WEIGHT OF HISTORY: Courts Sack At Least One Governor Every 4 years

As the governorship election petitions tribunals across the states get set to deliver their verdicts in cases brought before them, the weight of history is hanging over the fate of a number of state governors whose elections are being challenged by their main rivals.


In all the states of the federation, the judges of the tribunals are expected to deliver their verdicts within the next two weeks.

Historical precedents in management and outcome of governorship election petitions tribunals in Nigeria suggest that at the very least, one sitting governor could be sacked by a tribunal.

In every election cycle since 2003, at least one governor has been removed from office by either the Court of Appeal, which was the final decider in cases emanating from governorship elections before 2011 or the Supreme Court where the cases now terminate.

After celebrating victory at the 2019 governorship election in 2019, the Supreme Court, in May of that year, cut the celebrations short and annulled the election just days before Mukhtar Idris of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was due to be sworn in as governor.

Similarly, the Supreme Court in February 2020 sacked David Lyon of the APC as governor-elect of Bayelsa State 24 hours before he was due to be sworn in as governor.

Also, the Supreme Court, in probably its most controversial judgement, nullified the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP as the governor of Imo State in 2020 and declared Hope Uzodimma of the APC as the winner of the March 9 governorship election in the state.

In 2015, newly elected governor of Rivers, Nyesom Wike, was removed from office by the Court of Appeal, in agreement with an earlier judgement of a lower court, but the PDP governor had the judgement reversed by the Supreme Court in what turned out to be a politically explosive end to the legal battle.

And in 2012, following the 2011 general elections, the Supreme Court sacked five powerful state governors from office because their tenures should have expired the previous year, replacing them with the Speakers of Houses of Assembly from the respective states.

The governors of Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Kogi, Adamawa and Sokoto all came into office in May 2007 but their four-year tenures were terminated by election tribunals on grounds of “irregularities.” Fresh elections were conducted the following year, which they all won again.

After the 2007 general elections, a host of governors were sacked by the Court of Appeal, including Olusegun Agagu of Ondo, Prof Oserheimen Osunbor of Edo State, and in the cases of Andy Uba of Anambra and Celestine Omehia of Rivers, they were removed from office by the Supreme Court in pre-election matters.

While political and legal observers can only guess which way the tribunals would rule in the two dozen cases before them that relate to the 2023 governorship polls, a number of states are being watched closely as having the potential of leading to major upsets.

They include the governorship tribunals in Lagos, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, Delta and Akwa Ibom.

In Lagos, the state governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal received petitions from aggrieved parties arising from the 2023 general election.

The tribunal received four governorship petitions from the PDP and its candidate, Abdul-Azeez Adediran (Jandor); Labour Party and its candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour; Allied Peoples Movement (APM) and Action People’s Party (APP).

Respondents in the petition filed by the PDP and Jandor are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, APC, Labour Party and its candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.

The PDP and Jandor are asking the tribunal to disqualify Sanwo-Olu and Rhodes-Vivour for “non-compliance” with the Electoral Act 2022 as well as INEC guidelines.

Aside from the allegation of non-compliance with relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, Adediran added that at the time of the governorship election, Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat and Rhodes-Vivour were not qualified to contest the election.

He prayed the court to declare all votes cast for them in the election wasted, and Adediran should be declared the winner.

But it is only the name of the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour that was listed as the petitioner in his petition. The Labour Party was not listed as a co-petitioner.

The respondents in Rhodes-Vivour’s petition are INEC, Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat and the APC.

He is praying the tribunal to declare him the winner of the governorship election because Sanwo-Olu is not qualified to contest the election.

The Labour Party candidate also maintained that Sanwo-Olu’s election was invalid because of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act 2022 and the 1999 Constitution.

Rhodes-Vivour also argued that the governor was not duly elected by a majority of the lawful votes cast at the election.

Also, APM and APP did not include their candidates, Funmilayo Kupoluyi and Abiola Adeyemi, in their petitions.

They both argued in their separate petitions that Sanwo-Olu and his deputy were not qualified to contest the election, and that INEC failed to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution.

Sanwo-Olu polled 762,134 votes to defeat Rhodes-Vivour, his closest rival, who scored 312,329 votes, while Adediran who came third garnered 62,449 votes in the poll.

In Ebonyi, INEC had declared the candidate of the APC, Hon Francis Ogbonna Nwifuru, as winner of the governorship election.

The candidate of the PDP, Dr Ifeanyichukwuma Odii, alongside the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) candidate, Prof. Ben Odoh, approached the tribunal to challenge the election of the APC candidate on grounds of over voting, none compliance with the Electoral Act 2022, harassment and intimidation of voters, non-transmission of results electronically, among other sundry issues.

The candidates of the PDP and that of APGA also alleged that Nwifuru was not eligible to contest as he was a member of the PDP at the time of his nomination by APC. The governorship candidates had approached the court calling for the disqualification of Nwifuru on grounds of non-compliance with the Electoral Act having been sacked by a court of competent jurisdiction on grounds that as the Speaker of the House, he ought to have vacated his seat before his nomination.

In Rivers State, the governorship candidates of the APC and Labour Party (LP), Tonye Cole, and Beatrice Itubo, respectively are challenging the outcome of the 2023 election, which produced Governor Siminalayi Fubara of the PDP.

The governorship candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, has since withdrawn his petition from the Rivers State Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja.

However, the APC governorship candidate, Cole, does not enjoy the support of the national leadership of the party, which recently announced its withdrawal from the petition, apparently due to the romance between President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Ezenwo Wike.

In Enugu, Governor Peter Mbah has been facing a case that has drawn national attention and is bound to cause him problems.

The petitioner, Chidioke Edeoga of the Labour Party, is alleging that the NYSC certificate of the governor was forged.

Secondly, he is claiming that the BVAS machine was not used in some areas. On a third note, he is claiming that some of the votes he scored in some areas were not allocated to him.

Meanwhile, In Abia State, the election of Alex Otti of Labour Party is being challenged by Ikechi Emenike of the APC, and Okey Ahaiwe of the PDP.

Emenike’s petition against the governor is partly based on the alleged non-resignation of the governor’s membership of another political party before joining the Labour Party.

He also alleged that Otti’s name was not in the Labour Party register before his nomination as the party’s governorship candidate.

Similarly, Governor Umo Eno of Akwa Ibom State was declared winner of the March election by INEC as having won overwhelmingly in the Akwa Ibom governorship poll, and was accordingly sworn -in on May 29, amid protest by aggrieved opposition.

The opposition queried Eno’s eligibility to participate in the contest, citing allegations of certificates forgery, age falsification and widespread malpractices.

Former national secretary of the APC, Senator John Akpan Udoedehe, now of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP); immediate past Senator for Akwa Ibom North East zone, Senator Bassey Akpan, of the Young Progressives Party (YPP) and Ezekiel Nya-Etok of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) are those challenging the outcome of poll.

Weekend gathered that the tribunal chaired by Justice A. A. Adeleye is soon to deliver judgement on the cases, as the petitioners have adopted their final written addresses.

Meanwhile, the governor clocked 100 days in office on Wednesday, and though he has given a pass mark to his administration’s performance in key sectors, including agriculture, road works, human capital development and infrastructural interventions, mixed reactions have continued to trail his achievements in the last couple of months since May 29.


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Rabia Rabiu

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