TPI Bureau / New Delhi
The current political wrangle in Kano state, between New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), has stirred debates and discussions among African students in India as well. As part of their annual lecture series, a group of African students in Delhi-NCR, organised a discussion about democracy and elections in Africa. Titled as “Democracy Unveiled: Exploring Elections in Africa” the major theme of the discussion was the Kano state election and the associated litigation.
The organisers had invited several dignitaries to address the gathering. These includes, Dr. Nasim Zaidi, former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) of India, Col. S.P. Singh, former Magistrate, Dr. Jyoti Swarup, Human Rights activist, Dr. Mustapha Bello M, political analyst and Dr. Manvinder Singh, legal expert. In addition, students from various African countries and student associations participated in the discussion.
While initiating the discussion and setting the context, Dr. Mustapha Bello presented his opinions on elections and the ensuing decisions with regard to gubernatorial election in Kano, Nigeria.
Dr. Nasim Zaidi, former Chief Election commissioner of India and a former election observer for the Commonwealth, mentioned that by and large countries where elections were held recently, were peaceful with some few reported case of violence and lack of adequate security. However, he highlighted several challenges being faced by these countries during pre- election period in run-up to the voting and counting. Some of these are lack of political freedom to opposition parties, biased media coverage, misuse of state resources by ruling party to disturb the level playing field and restrictions on civil societies.
Regarding gubernatorial election in Kano, Nigeria in 2019 and 2023, Dr. Zaidi stressed the need of an effective election disputes resolution mechanism including independent, unbiased and impartial judicial system so that election disputes are resolved expeditiously in light of the constitution and relevant law. “It is the responsibility of election commission to prevent incidence of intimidation, capturing of polling station, and destruction of election material and to bring violators to the book in future elections to ensure free and fair elections and true democracy,” he emphasized.
He expressed optimism and hope for strengthening of democracy by carrying out electoral reforms in successive elections. Lastly, he highlighted the need of strong state institutions including an independent judiciary.
Col. S.P. Singh, a retired Indian army veteran and also an expert in law, maintained that since the Nigerian electoral body made a mistake by failing to sign the ballots, innocent voters shouldn’t be penalized for it. Section 63 (1) of the Nigerian electoral Act stipulates that a ballot paper without the official mark shall not be counted, but subsection (2) empowers the returning officer to count such a ballot if satisfied it was from the official booklet. The controversial judgements attracted a lot of concerns and debates within the law practitioners and election commissioners in and outside of Nigeria.
During his speech, Dr. Jyoti Swarup commented that wrong is wrong whether in India, Nigeria or any part of the world. And everybody is concerned about it. “To help in preventing future occurrence, people should at least speak against wrong no matter who did it, whether government, group of people or individuals. Judiciary, everywhere, should be above suspicion”, he added. He further quoted “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done”
During the engaging discussion, Dr. Manvinder Singh, a legal expert, made a comparison between the Nigerian and Indian Electoral Acts, enhancing the knowledge and understanding of the participants.
Following the lecture, a group of African students held placards demanding justice for the people of Kano State of Nigeria
Political Tussle in Kano: Background
The political issue is related to Kano governorship election dispute between Governor Abba Yusuf of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) and Nasiru Gawuna of the All Progressives Congress (APC). On 17 October, a three-member panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja led by Moore Adumein sacked Mr Yusuf as governor of Kano State. In his place, Mr Gawuna of the APC was declared as winner of the 18 March governorship election in the state. The tribunal had declared Mr Gawuna the winner of the election after invalidating votes cast in favour of Mr Yusuf. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the election petition tribunal which sacked Governor Yusuf and declared Dr Nasiru Gawuna, winner of the March 18 poll. The appellate court dismissed the appeal filed by Governor Yusuf based on his membership status in the NNPP. The Supreme Court of Nigeria has reserved its judgment on this issue