…Says Taraba tribunal ruling out of order
Governor of Taraba State, Darius Dickson Ishaku, whose election was recently invalidated by the state elections petition tribunal spoke on the judgment. He accused the tribunal of leaving issues, concerning the election to dwell on pre-election matters.
The elections petitions tribunal ruled recently that you were not validly nominated as Governor of Taraba State and that your opponent should be sworn in. Did this verdict take you by surprise?
The verdict was not only a surprise but total disappointment in view of the fact that the main issues before the tribunal were not considered except for the promotion of trivialities. As a matter of fact, the issues before the tribunal were purely election issues, but regrettably, the tribunal in its judgment picked a pre-election issue. By this singular act, one can easily conclude that certain interests are coming to bear in the judgment. It is a calculated attempt to deprive me of the people’s mandate to lead them. I contested the primaries on the platform of the PDP and won. I was presented with the party’s flag as a mark of recognition as its candidate for the last polls. Therefore, it will be out of place for someone or the tribunal to insinuate in its judgment that I never contested the primary or I was not validly the candidate of the party.
Why didn’t the PDP primary take place in Taraba?
Truly speaking, the PDP primaries did not hold in Taraba. The PDP resolved to conduct the primaries in Abuja, the Federal Capital on security grounds. Emphatically, during the period of the primaries, Taraba was experiencing security challenges, which informed the conduct in Abuja to avert any breakdown of law and order.
With the tribunal sitting in Abuja and not Taraba for security reasons, are you feeling justified by the PDP decision to hold the primary in Abuja over security concerns?
I must confess that the action of the tribunal to shift its sitting from Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, as provided for by the Electoral Act to Abuja on security grounds is not different from what the PDP did during the conduct of its primaries. In view of the foregoing, I feel justified. Issues of insecurity are not issues that can be taken for granted because human lives cannot be compromised for anything, election inclusive.
An INEC official said the commission was not present at your primary and, therefore, could not confirm that you indeed held a primary. Did you think this played a role in swaying the judgment to your opponent’s favour ?
Although, I don’t think the testimony of the INEC official at the tribunal played a role in the verdict, but I am optimistic there was a ploy to undo me by bringing into play the issue of primary and leaving out the election, which is the main issue at stake. Sometimes, actions like this exhibited by the tribunal in this case, leave more to be desired as justice was thwarted outright to promote certain interests at the expense of democratic principles.
Many people are condemning the verdict. The governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, said it could not stand before God and man. Are you surprised that such reactions are trailing the ruling?
I am not surprised or perplexed by the sporadic general reaction in many quarters, concerning the judgment of the tribunal because many people, including educated and non-educated, believed the tribunal erred in law by picking or dealing with pre-election issues rather than the election, which was the main issue that was brought before it. To be candid, the last election was won by me in a landslide after having fulfilled the requirements as prescribed by the law. The PDP on which platform I won the last general election had earlier presented my name to INEC as its sole candidate and it was on this basis that I was cleared to contest the polls. The PDP had only one primary and I was the candidate.
There are claims in the PDP that the APC is trying to muscle out the opposition. Is that your sentiment too?
Yes, I share this sentiment in view of the prevailing circumstances. There is growing anxiety across the nation, particularly by the PDP supporters that the APC ruling government is scheming hard to muscle out the opposition party by unfair means, hence quashing of the elections of its candidates in Rivers, Taraba and Akwa Ibom states. Apart from the use of the tribunal, there are also other unfair means, such as use of anti-corruption agencies to haunt down PDP members. This scenario is not healthy for the nation’s nascent democracy.
PDP is losing a lot of cases at tribunals. Do you think this will impact negatively on the development of democracy in Nigeria?
Yes! It is true that the PDP is losing lots of cases at the tribunals. This development is already impacting negatively on the development of democracy in Nigeria. If we can consider the issue critically, we can conclude by saying that there is flagrant abuse of democratic principles in the entire process. This also means that there is no future for those in the opposition in Nigeria since the judiciary, which is supposed to be the last hope of the common man and that of the less-privileged is not being fair to other parties.
Many people expected you to appeal but do you really think you have a good reason to appeal?
It is true that many people expected me to appeal the judgment on the grounds that it does not reflect justice as provided for in law. As a result of this action coupled with my personal conviction that justice was not given by the tribunal in my case, I have decided to appeal the judgment to get justice as well as defend the people’s mandate at the polls. Believe me, the action of the tribunal was totally a judicial rape which could also be called judicial rascality given the antics of such judgment.
APC said PDP was paying for its impunity and this was responsible for the tribunal verdicts. Do you think that is a correct reading of the situation ?
The insinuation by APC that PDP is paying for impunity is false. PDP laid the foundation for sustainable democratic practice on the principles of law and good governance and as such cannot be accused of impunity after losing power to the APC despite the characteristics and other factors that came to play during the last election.
What are your reservations about the actions and pronouncements of the tribunal in your case?
My reservations are that I won the election overwhelmingly and cannot afford to allow any individual or group of persons to bring me down through manipulative tendencies to deny the people the benefit of Democratic governance. If issues raised at the tribunal conform with the rule of law on the conduct of the elections, it would have been an issue to consider but where a judicial theft is being promoted is highly unacceptable.
Your opponent, Aisha Alhassan, is a woman and would be the first elected female governor in Nigeria if she wins her case. Will you say this is a factor in the support she is getting from some Nigerians?
It may be one of the factors responsible for the support Aisha Alhassan, who contested the election with me is receiving, but I want to say that the much propaganda her supporters are making on the issue in the media, especially the social media, which had so much promoted falsehood on the issue, among others reasons are contributory factors. As a matter of fact, often times, the issue of religion is another factor her supporters are using to attract sympathy from different quarters for her.
What is the message to your supporters as you seek to retain your mandate through the judicial process?
My message is simple and direct. Since election is not made to divide or fan embers of disunity or disaffection among the people, but a means of selection or election of leaders for effective leadership for the attainment of developmental goals it, therefore, behooves on the people to remain calm and law-abiding during and after every issue, involving litigation.
I am appealing to the people of Taraba State to adhere strictly to the rule of law, which guarantees peaceful living beneficial to all and sundry. I will not relent in pursuing peace with all men, including my enemies so that a platform, which will guarantee good development will be actualised.
Election petitions apart, what has changed in Taraba since you became governor?
I have restored water supply in the state capital, raised the power supply from two megawatts to eighteen, ensured peaceful coexistence among the various communities, who were hitherto ravaged by communal and ethno-religious feuds, mobilised construction firms to resume work on the Jalingo, Kona and Bali-Serti to Gembu roads, among others.
What are your plans for the state?
My plan for the state is to open it up to development and make it compete more favourably with other advanced states that have made it.
What is your assessment of President Muhammadu Buhari so far?
I assess him as a man who wants to also contribute his own quota for the development of Nigeria for posterity, hence his policies and programmes even though they are yet to mature.
- The Sun