The Federal High Court in Yola has nullified the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary that produced Aishatu Binani as the party’s governorship candidate for Adamawa state. In a judgement delivered on Friday, 14 October, the court also declared that there will be no candidate for the APC in the state for the 2023 elections.
It could be recalled that Senator Aishatu Ahmed, popularly known as Binani, representing Adamawa Central in the Senate, emerged the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Adamawa State after defeating five male aspirants during the primary election conducted on May 27, 2022.
She polled 430 votes to trump her closest rival, Nuhu Ribadu (former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) who got 288 votes; former governor of the state, Umaru Bindow scored 103 votes; Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas got 94 votes, while Safari Theman scored 21 votes and Umar Mustapha got 39.
An aggrieved Ribadu, clearly not pleased with coming second during the primary election, had dragged the APC governorship candidate, Aishatu Binani, APC and INEC before the court. He sought Binani’s disqualification over alleged vote buying, over-voting and the use of an illegal delegates list from Lamurde Local Government Area of the state, instituting a suit marked FHC/YL/CS/12/2022. The Federal High Court 1 sitting in Yola, Adamawa State, presided over by Justice A.M. Anka, ruled to nullify the candidacy of Senator Aishatu Ahmed, saying that the judgement was based on substantial non-compliance with party guidelines and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the APC primary exercise.
According to Anka: “my findings are that there’s non-compliance to the Electoral Act, as well as party guidelines and the constitution because there was manifest overvoting, which has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt,”
Why it matters?
As if nullification was not enough, the court also denied a plea for a fresh primary, which implies that the APC will have no gubernatorial candidate in the 2023 election — an obvious blow to the party as a whole. Consequently, Senator Aishatu Binani was cautioned against parading herself as the APC gubernatorial candidate in Adamawa State.
“The first defendant (APC) cannot field a candidate for the 2023 general elections; the primary election is invalid, and the court, therefore, sees the return of Aishatu Ahmed Binani as unlawful. The plea for fresh elections is hereby refused,” Anka declared on Friday.
While Ribadu’s response to Binani’s victory comes as no surprise (Nigerian politicians are not known for their grace, but are, more often than not, sore losers), the nullification of the entire primary election seems more than a little harsh. And while one may argue that gender has nothing to do with the ruling, and that all is fair in the vicious game of politics, one cannot ignore the fact that Binani was the only woman in the contest for the governorship ticket of the party.
Although some might roll their eyes and cry out against “feminism”, the facts remain glaringly clear: According to the Gender Strategy Advancement International, GSAI, the national average of women’s political participation in Nigeria is a dismal 6.7 per cent in elective and appointive positions, which is far below the global average of 22.5 per cent, Africa regional average of 23.4 per cent and West African Sub Regional Average of 15 per cent. We are each free to do what we will with that information.
In an interview with Aishatu Ahmed Binani, conducted shortly after her victory, the aspirant shared some thoughts on the reasons for her triumph, despite obvious challenges and constraints as a woman: “If you look at the composition of the delegates, going by the guidelines of the APC, which stated that every ward must have five delegates and out of the five delegates, two must be women — that favoured me,” she said. “I thank the APC for coming up with that strategy on the inclusion of two women among the five delegates.”
In a country set up the way Nigeria is, with its obvious gender biases and colourful history of questionable (and often controversial) court rulings, one doesn’t have to crack their brain to understand why Binani’s disqualification has ruffled a few feathers.
Since the ruling, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, has picked holes in the judgement of the Federal High Court, describing it as a “kangaroo” judgement that should be rejected by well-meaning Nigerians, while lamenting the low number of female candidates contesting the 2023 general election.
Meanwhile, some women in Adamawa State, on Wednesday (October 19, 2022), staged a protest against the nullification of the primaries. Reacting to the court’s ruling, women across the 21 Local Government Areas of the state marched through streets, arguing that the ruling was a grand conspiracy against women and nothing else. Wielding placards with inscriptions such as “No Binani, No election”, “The conspiracy against women is too much”, and “It’s Binani we want”, the women were led by Hon. Comfort Ezra, who urged women and men across the country to stand up for Binani:
“We called you here today to vehemently kick against the marginalization of women in the political space, especially by political parties who tend to deliberately put obstacles on the path of the female gender during their primary elections. The recent court judgment by the Federal High Court which refused to uphold the election of the only female governorship candidate in Nigeria for the 2023 general election, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed Binani of APC, is a wake-up call to all women in Nigeria and not Adamawa State alone. We call on all women across the country to ensure that she is not ripped off her mandate through technicalities.”
Following the ruling, the court said the defendant could file an appeal after 30 days if they so wished. With election season now fully underway, Nigerians will be curious to see what else transpires in the build-up to the General and subnational elections next year.