Nentawe Yilwatda,
APC governorship candidate,
Plateau State

By Shittu Bamaiyi 

The APC governorship candidate in the March 18th election Nentawe Yilwatda has urged the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to nullify the election of Caleb Mutfwang for not being qualified to contest the election.

Adopting his written address before the tribunal, Nentawe formulated three issues for determination in arguing his petition.

The petitioner's lead counsel, Professor Kayode Olatoke SAN, enumerated issues for determination to include whether Mutfwang was at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the Plateau State Governorship election held on the 18th of March 2023.

He also inquired, whether the election to the office of the Governor of Plateau State held on 18th March,2023 and the subsequent declaration of Mutfwang as the winner of the said election was done in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act,2022.

Furthermore, Nentawe wanted the tribunal to determine whether Mutfwang scored the majority of the lawful votes cast at the Plateau State Governorship Election held on the 18th March,2023 to qualify him to be declared the winner of the governorship election held on the 18th March,2023.

Arguing the first issue, Professor Olatoke SAN said during the course of the trial, that the petitioner adduced uncontroverted evidence to show that Mutfwang was not qualified to contest the governorship election.

He further argued under Section 177(c) of the constitution a person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party.

Professor Olatoke submitted that under Section 134(1) (a) of the Electoral Act and Section 177(c) of the constitution, the tribunal has the requisite jurisdiction to determine the question of Mutfwang's qualification to contest the election on the ground that he was not sponsored by any political party which violated the constitution.

He maintained that it is settled law, that the issue of qualification and disqualification to contest election is both pre-election and post-election matter.

According to him, once the election has been conducted, only the tribunal is vested with the jurisdictional competence to determine the question of the qualification of the person whose election is being questioned.

Professor Olatoke SAN who cited many Supreme Court decisions and the provisions of the electoral Act to back his argument, contended that at the time of the governorship election, Mutfwang was not qualified to contest the election having not been sponsored by any political party.

Leading three Senior Advocates and other senior lawyers, Olatoke SAN, brought out the Court of Appeal decision in the case of JEGEDE  V.  INEC (2021) Where the Supreme Court affirmed that the tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertain and determine the issue of sponsorship of candidates.

He further contended that in the said supreme court judgment, it was held that the petitioner as a contestant in an election has the locus standi (right) to challenge the qualification of the respondents, in the instant case, Caleb Mutfwang.

He added that Nentawe needed not to be a member of the PDP or participate in their activities, before having the locus standi to question the qualification of Mutfwang.

Professor Olatoke SAN also drew the attention of the tribunal to the Court of Appeal decision in the case of PDP&ANOR V  ADAMU MOHAMMED ALKALI and 2 ORS, where it was unambiguously held that a Political Party without a structure cannot sponsor a candidate.

The petitioner's counsel further argued that the breach of the constitution by the PDP is capable of detracting and vitiating the purported sponsorship of Mutfwang adding that failure of the PDP to comply with the Court order is fatal to the qualification and sponsorship of Mutfwang.

Professor Olatoke SAN then submitted that Nentawe having proved that Mutfwang was not qualified to contest the Governorship Election in the State, all the votes cast for him should be vitiated and considered wasted.  

On the second and third issues, the petitioner's counsel decided to take them together, by arguing that a legally invalid sponsorship cannot attract lawful votes not to talk of majority votes adding that the net effect of the nullification of the election on the ground of disqualification under section 55(2) (b) of the constitution is that the votes credited to Mutfwang are wasted.

The lead counsel then urged the tribunal to declare Nentawe as the winner of the governorship election forthwith.

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