The recent indefinite adjournment of judgment in the election petition over the chairmanship of Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area (LCDA) by the Lagos State Appeal Court Tribunal, has degenerated into a war of words between the Peoples Democratic Party and the Action Congress of Nigeria in the state Anayo Okolie reports,
By indefinitely postponing verdict in the election petition over the who won the chairmanship election in Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area (LCDA), the Lagos State Appeal Court Tribunal has opened itself to criticisms from opposition parties in the state, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There is a strong suspicion that the judiciary might be up to some mischief.
A few weeks after the Local Government Election Petition Tribunal which sat in Ikeja, declared the PDP candidate, Ibrahim Babajide Obanikoro, winner of the Ikoyi/Obalande Local Council Development Area (LCDA) chairmanship election conducted on October 22, last year, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and its candidate, Mr. Adewale Adeniji, appealed the ruling, seeking an order allowing the appeal and to also set aside the judgment of the tribunal, because the judgment was against the weight of evidence adduced at the hearing of the petition.
The court which had since commenced hearing on the appeal, however on November 15, a date slated for the final argument and for the court to announce a date for the judgment announced an adjournment of the case sine die and without any reason.
THISDAY gathered that several petitions had been written against the panel, many of which alleged bribery and corruption and questioned the integrity of the judges, a development believed to have led to the indefinite adjournment by the court. But what has since followed is one of ill-feelings, especially amongst supporters of PDP who believe that the ACN is planning to manoeuvre the case by changing the judges sitting on the case.
Obanikoro, while reacting, said “the ACN has plans to manipulate the judgment but we are familiar with ACN’s antics. We also know that they will go to any length to steal and keep the mandate but we are resolute that defenders of democracy and law and order will not allow this planned manipulation of the judiciary via blackmail and false allegation of bribery and corruption.”
He noted that his stolen mandate had been returned by the election petition tribunal led by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya on October 4, 2012 and that despite the appeal by ACN and its candidate, it will not be thwarted.
“It was a thing of surprise that we arrived the court last week and the matter that the court adjourned to November 15, for the final argument and to announce date of the judgment was adjourned sine die without giving any reason.
“We reliably found out that one of the petitions was written and submitted by one Mr. Rasaq Ogunseye, an ACN stalwart (Ikoyi Obalende Chairman). Mr. Rasaq Ogunseye was Mr. Wale Adeniji’s collation agent for the LGA result collation on Oct 22 2011 (election day). It is also on record that Mr. Rasaq Ogunseye was a witness during the tribunal proceeding and in his witness statement, he affirmed that he was the local government collation agent for Mr. Wale Adeniji and that the results of the election were handed over to him but they were misplaced and could not be presented to the court.”
Obanikoro, therefore, appealed to the Chief Justice of Lagos State, Justice O. Philips to stand and defend the judicial system because any attempt to derail justice by either changing the judges or extending the duration is an infringement to the course of justice and an encouragement to lawlessness and abuse of law.
He said justice delayed is justice denied, and that there is an urgent need for the Justice to wade into the matter to defend and protect the image of the judiciary in Lagos State and Nigeria at large.
He urged the Justice to stand on the side of history and justice. “It was the courageous judiciary siding with the civil right activists in the US that gave the world the American society of today which has become a pride to humanity. I call on you to allow, with immediate effect, the appeal tribunal to resume deliberations on our case and all other outstanding petitions. I also use this opportunity to call on stakeholders, the Nigerian Bar Association, National Judicial Commission, Civil Society Organisations, elder statesmen, mothers, fathers to wade into this very important matter in the interest our dear country.
“Twenty years ago, the military annulled an election which was adjudged the freest and fairest at that time in our chequered history. The entire country was at a standstill for almost seven years. To my greatest shock and surprise, it is those who benefited most from the fallout of the sad event that are at the centre of the annulment that took place in Ikoyi/Obalende on 22nd of October 2012 and are also trying hard to intimidate and coerce the judiciary into what will amount to travesty of justice,” Obanikoro said.
Publicity Secretary of PDP in the state, Gani Toafik, described the accusation against the panel “as diabolic, political and in bad faith, intended to delay justice and make a foolery of the judicial system and this can only happen in a controlled judiciary. The judicial rascality is nauseating and provoking.”
He was surprised that the state government set up a panel and yet, not comfortable with its ruling. “A bad case is a bad case, no matter where it is taken to. However, we expect the Chief Justice to set up another panel within the week and if he fails to do so, we shall petition the NJC, the Presidency and the National Assembly. We want justice,” Taofik said.
Also, Zonal Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon. Kayode Babade, said the arm-twisting tactics employed by the ACN to subvert the course of is shameful and a further demonstration of the party’s hatred for democracy and rule of law.
"One wonders what would have happened to elections in the country and petitions arising from them if ACN were to be the party in control of the Federal Government. It is even more worrisome that a senior lawyer is the one at the helms of affairs in Lagos State where rule of law is being sent to the dogs. Well-meaning Nigerians must therefore save Lagos State from the political rascals in the ACN before they turn the state into a place where rule of law is meant for the marines,” Babade said.
But the ACN in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Joe Igbokwe, lambasted the PDP for alleging that Governor Babatunde Fashola and the ACN are manipulating the appeal in the Ikoyi/Obalende case.
“It is not surprising that such falsehood is coming from PDP which is advised to warm up to the fact that its imposed reign in the South-west is done and over for good. PDP in the South-west is founded on such falsehood and has ceased to surprise anybody by the intensity and hollowness of their falsehood. Our reaction to the latest falsehood is to laugh it off as yet another smear effort by the PDP to cash in on the intelligence of a people that have proved for the umpteenth time that they are wiser than their antics.
“When we saw the body of their allegation and noticed that there was nothing linking either Governor Fashola or the ACN to the laughable allegation, we felt vindicated in our age-old contention that PDP in the South-west is a huge aberration. We would be expecting more from them if we expect them to prove their allegation, for that is the lifeblood that sustains the party at present.
“For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Fashola and the ACN give no heck about Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA going to the PDP in a free and fair contest, but we feel that PDP cannot just be patronised because they are very desperate. Even in our contention, we feel the judiciary still remains the best institution equipped to settle every electoral dispute, which is why we are still submitting to the primacy of the court in this matter,” ACN said.