Femi Ogbonnikan reviews the validity of the electoral victory of Prince Dapo Abiodun as Ogun State Governor, arising from the recent verdicts of both the Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan and that of the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Abeokuta
In modern-day politics, as it is being played out, is a departure from its old order whereby the followers, as a result of their ignorance, were made to dance to the whims and caprices of their leaders. The bequeathed practice is such that it is gradually fizzling out and it is paving ways for a new crop of followers and members that are weary of perfidy, but have chosen to take their destiny into their own hands.
Thus, the political equation in Ogun state presents a paradox to the old order whereby the incumbents no longer call the shots when it comes to succession processes.
By and large, while relating the scenario to the realities on ground, one is quick to add that political patronage has come to questioning.
March 9, 2019 was the day of reckoning when the good people of Ogun State, in their magnanimity, unanimously gave their mandate to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prince Dapo Abiodun, as governor.
However, the aftermath of the emergence of the APC candidate didn’t go down well with the, then governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, an arch-rival and a political godfather of the candidate of the Allied Peoples’ Movement (APM), Mr Adekunle Akinlade, who was defiant of persuasions and pleas from well-meaning Nigerians to concede defeat, but decided to head to the tribunal to challenge the victory of his hitherto bosom friend.
True to type, his (Amosun) adopted party (APM) approached the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, but the matter was thrown out for lack of merit, in what the three-man panel chaired by Justice Yahaya Halilu described as “lazy, deficient and shallow”.
As if undone, it appealed the verdict of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, Oyo state capital, while the appeal went the same way as it was at the tribunal.
While delivering the judgement on Monday, November 11, 2019, the five-man panel presided over by Justice Abubakar Yahaya, who was unavoidably absent, but read by Justice Muhammed Ambi-Usi Danjuma, and who led three others, Justices Isaiah Olufemi-Akeju, Jamilu Yammama Tukur and Moore Adumein, dismissed the appeal of the APM candidate and his party which he said, “it lacks merit and it is therefore, struck out”.
In the unanimous decision, Justice Danjuma avererred that the 10 grounds of the appeal filed by the APM and its governorship candidate challenging the victory of Governor Dapo Abiodun lacks merit.
“The respective objections raised by the two appellants (APM and its candidate) are over-ruled and the emotions have no merit, answers to them are sustained and the two motions are dismissed”, read Justice Danjuma.
Earlier, at the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in the Petition No. EPT/OG/GOV/01/2019, a three-man panel chaired by Justice Yahaya Halilu, in a 400-page verdict threw out the petition of the APM and its candidate and upheld the electoral victory of Abiodun as governor.
Review Of The Evidences
With all the evidences of the APM witnesses, it was argued that by virtue of Section 285 (9) of the Constitution “every pre-election matter” is subject to the provisions of the said Section 285(9) of the Constitution. That the submission of Form CF001 on 25th October, 2018 by the 2nd Respondent to the 1st Respondent clearly, preceded the 9th March, 2019 Governorship Election, therefore evidently a pre-election matter, and therefore, any complaint arising from or based on alleged false information contained in the affidavit of the form CF001 submitted on 25th October, 2018 must be brought within 14 days of the accrual of the cause of action i.e within 14 days of 25th October,
2018 this he submitted is a Constitutional requirement.
“We agree no less with the submission of the Senior Counsel to the 2nd Respondent that the operative phrase in section 285 (9) is “every pre-election matter” and the timely prosecution of same. The mischief
sought to be suppressed by the introduction of section 285(9) is to ensure unlike the provision prior to the amendment, that pre-election matter are instituted and determined with utmost dispatch.
“We also hold the strong view that any interpretation which embraces the commencement of pre-election matter such as in the instant petition outside the 14 days of the accrual of the cause of action as prescribed by the constitution will definitely defeat the legislative intention behind section 285(9) of the Constitution.
“We also found support that the issue relating to form CF001 Exhibit “P331” is a pre-election matter in suit CA/A/2019 BARUWA VS APC delivered on 6th may, 2019 by the court of Appeal a copy of which was
tendered in as Exhibit “P35C”. Tribunal observed and held that there was no scintilla of proof in
respect of the allegation that 2nd Respondent submitted CF001 containing false information.
That failure of the 2nd Respondent to disclose the Universities he attended or graduated in Exhibit ‘P331’ can not by any stretch of fertile imagination or brilliance of the Counsel address amount to false
information. Section 138(1)(e) was clear as to its provision. “The Affidavit submitted contained false information of a fundamental nature in aid of his qualification for the election”. We hold that there was no proof before us that the information in Exhibit ‘P331’ was false.
It held that the 2nd Respondent was qualified having satisfied the requirements of Section 177 and 182 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the only evidence before us
was that 2nd Respondent declined/refused to “include the universities he attended or graduated”. It therefore hold that the Petitioners documents and oral evidence in support of this ground was lazy, deficient, utterly hollow, skimpy and shallow and proved nothing.
Amongst others the Tribunal held completely disagreed with the Petitioners as submitted that the documents before it, i.e Form EC8A, EC8B, EC8C, EC8D, EC8E, Voters Registers, Smart Card Reader report enjoyed a presumption of
regularity and did not need witnesses who were familiar with the documents to demonstrate to the Court the contents of the documents; that the evidence led by PW1-PW34 failed to prove that there was over-voting in the 34 poling units as the law is trite that any evidence which seeks to prove over-voting without Voters Registers is of no probative value; that on the argument that once on the face of the Form EC8As series, it is shown that the number of votes cast exceeded the number of accredited voters, such result shall be declared null and void, the tribunal held that the above arguments has no basis in law.
Meanwhile, while expressing effusiveness in the validation of his electoral victory, Governor Abiodun noted, thus, “Today’s victory is a triumph of the truth and democracy. I give all the glory to the Almighty God, for I remain a testimony to His faithfulness. We equally thank our team of lawyers led by Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) for its exemplary professionalism, diligence and masterful delivery of the points of law.
“We appreciate the leadership of our great party, APC, for their steadfastness and support.
“In addition, we wish to express our sincere appreciation to the judiciary, once again, for playing its role as impartial arbiter with courage, fairness and candour.
“We are equally grateful for the solidarity and unwavering support of the APC faithfuls across the 236 wards of our state and their ‘Omoluabi’ conduct throughout this tortuous journey to the land of total victory.
“The victory has rekindled our drive to do more in “Building Our Future Together” Agenda and every village, hamlet, town or city will not be left out in the scheme of our inclusive development.
“Life is hinged on hope, our Administration has restored hope to the people and we shall not relent until every citizen of the state attains individual prosperity, whilst ensuring adequate security and putting the state on the path of sustainable development.
“The time has now come for all our adversaries to sheathe their swords and join forces with our Administration, if need be, the motive is to serve the good people of our dear state.
Joining the fray of well-wishers, the Ogun State chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Comrade Arabambi Abayomi, said, “Beyond the State Governor, the Ogun State voting public is also congratulated. The victory, though very well deserved, it is also the unshaken expectation of the people of Ogun State whose votes gave now been made even judicially to court, as it does confirm that the Nigerian judiciary has clearly grown the image of the last hope for all”.
Also, in his own congratulatory message, the Ogun State Caretaker Publicity Secretary, Comrade Tunde Oladunjoye, during a press conference, shortly after the verdict, said, “We see the judgement of the Appeal Court as a true reflection of the overwhelming wishes of Ogun people, freely expressed in the March 9, 2019 governorship election. The party believes that the latest judgement from the Court of Appeal will put to an end, the side distractions of this budding political association touting unedited mandate”.
While expressing effusiveness in the validation of his electoral victory, Governor Abiodun noted, thus, “Today’s victory is a triumph of the truth and democracy. I give all the glory to the Almighty God, for I remain a testimony to His faithfulness. We equally thank our team of lawyers led by Prof Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) for its exemplary professionalism, diligence and masterful delivery of the points of law. We appreciate the leadership of our great party, APC, for their steadfastness and support