There has been arguments around the nation from several quarters, especially the politically influenced arguments in respect of the purported letter that Attorney-General of the Federation-herein after referred to as the AGF-, was reported to have sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission-herein after referred to as INEC-, in respect of the Zamfara State’s election of the year 2019, wherein it was reported that the AGF had directed INEC to postpone the said State’s election to enable the All Progressives Congress-herein after referred to as APC-, to field in its candidates for the 2019 elections, the AGF relying on the provisions of sections:38 and 39 of the Electoral Act, 2010 and the Court of Appeal’s decision in the Appeal No: CA/S/22/2019, which effectively upheld the APC primaries in Zamfara State. Those views have criticised the acts of the AGF as a wrong step and a way of intervening in the electoral powers of INEC. This paper is of the contrary views that assuming the said report is true, the AGF has done no wrong!
First and foremost, it is important to consider the provisions of sections: 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act and see what it provides. Section 38 provides thus ‘Where at the close of nomination there is no candidate validly nominated, the Commission shall extend the time for nomination and fix a new date for election’ (Underlinning is mine for emphasis). Also, section 39 provides thus ‘subject to any other provisions of this Act, if after the latest time for the delivery of nomination papers and the withdrawal of candidates for an election under this Act, more than one person remains validly nominated, a poll shall be taken’. (Underlinning is mine for emphasis). It is important to observe the word ‘shall’ used in the said provisions of the two sections of the Electoral Act, which mandates INEC to extend the time for nomination and to mandatorily fix a new date for election and to where necessary, mandatorily take a poll. The word ‘shall’ has been defined by courts of law as meaning ‘obligation’. I humbly refers to the case of Tanko v Caleb (1999) 8 NWLR (pt. 616) 606 C.A. at page 611 (paragraph E) thus ‘Generally, the word ‘shall’ is a word of command and denotes obligation and gives no room for discretion. It imposes a duty: See: Katto v CBN (1991) 9 NWLR (pt. 214) 126.’. Therefore, assuming that the AGF had not even written to INEC, will or should INEC not extend the time for the election and fix a new date, considering the provisions of sections: 38 and 39 of the Electoral Act and the Court of Appeal’s recent decision affirming the APC primaries in the State?! Will that be manifest justice to APC?! Why then do some persons clip so tightly to the AGF’s letter and make a lot of issues out of nothing?! Why do some persons desire to remain in the same way while attempting to drag this country backward?! What wrong has the AGF done in this case?! Though, it is understood that the AGF or the Federal Government might have done some wrongs that some of us as Nigerian citizens might not be happy with, but that is not applicable to the current situation. At least, with due respect to any contrary view, the AGF is right in this case and or situation. So, why are some persons making the non-issue as big issue?!
Furthermore, it is settled that INEC has independence subject to its powers conferred on it under the Constitution, yet, is INEC not to obey Court of Appeal’s decision in organising a democratic election in Zamfara State?! Are some persons saying that INEC should disobey the Court of Appeal’s decision and disqualify the APC?! Then, is that not in violation of the rule of law?! On what justification will that decision be?! Also, the role of the AGF under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended)-herein after referred to as the Constitution- is that of the Chief Law Officer. The critiques should also be reminded that the AGF is a lawyer, who is also bound by the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners, 2007-herein after referred to as RPC. Rule 1 of the RPC provides for the general responsibility of a lawyer thus ‘A lawyer shall uphold and observe the rule of law, promote and foster the cause of justice, maintain a high standard of professional conduct, and shall not engage in any conduct which is unbecoming of a legal practitioner’. In my humble view, what the AGF has done could have been done by any lawyer or any person. The substance of the purported letter is advisory in nature to the effect that INEC should not use its independence in an illegal way or to perpetrate disregard of law or the rule of law by prejudicing the political interest and political right of some certain qualified persons or political parties who are qualified to contest for any post or political office from fielding their candidates and in this case, the APC.
Finally, I enjoin all critiques to allow peace to reign as the generated arguments make no meaning if the rule of law is to be preferred than the rule by whims and caprices. Also, though, the AGF or the Federal Government, with all intents and purposes might have provoked some persons or done one alleged wrong or the other, this case is peculiar with its own case. I am with my legal view that as far as this case is concerned, the AGF has done no wrong and that should remain our thought and view! As a human rights activist, I also enjoin INEC to postpone the Zamfara State’s scheduled elections (the subject matter of this paper) and to extend the time for such election and to fix a new date as mandated by law as it is the electoral right of APC to field its candidates for the said elections!