Aidoko: The Rogue Senator By Dan Ekah
Aidoko Attai Ali Usman is a ‘rogue senator’. He has been a member of the upper chamber of the National Assembly albeit illegally for the past seven years. Since the official numbers of days a legislator seats is 181, Attai Aidoko has spent 1267 days in the senate earning all the salaries, allowances and every other pecks of being a senator without the authority of his people who should have voted him as a senator. No wonder he has always hidden himself and tried everything to hide himself from public glare.
He claimed to have graduated from Kaduna Polytechnic and has a degree from the University of Abuja. But a visit to his page on the website would just show blanks for educational qualification, marital status, local government of origin and many others. The only information you can find there is that he is from Kogi State and was born on the 1st of January 1971 which makes him to be 47.
The known fact about Attai Aidoko Ali Usman however, was that after his secondary education somewhere in Olamaboro, he took to car washing in Kaduna. One thing that goes for Aidoko is his ability to weave himself into the comfort and trust of the established among his people. It was such ability that got him to become an agent for former Federal Permanent Secretary, late Robert Audu who was into aluminum roof vendoring. Late Robert Audu had a franchise with Queensway Aluminum Kaduna and needed someone to serve as his base agent. Aidoko was a ready material and quickly clinched the job. But reports had it that many times the Igala Community in Kaduna had to wade in to settle quarrels between Robert Audu and Aidoko over financial impropriety.
It was the same ability that made him to get Air Marshal Isaac Alfa to provide the seed money that sprout Aidoko into politics. Air Marshal Alfa it was who paid the 250,000 naira for Aidoko to obtain his nomination form to contest the House of Representatives election in 2002. Just as he stabbed Robert Audu in the back, Aidoko had no qualms when it came to Air Marshal Alfa’s turn His foray into politics was thus sponsored by Air Marshal Alfa. It became the turning point in his life. It was indeed the beginning of his exposure to the World and his resolve never to go back either by hook or by crook. When he found his way, he did everything possible to remain stuck where he has now found himself.
No one gave him any chance when he first indicated interest to contest. He had no money, not even enough to purchase his nomination form. He had to fall back on the goodwill of Air Marshal Isaac Alfa who gave him the 250,000 naira, his seed money for the nomination in 2002.
Aidoko Attai is in familiar grounds when it comes to getting into the national Assembly through the back door. Aidoko has never stood for election and won. He must always wait for someone to do the ground work for him. He would perch on the side line looking out for a loophole to hatch in and clinch the ticket.
He came into the House of Representatives through the back door in the 2002. He lost the party nomination to Captain Joe Agada. He surreptitiously weaved his way into the heart of the then National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party Senator Ahmadu Ali where he offered himself as Ahmadu Ali’s personal assistant, a position he still has not relinquished and has benefitted immensely. Aidoko then used that position to maneuver and snatch the nomination from Joe Agada as the PDP candidate for Ankpa/Omala/Olamaboro Federal Constituency through the assistance of Ahmadu Ali. Joe Agada was left in the cool because Ahmadu Ali was in charge of the party and as Aidoko’s godfather; he has the power to override any decision contrary to what he wants: Aidoko for Representatives.
Ahmadu Ali then needed a lackey and he had gotten one. Aidoko became Ahmadu Ali’s “ATM” till date. It was alleged that Aidoko as Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Federal Capital donated a 200 hectares of farm land to Ahmadu Ali along Airport road, Abuja as reward when he helped him clinch the House of Representative seat for a second time. It is also known that it is Aidoko that is responsible for almost everything in Ahmadu Ali’s house even water, toilet tissues and fuel.
Thus when Aidoko failed to clinch the seat in the 2003 general elections he again needed the power and might of Ahmadu Ali to influence the Election Tribunal that upturned the election of Bar.Kabiru Usman of the ANPP. The PDP knew how to manipulate the Tribunals and it used this very well in favour of Aidoko. Kabiru knew he was no might when it comes to fighting the PDP and kept off after he was heavily bruised and Aidoko took over his seat, a seat he worked and sweated for.
In 2006, Aidoko again lost the primaries in PDP and crossed over to ANPP where Alhaji Abubakar Audu was holding sway. At that time, Alhaji Hassan Enape had already been nominated by the ANPP for the 2007 elections. Aidoko again used his charms to hoodwink late Abubakar Audu to snatch the nomination from Enape. The bitterness from the experience forced Hassan Enape to abandon politics entirely. Many political pundits in Ankpa say Enape is still nursing the grudge. When Powersteering made contact with him to comment on the issue he was so gruffy one might think he could still shrink Aidoko’s neck if he could lay his hands on him. Despite snatching the nomination from Enape, Aidoko again failed to make it at the general elections. He again had to gain entrance into the House of Representatives through the ruling of the Election Petition Tribunal.
In 2010, Aidoko again crossed over to the PDP for the 2011 elections.
This time, he wanted the Senate seat for Kogi East Senatorial district. He was on familiar grounds once again and he has Ahmadu Ali as his backer. He knew he would not win if the primaries were free and fair. He then organized a ‘kangaroo’ primaries in Anyigba while everyone was in Ankpa for the House of Representatives primaries. When his sham primaries was thrown out, he got Ahmadu Ali to influence the Babatope Appeal Panel to upturn everything in his favour. The Babatope Panel instead directed a re-election. At Anyigba, Aidoko got only 9 votes while Dangana Ocheja got 800 votes to clinch the nomination. Aidoko went to court and as usual got the court to upturn the nomination in his favour on technical grounds. Then Dangana Ocheja had already won and was in the Senate. As a result, Aidoko got into the Senate in 2011without contesting and winning election.
Then came the 2015 elections. The entry of Air Marshal Isaac Alfa and Hajia Halimat Alfa changed the entire scenario for the battle for who would represent Kogi East in the Senate. Aidoko Attai knew he cannot face and beat any of them. He now turned to his mentor, Ahmadu Ali to enact the magic that would return him to the Senate by hook or by crook. Aidoko hinged all his hope on Ahmadu Ali for his salvation and Ahmadu Ali did not fail him. Ahmadu Ali also had a stake: he must ensure that his ‘ATM’ was intact.
Both Aidoko and Ali then launched a deadly plan. First, Ali used his influence as former National Chairman of the PDP to delay the primaries scheduled to commence at 10 am till after 6pm. This was successfully done with the assistance of the Electoral Panel sent to Kogi. Primaries commenced late into the night. Unfortunately for Aidoko, he was playing the game with people who had known his antics.
When they discovered that they could not buy the returning officer, Mr. Seidu Ondoma and his assistant, Aidoko tried to disrupt the primaries so that it would be declared inconclusive and thus give Ahmadu Ali the opportunity to do the trick. In fact, Aidoko and his thugs tried to abscond with the electoral materials. This failed as Mr. Ondoma remained unruffled and successfully concluded the primaries and announced the result at the venue of the primaries at Idah Township stadium.
While Aidoko was performing his abracadabra acts, his mentor, Ahmadu Ali was on the other hand upping his own act by pulling all the strings he could muster. He started by arm-twisting the then Governor of Kogi State, Captain Idris Wada to block the announcement of the real winner and substitute it with the name of Aidoko.
According to Air Marshal Isaac Alfa during his testimony in one of the trials at the Abuja High Court, Captain Wada’s son Hassan and one Haliru who was then in charge of millennium development goals wrote Aidoko’s result in Government House in Lokoja even before the primaries had been concluded. This result was given to the Electoral Committee which took off for Abuja without the authentic result of the primaries.
Air Marshal Alfa revealed that when he confronted Captain Wada, he first denied he was involved. “Wada showed his surprise that the incident was public knowledge and called the Electoral Panel to accept the authentic result. Air Marshal Alfa revealed that the result had to be taken to the Panel in Abuja and that he followed the party’s state organizing secretary who took the result to Abuja. He said his presence rattled the Panel’s chairman, Alhaji Mohammed Gombe. But by then, Ahmadu Ali had been able to convince the National Working Committee of the party to endorse Aidoko.
Halima Alfa attested to this in an interview: “I was in PDP to actualize my desire to become an instrument of change for my people.
My people kept saying, “We want Halima Alfa, we want Halima Alfa.”
They were very persistent about this and kept urging me to represent them at the Senate. So I went for it. It turned out that our revered elder statesman, Senator Ahmadu Ali, became the Director General of Jonathan’s Presidential Campaign Organization. At that point, it was obvious that I was going to clinch the PDP ticket for the Kogi East Senatorial slot. So, Senator Ahmadu Ali used his position and influence as DG to tell Captain Idris Wada, who was the governor that President Jonathan had instructed that Senator Attai Aidoko must return to the Senate. That was ridiculous.
Gov. Idris Wada told him that it was not possible, because the people wanted Halima Alfa to represent them at the Senate. At least that was what Wada told me. Well, I was also told that Ahmadu Ali threatened Wada that if he wants to return as governor, then he must stop me for Aidoko. I had done all the consultations and it was obvious that my people had made up their minds that I should go to the Senate. To my utter dismay, the primaries was supposed be held between 10 am and 2 pm at Idah, but we never saw any one until 7pm. They hid under the darkness of the night to carry out their manipulations and deceit.
Even at that, I had 86 votes, because the people had all left, while Aidoko had a mere 16 votes. Obviously, Gov. Wada couldn’t carry out Ahmadu Ali’s bidding. Air Marshal Isaac Alfa whom some so called elites were rooting for had had 23 votes. Clearly, I was in the lead.
Much later that night, they brought in 100 votes from only- God-knows- where to make Isaac Alfa’s total vote to swell to 123. Atai Aidoko saw all these manipulations, but he thought that it was being carried out in his favour. When it turned out otherwise, he challenged it. It was very terrible, and I actually told President Jonathan and his wife that if they don’t do anything about this, they will lose Kogi State in the presidential elections. I was so aggrieved about this whole deception and manipulation. It was day light robbery and I was the victim”.
It was also learnt that Ahmadu Ali had to kneel down for the then Chairman of the Party, Alhaji Muazu saying his honour was at stake and that Muazu must save his face. He was said to have told Muazu that Aidoko is his godson and his defeat would impact negatively on the political fortunes of the party. Ali also recruited the assistance of Olisah Metuh, Uche Secondus who was the party’s organizing secretary and Victor Kwon,National Legal Adviser of the party. It was learnt that large sums of money were exchanged to facilitate the support of these men.
Powersteering learnt that it was on this basis that the several intrigues which led to the substitution of the name of Air Marshal Alfa with that of Aidoko was possible at the National Secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party. The first was the refusal to attend to the complaints made by Hajia Halima Alfa and Air Marshal Isaac Alfa.
Although the result of the primaries was brought in and the Election Appeal Committee requested for it no-one brought it to their attention till their assignment was concluded. He stood there begging till Aidoko’s name was sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission as the party’s candidate for Kogi East Senatorial district.
Ahmadu Ali and Aidoko Attai thought it was all over but they did not expect the resilience of the Air force general, a three star, who do not believe in failure. Air Marshal Alfa then took his case beyond the party. He went to court. But that terrain is a familiar ground for Aidoko. He has been on this path several times in the past and he has a backup in the Judiciary who always work out any of his cases. Air Marshal Alfa case was however not the first judicial tackle he had to get over.
The first was with Abdulrahman Abubakar who won the 2015 elections on the platform of the All Progressive Congress. Abdulrahman Abubakar, a former Managing Director of the Nigeria Railways was initially one of the contestant s for the seat within the PDP but crossed over to the APC where the party’s candidate stepped down for him and his name was substituted. Aidoko went to the Tribunal with the complaint that Abdulrahman had contested the primaries under the platform of the PDP as the seventh contestant. As usual the Tribunal did the trick for him.
In an interview with the Leadership Newspaper in July last year, Abdulrahman Abubakar described the outcome of the tribunal and the judicial processes he went through and couldn’t get through as daylight robbery.
“The daylight robbery is a case of blatant injustice perpetrated by some unscrupulous men in high places in connivance with the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), a supposed impartial referee in electoral contest. All attempts to secure justice through the legal process since 2015 till today, almost two years after, has met a brick wall hence my latest resort to court of public opinion as the court, the last hope of the common man has repeatedly dashed my hope by conceding my victory to another man who should not even be in the senate in the first instance on the altar of technical excuses.
Like every ambitious politician who plays by the rule of the game, I won the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) via substitution, which INEC fully endorsed. INEC on December 30, 2014 did acknowledge the receipt of such substitution via its ‘Acknowledgment of Receipt of Change of Candidate (CF005). The acknowledgment was premised on the Notice of Withdrawal of Candidate pursuant to Sections 33 and 35 of the Electoral Act, 2010(as amended) submitted to the commission. The person I substituted, Alhaji Shuaibu Abdullahi, was the only aspirant for the APC primaries, before voluntarily withdrawing for me, after following all the due processes. INEC acknowledged the withdrawal, which was not done under intimidation or duress and subsequently issued to me ‘Forms ‘for Nomination of Member of Senate. Thus, the coast was clear for me to contest the March 28, 2015 senatorial election, which I overwhelmingly won. On April 3, 2015, in conformity with the Electoral Act, I received the Certificate of Return for Member of Senate from INEC. I was sworn-in in June, 2015 as a Senator of the Federal Republic when the 8th National Assembly was inaugurated by its President, Senator Bukola Saraki.
Like someone determined to impact on his senatorial district positively, I quickly settled into this new roles completely unaware of the impending travesty of justice the Election Petition Tribunal Sitting in Lokoja, Kogi State had in store for me. By December, 2015, my election was annulled by the Tribunal on the flimsy excuse that it did not see the Primary Election Records of the person I substituted even though Alhaji Shuaibu Abdullahi was the only candidate for the APC primaries until he was substituted and there was no complain from any member of the APC against the primary election. The petition challenging my victory was filed by Senator Attai Aidoko Ali Usman, defeated candidate of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) in the March 28, 2015 election.
I was robbed of my mandate by those saddled with the tool of justice. I put up all credible evidences but the deciders looked the other way.
In fact, against the settled judgment of the Supreme Court that the conduct of primaries is the internal affair of a party and as such, opponents from other parties have no business with how another party conducts its primaries, the Tribunal sitting in Lokoja assumed the responsibility of the APC thereby overreaching itself in the process.
At least, the case of Governor Darius Ishyaku vs Hajiya Alhassan lends credence to this settled position of the law. It is curious therefore that a lower court could circumvent an irreversible legal position of the highest court in the land for whatever reasons no one knows. As if what the Tribunal did was not enough, it went ahead to grant the PDP opponent, a relief he never asked for, as if the court was ‘father Christmas’.
With the belief that the Tribunal erred in law, I took my case to the Court of Appeal seeking that the judgment of the Tribunal be set aside for it lacked substance and was a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal agreed with the appellant that the Tribunal erred, insisting that the Tribunal had no reason to nullify my election when in reality, Senator Aidoko did not even seek such prayers before the Tribunal. Consequently, the Court of Appeal said there was merit in my appeal but strangely like something acting under a spell, without adducing any tangible legal reason, decided to nullify the March 28th election and ordered a re-run within 90 days to fill the vacant post.
That was the beginning of my political nightmare that has subsisted till today. With the Court of Appeal judgment, I was deflated. As if the injustice was not bizarrely disheartening enough, INEC went ahead to exclude me and my party, APC, from participating in the re-run election even though there was no such order by the Court of Appeal in the judgment under reference. Where INEC got the legal audacity to exclude me from the re-run remains a mystery no one has been able to unravel till today though the commission erroneously claims that once a candidate is disqualified, he and his party stand disqualified from the re-run election. A case in reference is the Dekina 1 and 2 state assembly candidates who were disallowed from participating in the re-run by the lower court but the Court of Appeal had such order reversed because it lacked merit. They participated and won as expected – so why is my case different? With my exclusion from the election and my party, it was a field day for the PDP candidate; an election my constituent considered a charade and refused to participate – a development that led to an inconclusive election and it remained so for 10 months!
Strangely, while the unfair and unjust judgment was delivered on December 2, 2015, the judgment was not released until January 25, 2016, thus making it difficult for my lawyers to get back to the court to request that it corrects itself. With persistence, the lawyers did seek that the judgment be corrected, but it was dismissed on the flimsy excuse that 60 days had passed since the Court of Appeal gave the judgment. On the basis of technicality, justice was denied again on the basis of avoidable technicalities.
In my quest for justice, I approached the Supreme Court. INEC was joined in the suit which was filed on April 19, 2016 to which the electoral commission responded accordingly. While waiting for the Supreme Court to deliver its judgment, which it did eventually on March 10, 2017, INEC went ahead to conclude the so-called inconclusive election on July 23, 2016 and erroneously declared the PDP candidate, Air Marshall Isaac Alfa, winner of the election. In compliance with the election, the Senate swore in Alfa in November only to be pushed out through a Court of Appeal judgment in January, 2017 and restored the miscarried mandate to Senator Aidoko, who has been there till now occupying an illegal status. So far, it has been miscarriage of justice all the way.
The people of Kogi East Senatorial District have been denied their actual representative in the Senate for close to two years now because their actual choice, Senator Abdulrahman Abubakar, has been consistently denied access to justice which would have enabled me to recover my stolen mandate. This is so as both the tribunal and Court of appeal have affirmed in their respective judgments that my election was free, fair and credible and all these miscarriages of justice are tied to the issue of not seeing the primary election result of the person I substituted”.
The only alternative for Air Marshal Isaac Alfa was the court even if it did not work for Abdulrahman. It was however the beginning of a tortuous journey that has taken over three years so far. It also began another trail of intrigues, deceit and betrayals, another long trail of judicial maneuverings by Aidoko to ensure that the case did not end and he remains in the Senate albeit illegally.
And the intricacies continued. At the Court of Appeal which was then the final point for elections cases, it was alleged that the point person who does all the ground works for the PDP is Justice Bukalchawa. She did the same magic for Senator David Mark in 2007 and 2011 while she was the presiding Justice at the Jos Court of Appeal.
That was why the funny judgments Abdulrahman Abubakar was crying foul over could not get undone. The first judge to handle the case, Justice A.R Mohammed, a vacation judge did nothing apart from demanding for money from the litigant.
The case was then transferred to Justice Chukwu who was again forced to abandon it when it was discovered that he has been compromised. It was alleged that he was given a house, in fact House number 2, Nsukka street Abuja. The house was bought under the name of Aidoko’s wife and was later transferred to Justice Chukwu’s daughter who was a classmate of Aidoko’s wife. When these facts were brought to Chukwu’s knowledge, he quickly returned the case to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court the very next day.
The case was then transferred to Justice Dr. Nnamdi Dimgba and the case started afresh. On the 18th of April 2016, Justice Dr. Nnamdi Dimgba delivered his judgment in favour of Air Marshal Alfa. In the 84 page judgment in which he reviewed the entire incidents and presentations made, Justice Dimgba came to the conclusions that First, although the general oversight over a primary election for each state rests on the Electoral committee, it is not the function of the Electoral Committee to actually conduct the primary election for each constituency. It does not even seem that it is practically feasible for the Electoral Committee to be conducting the primary elections since a number of these elections are taking place in different locations (constituencies) at the same time and in respect of Kogi State, three of these elections for the Senate took place in locations in Kogi West, Kogi East and Kogi Central. Therefore, the 5-man Electoral Committee having to stay in a single location to actually conduct a primary election will likely fail in its job of supervision or monitoring of primary elections in the other two districts.
Secondly, the makers of the guidelines understand the practical unfeasibility, hence the guidelines obliges the Electoral panel to appoint returning officer for each constituency whose job it is to conduct the actual primary elections and feed the result to the Electoral Panel who collates same and pass to NEC in the National Secretariat of the party.
Third, because the actual elections for each constituency is conducted by the Returning officer…it is the duty of such an officer to himself announce the result of the primary election at the venue, since an integral part of conduct of elections as a Returning officer is the announcement of the result of the voting after counting of votes.
Fourth, although the Chairman of the Electoral Committee is the Returning Officer for the entire state, this is only in so far as it relates to the collation of results fed him by the individual Returning Officers for each constituency. Where he transmits results to the NEC other than the result fed him by the Returning officers for the respective constituencies, such a result will be invalid and incapable of creating a legal effect. Not only will that be fraudulent against the party members who came out to vote hoping to exercise their democratic franchise and choose a candidate that they know can represent them honestly, effectively and efficiently, it will also be in breach of section 87(4)(c)(ii) of the Electoral Act .
Fifth, when participants in a primary election are aggrieved and exercise their right of appeal by appealing to the Electoral Appeal Committee, it is mandatory for the Appeal Committee to take a decision on their appeals within 48 hours as stipulated in the guidelines. Even if the Appeals Committee wants to escalate the matter to the NEC/NWC of the party, it must first take a decision. Where it first fails to do so but merely passes the buck upstairs, not only will the Appeal Committee have acted unlawfully or irregularly, but its conduct will shroud the whole process with unnecessary mystery and understandably will create suspicions that the party was up to some mischief.
Sixth: it appears …that while ordinarily the decision of the NEC/NWC is final and binding on all primary election matters….the fact that the it can make the final judgement is not an open cheque and can only be so within the precincts of the guidelines and applicable law.
Moreover, paragraph 25(xii) is only the last rung of the ladder to be followed in the internal grievance resolution process but to get there the other rungs must be climbed by all. Where any one of the steps already highlighted is not followed, I hold that this section will have no effect since the necessary conditions for its operativeness have not been fulfilled.
On the basis of these conclusions, the Judge ruled that the evidences of the Plaintiff, Air Marshal Isaac Alfa as deposed in his affidavit corresponded with the depositions of Seidu Odoma,the Returning Officer, Captain Joe Agada,one of the contestants, Edino Daniel, the Assistant returning officer were more believable than the evidences of the first and defendants which were the PDP and Senator Attai Aidoko in which they said the Electoral Panel itself conducted the primary elections of December 7th 2014 at Idah. He said that the claim that the Electoral committee “conducted” the primary election goes against the grain of documentary evidence; in this respect the committee’s own report where it states that ‘On Sunday, December 7,2014 the primary elections in the three senatorial zones namely Kogi Central, Kogi East and Kogi West were hitch free and successful. The Electoral Committee members visited the voting centres and monitored the exercise with security agencies’. So the question is how could the Electoral Committee be conducting a primary election that produced 141 votes for the defendants when the members were on the move visiting voting centres in the three senatorial districts with security agencies to monitor the voting.
The Judge then granted all the twelve reliefs sought by the plaintiff which include the declaration that he is the rightful winner of the primary elections of the PDP for the Kogi East senatorial district held at Idah on7th December 2014 and therefore the party’s rightful candidate and not Senator Attai Aidoko which the party wrongfully presented.
While the trial was on-going, the Election Petitions Tribunal had nullified the March 28th 2015 elections for the Senatorial district which was won by Abdulrahman Abubakar of the All Progressive Congress.
As a result of the Tribunal ruling and the judgment by Justice Dimgba, Air Marshal Isaac Alfa now stood for the re-run elections and won. He was then sworn in and took the Kogi East Senatorial seat at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly in November 2016.
Aidoko went on appeal. He knew his godmother was there to fix things for him. Justice Bukalchawa was now president of the Court of Appeal and therefore could do and undo. This accounted for the unusual attention given to the case: APPEAL NO.: CA/A/260/2016. Nine Court of Appeal Justices handled the appeal! This was because the Appeal Panel had to be changed three times without any complaint against any of the
previous panels. The obvious reason was the first two panels were not yielding to the pressure from the President of the Court. A final panel made up of Justices from the Sokoto division of the Court was brought in to do her bidding.
On Wednesday, 14th December 2016, the panel made up of Justices Hussein Mukhtar, T.O. Awotoye and Frederick O. Oho delivered their judgment. It was delivered by Justice Frederick Oho who in his opening remark said “This Appeal represents one of the many controversies which have unsettled the PDP Kogi East primary elections conducted on the 7-12-2014”. It shocked everyone because the case was the only of such that had come out of the primaries of the PDP in Kogi East senatorial district. How then can it become ‘one of the many controversies’? The moment Justice Oho made his opening comment, many of those inside the court particularly the lawyers knew that what he was going to deliver was already a compromised judgment, one tailored and doctored. And it turned out to be so.
Aidoko as the appellant had appealed to the Court of Appeal against the decision of the federal high Court with 13 grounds of appeal. The main objection centred on the determination of the suit by the federal High Court through originating summons and based merely on affidavits and counter affidavits by the parties. In the judgment delivered by Justice Oho, the Court of Appeal agreed with the appellant that since there is conflict and a dispute, it would have been proper for the lower court to take pleadings from witnesses who in turn could have been cross examined in order for the truth to be exposed as to who was the real winner of the December 7, 2014 primary election at Idah. The Court of Appeal which said the lower court should not have granted some of the relief sought by the respondent because he did not ask for them however then went a step further and acted as “father Christmas” by making a further declaration ordering INEC to reissue certificate of return to the appellant, a relief the appellant did not even seek.
This forced the respondent, Air Marshal Alfa to seek further redress at the Supreme Court. The case, SC.1088/2016 was heard by the panel of Justices Olabode Rhodes-Vivour,Musa Dattijo Muhammad, Chima Centus Nweze, Amiru Sanusi and Paul Adamu Galinje.
Prior to the composition of the Supreme Court panel, it was learnt that efforts were made to influence the composition to ensure that the team that would be sympathetic to Aidoko’s cause were selected. Ahmadu Ali, according to one of his personal assistants, approached former Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio to reach out to the current Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onoghen. This however failed to yield any result as Onoghen himself was out of the country ( in Australia) at that time and therefore could not have made the panel.
On the 16th of June, 2017, the Justices of the Supreme Court delivered their judgment in which they ordered that the case be referred back to the Federal High Court to be tried on pleadings which the Court of Appeal had suggested but failed to order. In reaching its decision , the Supreme Court in the judgment read by Justice Chima Centus Nweze said “it cannot be otherwise for substantial disputes could only be resolved in the usual adversarial proceedings upon the settlement and exchange of pleadings: averments in pleadings borne out by oral evidence – oral evidence tested in cross examination.
It said that is why the courts have taken the view that the art of cross examination is the greatest weapon for devastating an adversary.
It is therefore, the pivot, the hub, on which the trial gravitates.
This is so for it “constitutes a lethal legal weapon in the hands of the adversary to enable him effect the demolition of the case of the opposing party…” Although Air Marshal lost in the Supreme court acceptance of the position of the Court of Appeal that the case should have been tried by pleadings instead of originating summons and affidavits alone, he gained majorly in the decision of the Supreme Court Justice’s final conclusion : “….throughout this judgment, I have endeavoured, as much as possible, to avoid the temptation of broaching any question or issue that might, directly or indirectly, prejudice the ultimate outcome of the suit: the outcome that would only be known upon the retrial of the case before another Judge of the Federal High Court.
Accordingly, I hereby order that the matter be remitted to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court who shall, as a matter of urgency, re-assign it to another Judge of that court. Upon re-assignment, the new Judge shall, pronto, order pleadings for the joinder of issues and, thereafter, hear and determine the matter expeditiously. Appeal dismissed.”
The case was then drawn down to the stead of Justice Binta Nyako, an incorruptible Judge who wanted to take it on expeditiously as requested by the Supreme Court. Aidoko knowing that he could not manipulate this Judge started to play the delay tactics. His lawyers asked for a judicial interpretation of the judgment of the Supreme Court at the Court of Appeal, a base he has ultimate control or so he felt.
In a motion before the Judge, Aidoko raised three questions which he demanded that the Court of Appeal should interpret. The questions are:
a) whether a finding of the Court of Appeal on an issue which has not been set aside by the Supreme Court is binding on the parties and enforceable by the Federal High Court under section 287(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(as amended).
b) Whilst the findings/determination by the Court of Appeal is subsisting, whether the federal High Court or any other court below the Court of Appeal under the doctrine of stare decisis/resjudicata/issue estoppels will be competent to entertain an issue already resolved and settled by a final judgment of the Court of Appeal between the same parties on the same issues.
c) whether the Federal High Court has any jurisdiction to entertain this matter under any guise whatsoever. In her ruling on the 19th October 2017, Justice Nyako said “having read the position of parties and having read the decisions of both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, to my understanding, the Court of Appeal set aside the judgment of the trial Court then ordered that a fresh certificate be issued to the 1st Respondent. This was the decision that went to the Supreme Court.
Now to my mind, the effect of setting aside is to say the decision is overturned, to annul. It goes back to the beginning as if it didn’t exist. So if the judgment of the trial Court was set aside, and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal against the setting aside, I would presume that the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal that the judgment of the trial Court is set aside.
The Supreme Court went ahead to order a retrial at the trial Court before another Judge.
These are the issues before the Court. I do not see any interpretation issue that requires a referral to the Court of Appeal. It is very clear to me. The original case is annulled. It does not exist. A fresh case is put in its stead. There is nothing for the Court of Appeal to interpret.
However, so as not to waste the time of the parties on unnecessary appeals, this being a pre-election matter, I shall refer same to the Court of Appeal so as to forestall frivolous appeals”.
The Court of Appeal usually known for its delays in adjudicating over matters before it surprisingly did not waste time in composing the panel for this appeal and coming to its decision within three months.
There was trepidation in many quarters. But the panel made up of Justices Abdu Aboki, P. O. Ige and E. A. Agim reached their decision and delivered their ruling on the 18th December, 2017. Justice Abdu Aboki delivered the lead ruling which in itself turned out to be a bombshell for Aidoko himself. Justice Aboki said “I have carefully gone through the three questions referred to this Court for interpretation, the first question in my view relates to the effect of the finding of the Court which has not been set aside by any superior court, whether it is binding on the parties and the Courts, the second question relates to rule of practice of the Courts relating to the doctrine of stare decisis and the third question relates to whether the federal high Court has any jurisdiction to entertain and grant reliefs sought before it. It is trite law that reference on a question as to the interpretation of the constitution to this court is not simply done as a matter of course, for mere asking sake. The question must be as to the interpretation of the constitution or application of the constitution. In the instant case, it cannot be said that all the three questions relates to the interpretation of the constitution.
In the instant case the reference questions having been found not to have arisen from the proceedings of the Federal High Court, the further question as to whether it involves a substantial question of law does not arise.
The earlier judgment of this Court which went on appeal to the Supreme Court was no longer valid, in view of the facts that all Courts below are bound to follow the decision and order(s) of the Supreme Court.
In the instant case the failure of the Applicant to establish all the three vital necessary pre-conditions for a proper determination of reference questions is fatal to the application. This application lacks merit, it fails and it is accordingly dismissed.
Justice Peter Olabisi Ige in his ruling agreed with Justice Aboki and reviewed the stages the case had gone through saying “The matter was reassigned to my Lord Nyako-J who with commendable candour demonstrated the need to hear and determine the matter expeditiously in accordance with the firm directive of the Apex Court.
In an apparent bid to stall and delay the hearing of the suit herein as mandated by the Supreme Court the Applicant, Senator Aidoko brazenly brought a most reckless and bizarre application before the lower Court asking the lower Court to render what applicant in his imagination perceived to be constitutional questions to this court.
To my mind, the applicant has exhibited great disdain and contempt for the Supreme Court decision aforesaid. All he is out to do is to circumvent and render the judgment ineffective and frustrate the hearing de novo ordered.