.
He said: “For me, I am a democrat. The issue of internal democracy is a serious problem in our country, but it is work in progress. We have made a lot of strides in the party. I don’t think that the party mismanaged the crises in our Zamfara State Chapter. We don’t have any option than to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court and go ahead and learn some lessons from it. That is what I can say for now.”
The Supreme Court verdict upturned the victory recorded by APC governorship candidate, Muktar Idris, who was declared winner of the March election with 534, 541, as against Matawalle of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered 189, 452.
The Supreme Court also invalidated APC victory in all the 24 seats in the State House of Assembly, as well as that of the National Assembly from the state.
MEANWHILE, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, formally declared Matawalle victorious, alongside candidates of the PDP in the three senatorial and seven House of Representative seats in the state. The electoral umpire also announced the PDP winner of 23 out of the 24 state House of Assembly seats.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, told newsmen in Abuja that the declaration was in compliance with the Supreme Court judgment, which sacked all candidates of the APC.
The apex court on Friday ruled that the APC did not hold valid primaries as required by law, therefore, all votes acquired by the party were wasted votes.
The court further declared that candidates of political parties with the second highest valid votes should be declared elected.
Yakubu said: “Following the judgment of the Supreme Court, the Commission met in two emergency sessions and took briefings from our lawyers and staff on the implementation of the Supreme Court judgment. While the legislative elections (senatorial, House of Representatives and state House of Assembly elections) are straight forward to deal with because they entail first-past-the-post or simple majority of votes, the governorship election is determined not just by majority votes, but also spread in accordance with Section 179 (2) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“This means that we had to first discount the votes cast for the APC at the elections and then carefully rework the spread by local government areas based on the new valid votes.”
He said the governor and deputy governor-elect, senators-elect and members of the House of Representatives-elect would receive their certificates of return tomorrow at the Commission’s Electoral Institute, at 2.00pm
He added that members of the State House of Assembly-elect would receive their certificates from the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Zamfara State, at the INEC State Office in Gusau, the state capital.