Former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu
Nearly four years after he was ousted from the Government House, former Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, has launched a bid to reclaim the position by petitioning the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mariam Alooma Mukhtar, seeking her intervention in his removal from office because the security report upon which the Court of Appeal judgment that sacked him was based has since been discovered to be forged, reports Tunde Sanni
Dateline was February 23, 2008 in Benin, the Edo State capital. The venue was the Court of Appeal complex, Benin City where a five-man panel led by the then President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Abdullahi Mustapha, had upheld the judgment of the lower election petition tribunal delivered by Justice Garba Nabaruma, sacking Dr. Olusegun Agagu, as governor of Ondo State. At the time, the embattled governor was in the first year of his second term in office. Earlier, the lower tribunal in its decision had declared his challenger, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party, as the validly elected governor.
According to the tribunal finding, Mimiko scored 198,269 votes against Agagu’s 128, 669 votes. The lower tribunal stated that Mimiko won 25 per cent of the valid votes in 13 out of the 18 local governments in the state, thereby fulfilling the constitutional provision, which states that a candidate must win at least two-thirds of the votes cast in 13 local governments.
The Labour Party candidate with the aid of forensic experts argued that he won the election having scored 25 per cent and more in 13 of the 18 local governments in the state, as against the PDP candidate’s victory in nine out of the 18 councils, which the party’s legal team submitted gave them lead with a margin of 78,000 valid votes.
The tribunal proceeding was however turned into a riveting affair as witnesses after witnesses gave evidence on ghost voters’ registration, illegal thumb-printing and inflation of votes. In one instance, it was found that many prominent people, including legendary boxers’ names such as Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali were found on the voters’ register and polling materials meant for other states were illegally used in Ondo State.
Thus, the appellate court upheld the judgment of the lower tribunal. Abdullahi who read the judgment declared that Mimiko should be sworn-in with immediate effect, as the duly elected governor of Ondo State. In a unanimous decision, the appeal tribunal dismissed all but one of the grounds of appeal brought by Agagu and therefore declared Mimiko winner of the election.
The court pronouncement provoked wild jubilation in Akure, the capital of the state and across the country. Agagu was the second governor to be removed by the court at the time, coming behind Prof. Osaretin Osunbor who was removed as the governor of Edo State to be replaced by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
Agagu’s removal was later to be followed by the removal of two other PDP governors in Ekiti State, Olusegun Oni and Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as their elections, one after the other, were also nullified by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin and Ibadan respectively.
But four years on, Agagu appears not to have accepted his removal as evident in his petition to Mukhtar. According to the petition, Agagu is seeking her intervention over his removal from office based on a State Security Service (SSS) report presented by the Labour Party (LP) which the courts relied on to remove him but which the police have found to have been forged.
In a personally signed petition dated September 28, 2012 and addressed to the CJN, Agagu said the results which the tribunal and later the Court of Appeal relied on to nullify the elections in 10 local government councils won by his party, the PDP, was fraudulently procured through the forged SSS reports.
He is relying on the report of an investigation by the police dated October 25, 2010, signed by Ali Amodu (Commissioner of Police, Special Investigation Unit, Force Headquarters, Abuja), and addressed to the Inspector General of Police, entitled: “Police Investigation Report On A Case of Forgery and Uttering of State Security Service Report,” to reclaim his seat. Amodu, in his report, said: “The security reports tendered at the tribunal were forged and did not emanate from the service.”
The report of the police investigation had it that the Chairman of the Labour Party at the time, Dr. Olaiya Oni, admitted that the nine SSS reports tendered before the court “were parts of the massive pieces of documents that were brought to the party secretariat at different times by different people and he handed over the documents to the legal team for analysis and legal use.”
Concluding that the documents were forged, the police commissioner said: “there is no doubt that Dr. Oni conspired with others he has refused to mention to forge the reports and handed them over to the legal team. It is, therefore, recommended that he be arraigned in court for forgery and altering of forged documents.”
Relying on the police report, Agagu argued that “it is against public interest for a party in a suit to produce fraudulent evidence to deceive the court into giving him a favourable judgment.”
In the two-page petition entitled: “The Travesty of Justice In My Removal As Governor of Ondo State”, Agagu complained of deliberate inflation of votes for the LP in the affected councils, as well as deliberate reduction of PDP votes, saying, the Justice G.N. Nabaruma-led panel had on July 25, 2008 “inflated votes in two of the seven undisputed local government areas and these manipulations were upheld by the Court of Appeal.
“The local governments were Akoko South West (34,840 to 38,840), Owo (34, 427 to34, 457). By these errors, the PDP lost 4,030 votes. The tribunal went out of its way to reduce the votes of the PDP in Akoko North West. There are 10 wards in the local government and election from Ajowa Ward 05 was the only one disputed and its results cancelled by the tribunal. This cancellation ought to have given the PDP 9,850 votes and the LP 10,426 votes. However, the tribunal collated results on page 603 of the judgment and gave the PDP 3,063 and the LP 10,426. By this error, the PDP lost 6,707 votes”, Agagu averred.
Agagu, therefore, is seeking the intervention of the CJN “in redressing this injustice.” “I have waited to file in my complaint because I wish to be thorough in my assertions and supportive allegations,” he added.
He pleaded with the CJN that “on ground of public policy and equity, he (Labour Party and indeed Governor Olusegun Mimiko) should not be permitted or allowed to profit or to continue to enjoy the fruits of such fraudulent victory or judgment, particularly where it has to do with a very sensitive political office such as the exalted office of governor of a state.”
But the Mimiko Campaign Organisation had responded immediately as it berated Agagu for seeking to upturn his removal from office. MCO in a statement by its Director of Publicity and Media Relations, Mr. Kolawole Olabisi, said Agagu was “on an ego trip that would eventually lead to his undoing unless he retraces his steps.”
While describing Agagu’s antics as “comical, kindergarten in nature and a trip to perdition, the group berated him for “all his tissues of lies all in his desperation to thwart the work of God,” adding that: “Agagu’s problem stemmed from ego which was bruised by his loss to Mimiko in the 2007 governorship election, despite all the money, influence and power behind him.
“We are aware of all Agagu moves now that it has become crystal clear that his minion would lose, he has embarked on this latest fly in the ointment antics.”
The petition of the former governor coming barely three weeks to another gubernatorial election in the state is however raising curiosity. The frequently asked questions are: where is the interest of the former governor in raising the petition he had abandoned these past four years and the potent nature of such petition at the time all political parties in the October 20 polls are perfecting their strategies for the election?
Another angle observers are viewing the petition is whether Agagu wanted to go the line of his colleagues; Oni and Oyinlola who are blaming their removal on suspended president of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami. This time, the Ondo former helmsman is attacking the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Garba Nabaruma, whom he accused of “inflating votes” in two of the seven undisputed local government areas and these manipulations were upheld by the Court of Appeal, adding that the tribunal went out of its way to reduce the votes of the PDP in Akoko North West.
Although it is uncertain what Agagu intends to achieve with his petition at such a critical time, his petition will certainly not affect the conduct of the October 20 governorship election that may give Mimiko a second term in office.
Agagu ...seeks justice four years after