Mr. Babajide Obanikoro
By Davidson Iriekpen and Olawale Olaleye
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmanship candidate for Ikoyi/Obalende Local Council Development Area (LCDA) in last year’s local government elections in Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Obanikoro, Thursday won his legal battle to retrieve his mandate.
The state Local Government Election Petitions Tribunal nullified the declaration of the candidate of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Adewale Adeniji, as winner of the election in the LCDA where the party’s national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, resides and declared Obanikoro the duly elected chairman for the area.
However, the ACN has said that it will appeal the judgment.
The five-member tribunal, headed by Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (rtd), held that Obanikoro, having scored the highest number of valid votes in the election, ought to have been declared the winner.
It ordered the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to revoke the certificate of return issued to Adeniji and give it to Obanikoro, son of Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to Ghana, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro.
The tribunal held that the petitioners had proven that election results were not collated at the unit and ward levels as shown in the LASIEC Forms 9A, which were admitted as exhibits.
The tribunal said: “Section 11(2) of the Local Government Elections Petitions Tribunal Law 2011 empowers this tribunal to nullify any election that does not comply with the laid down regulations.
“The petitioners have been able to discharge the burden of proof vested on them as regards to the collation of the results.
“It transferred the onus to the respondents who did not tender any LASIEC Form 9A, which is the first stage of any election.
“The petitioners have shown that the non-collation of the results at the units and ward levels substantially affected the outcome of the result declared by LASIEC.”
It said from the available evidence before the tribunal, Obanikoro scored 3,770 valid votes, while Adeniji scored 3,248 votes.
“We order LASIEC to issue a certificate of return to the petitioner with immediate effect having won the disputed election.
“We are also awarding N100, 000 as cost in favour of the petitioner,” the tribunal ordered.
Obanikoro and the PDP had sued LASIEC, the ACN and Adeniji, challenging the outcome of the election.
The petitioners had asked the tribunal to upturn the election result, claiming that the results were not collated at the ward and local government levels but were only declared at LASIEC's headquarters.
They further claimed that the elections were characterised by violence and electoral malpractices, which were allegedly perpetrated by ACN thugs in connivance with LASIEC officials.
Expectedly, both the PDP and ACN reacted differently to the judgment of the tribunal, with the ruling party in the state vowing to appeal the judgment.
The state ACN Chairman, Chief Henry Ajomale, said the PDP’s victory would not last.
Ajomale, who spoke to THISDAY Thursday night, said the ACN “received the judgment with caution and there’s a provision in it that allows us to appeal and we are going to do just that immediately.”
He appealed to the party's supporters, particularly those in the affected LCDA, not to panic unnecessarily because “we'll explore the provision in the judgment and ultimately, win at the appeal.”
He also urged the PDP not to heighten tension in the state because of the tribunal ruling, urging the party to ensure that its members remain law abiding.
The PDP, on its part, commended the tribunal for the judgment and urged the state Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, to direct the immediate swearing-in of Obanikoro as a sign that he was not being unduly partisan and will uphold the rule of law.
The South-west and Lagos State chapters of the party, in hailing the judgment, saluted the courage of the tribunal judges, saying: “It is not a surprise because the tribunal chairman, Justice Dolapo Akinsanya, has a strong reputation that is known to everybody.”
PDP Zonal Publicity Secretary, Hon Kayode Babade, who congratulated Obanikoro, PDP members in Lagos State and the entire people of Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA said: “The judgment has once again shown that Action Congress of Nigeria is the real party of election riggers.
“We are most importantly delighted because Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA is the home base of ACN leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, and our party's victory in the LCDA where Tinubu himself voted, symbolises his rejection by Lagosians.