Last year saw heated political battles in Nigeria, with legal contests coming on the heels of the general elections. Many of the legal tussles have been settled, while some remain unresolved and await final judgment at the Supreme Court.
The governorship election cases in Kano, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Zamfara states are the major ongoing legal battles, and many Nigerians are eagerly waiting to see how they end.
Kano is arguably the most populous state in Nigeria and has a strong electoral value. Political parties always struggle to control the state, mainly because of its voting strength.
Power in the north-western state shifted from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in the 2023 general elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Abba Yusuf of the NNPP as the winner of the March 18, 2023, governorship election. However, his close contender, Nasira Gawuna of the APC, challenged the outcome of the election, alleging electoral malpractices.
The Kano State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal have nullified Yusuf’s victory and declared Gawuna winner of the poll. The case is currently at the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
The court reserved judgment in the case after hearing the arguments from both parties in December 2023. The case has created anxiety in Kano State as Nigerians await the verdict of the Supreme Court.
Plateau is one of the states that flipped to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 general elections.
Caleb Mutfwang of the PDP had 525,299 votes, while the candidate of the APC, Nentawe Goshwe, polled 481,370 votes in the March 18 governorship election in the state.
Goshwe challenged Mutfwang’s victory at the tribunal, claiming that the governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party. He also said there was non-compliance with the Electoral Act in the election.
The tribunal dismissed Goshwe’s petition for lacking merit and also upheld Mutfwang’s victory.
In its ruling in November, the three-member Court of Appeal panel under the leadership of Justice Elfrieda Williams-Dawodu cited Section 177 of the Constitution to hold that the governor was not legitimately the PDP’s election sponsor.
The court nullified Mutfwang’s victory and ordered INEC to withdraw his certificate of return and issue a new one to the APC candidate.
However, the governor has appealed the judgement, and the case is currently awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court.
Abdullahi Sule of the APC won the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Nasarawa State. However, David Ombugadu, the PDP candidate, challenged the outcome of the election, arguing that he won the majority of votes during the contest.
In October, the election tribunal declared Ombugadu the winner of the poll, saying that the results were manipulated in favour of Sule.
Dissatisfied with the tribunal’s decision, Sule headed to the appeals court. The Court of Appeal ruled in his favour in November, saying that the tribunal’s decision was wrong.
The PDP and its candidate have appealed the judgement at the Supreme Court.
In the March 2023 election, Dauda Lawal of the PDP scored 377,726 to defeat Bello Matawalle, the incumbent governor and the candidate of the APC.
Dissatisfied with the outcome, Matawalle, who has since been appointed the minister of state for defence by President Bola Tinubu, filed a petition at the tribunal.
The tribunal ruled in favour of Lawal but Matawalle and the APC appealed the judgement.
In November, the Court of Appeal sacked Lawal and ordered INEC to conduct fresh elections in Maradun Local Government, in four wards in Birnin Magaji Local Government and in some polling units in Bukkuyum Local Government.
However, the PDP has appealed the judgement, hoping that the Supreme Court will rule in its favour.
These four cases hold significant weight for the political landscape in their respective states and beyond. The Supreme Court’s decisions will determine who governs and shape the future political dynamics in these key regions.