Honorable Farouk Mustapha is a former member House of Representative, a politician and Senatorial candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) who is currently challenging his defeat in the Tribunal. In this interview with reporters in Bauchi he talks about his assessment of the election, his election tribunal case and others.
The 2019 general elections have come and gone, what is your general assessment of the conduct of the exercise?
The elections have spelled quite a number of long-held myths about Nigerian elections in term of their outcome. The run off to the elections was adjudged to be free and fair, and the votes of Nigerians were counted but the results were manipulated in favor of the privileged few. The elections were initially scheduled to hold February 16, and March 2 for the 2019 presidential and the national assembly elections, and gubernatorial, State House of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Councils elections respectively. But the electoral umpire ran into a logistics problem and had to announce its postponement in the early hours of election day. We accepted INEC’s explanation knowing that it was geared towards validating credibility in the electoral process. But to our dismay, the outcome shocked us is the worst in the history of constitutional democracy in Nigeria. The number of post-election petitions being adjudicated at the election tribunals is the good test to the credibility of the elections. If the electoral process was transparent enough, I believe that every loser would have understood why they lost and prepare better for subsequent elections, rather than heading to the tribunal.
In your opinion, was there a level playing field for the candidates across the political parties?
Well, I have observed an improvement in the political climate, inclusive participation rights and a peaceful vote, but un-level playing field, intimidation of voters and lack of trust in the process undermined the fairness of the election. We had a positive election campaign, during which political freedoms were respected. I also acknowledged the peaceful and enthusiastic participation of voters on election day as they exercised their right to vote. But I am particularly concerned with the practices of some INEC staff and security personnel, such as intimidation of voters, lack of transparency in the collation of results, media bias and some problems around polling stations on election day. I note with dismay the invasion of collation centers by some prominent politicians, the abduction and inducement of collation officers to manipulate the collated results in favor of the ruling party.
You contested for and lost the Bauchi North Senatorial seat, what is your reaction to this outcome?
Yes, I contested for Bauchi north senator under the platform of the New Nigeria People Party, but I did not lose the election. We were rigged out because the results declared haven’t reflected what transpired in the polling units. The elections have not lived up to the hopes and expectations of the people of Bauchi North, and the process cannot be considered to have been credible enough to be accepted. My reaction to the outcome is contained in the petition we submitted to the tribunal.
Going by some of the verdicts delivered by the courts on the electoral matters, what is your assessment of the judiciary system so far?
We have confidence in the proceedings most especially at this time when our judiciary established a reputation for itself as the last hope for the common man. However, there still exist unsettled business, un-met expectations and deferred hopes associated with the litigations ongoing in the election petition tribunals. The judiciary must know that the common man and the generality of Nigerians will not understand and appreciate the vague maxims. All they know is that a court is a court and should do justice. Period! Therefore, the general perception of Nigerians on the judiciary, especially with regards to electoral and politically related matters, is nothing to write home about. The judiciary also needs to know that being in the good books of the people also has its advantages sooner or later.
You and your party are presently contesting the outcome of the election at the tribunal, how confident are you about the outcome of the petition?
Our confidence is manifested in the gravity of the evidence we have presented to the court. And we still have more convincing facts to tender in the incoming sitting. And I believe we’ll reclaim our stolen mandate.
Are you intimidated by the personality involved in the petition?
I don’t know what you mean by personality involved in the petition. But to the best of my knowledge, the case is between Farouk Mustapha and NNPP as petitioners, and Adamu Muhammad Bulkachuwa, APC and INEC as respondents. The doctrine of rule of law provided that the law is supreme and that all persons are equal in the eyes of the law. So why will I be intimidated? Anyway, you may be referring to our opponents being the ruling party, and the possible influence of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the president of the court of appeal who happens to be the wife of the person holding our mandate. I will, therefore, alarm the rightly minded Nigerians particularly civil society organizations to exert all the appropriate pressure on the ruling party to refrain from meddling in the ongoing litigations and to respect the eventual verdict of the court.
What are your expectations from the court?
My expectation is justice through the application of the provisions of the law and what the evidence proves. The court should not leave room for suspicion of bias or favoritism. The procedures and decisions must be accessible and transparent and the result of the application of the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the electoral act.