The judgement of the Election Petition Tribunal may have temporarily cleared the dark cloud hanging over the September 28, 2016 governorship election in Edo State won by Godwin Obaseki, but the opposition, PDP, is losing sleep over a statement credited to the immediate past Governor Adams Oshiomhole on the outcome of the judgement, PATRICK OCHOGA writes.
On April 14, 2017, precisely Easter Friday, the Edo Election Petition Tribunal, after 180 days of painstakingly listening to arguments from legal counsels, affirmed Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressive Congress, (APC) as the winner and duly elected governor of the September 28, 2016 governorship polls which held in the state.
The tribunal summarily dismissed the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his party, for “lacking merit.” The petition was filed on October 19, 2016 challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC’s) declaration of Mr. Obaseki as the winner of the election.
Obviously, the judgment was bad news and a major setback for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, who expressed strong confidence that the ruling APC would be sent packing from the famous Osadebe Avenue, the seat of power.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu had approached the court with prayers for the nullification of the election and that he should be declared the winner of the polls on the ground that the exercise was allegedly fraught with substantial irregularities and noncompliance with the electoral Act, corruption and over voting. He added that he should be declared duly elected having scored the highest number of votes cast during the polls.
He challenged 16 out of the 18 local government areas where the election held while votes recount as ordered by the court was inconclusively carried for Akoko Edo, Egor, Orhionmwon and Ikpoba Okha councils respectively even as the outcome of the exercise was not tendered as evidence in court.
Chairman of the three man panel of judges, Justice Ahmed Badamasi in a unanimous verdict which lasted for about three hours, said the petitioners failed to prove their allegations beyond reasonable doubt; rather, they dwelled “on a wild goose chase” and could not provide enough evidences and credible witnesses in a lot of the wards and polling units to support their claims.
He said “for the petitioners to prove the allegation of over voting, he has to tender the voters register of units he is challenging for over voting, the ballot box containing ballot papers and results of the affected units”, adding that “in this case they (petitioners) did not tender the key items.
Justice Badamasi noted further that instead of the petitioners focusing their attention on their pleadings on the considerations of excess votes, registered voters as alleged and since they failed to meet section 173 of the Electoral Act, as amended, all the witnesses that testified along that line were a nullity and we hold so.”
According to him, the petitioners did not show figures of over voting in their table and the witnesses on cross examination did not demonstrate any figure representing over voting, stressing that “the petitioners have not proved that there was over voting and we so hold.”
Shortly after the Judgment, leaders and supporters of the APC took to the streets of Benin in Jubilation. A large crowd reminiscent of the victory march when the Court of Appeal in 2008 declared former Governor Adams Oshiomhiole winner of the 2007 governorship election, thronged behind APC leaders as they acknowledged cheers from party supporters who lined by the major streets.
Governor Obaseki, his Deputy, Rt Hon Phillip Shaibu and former Governor Adams Oshiomhole danced to the popular song ‘Godwin’ by Korede Bello.
Addressing supporters, Obaseki, said “I thank God for this victory because it has shown that our people voted for me and my party. It has rekindled my resolve to work harder for my people. PDP in the first place had no case from what we saw at the tribunal. Our people rejected them at the polls and the court has proved that. I know they will keep making noise but we will not be distracted. I urge my opponents to join hands with my administration to develop our dear state. We should leave our individual interest and pursue the interests of our people. I am more determined to fulfill my campaign promises to our people. We are going to create jobs as promised and serve our people transparently and sincerely.”
But it was a different tale in the PDP camp. As APC supporters celebrated round the city, PDP leaders converged at Ize-Iyamu’s campaign office. There, they vehemently rejected the verdict of the Tribunal and vowed to pursue the mandateto the Supreme Court.
“From the snippets I heard of the tribunal judgment, it cannot stand in the higher courts. This case must be pursued up to the Supreme Court. I want to thank God that we have all been able to reach this part of the journey. What gladdens my heart is that God will vindicate us in the long run”, the disturbed PDP candidate said.
However, the reaction of former governor, Oshiomhole may have left the PDP to dig and have a deeper scrutiny over the verdict when he was quoted to have described the tribunal judgment as ‘mama akara’ Judgment.
Oshiomhiole stated “Pastor Ize-Iyamu and the PDP have no case in the first place. I think because there is no cost, people tend to go to court with frivolous reasons. I think the Electoral Act should be amended that if you bring a frivolous case like this one we had, and you did not make sufficient effort to prove it, such person should be penalised.
“Listening to the judgment, you will see that this was like Mama Akara looking for trouble. I know that our people never voted PDP and they thought they could smuggle themselves through the judiciary but our judiciary has credible men and women with proven character. This was just a busy body petition”.
But the PDP in a statement said the statement credited former Governor Adams Oshiomhole suggested that the Tribunal may have been compromised and urged Oshiomhiole to shed more light on what he meant by ‘mama akara’ judgment.
Edo State Chairman of PDP, Dan Orbih, in a statement stated “ I must confess that the statement by Adams Oshiomhole describing the tribunal judgment as mama Akara Judgment is the most sincere statement he ever made. While I commend Oshiomhole for his sincerity in describing the Judgment as delivered by Justice Badamasi as mama akara judgement. I want to urge him to throw more light about the Judgment.
“We all know in this part of our country that mama akara will not seat in the sun and fry akara freely, Edo people are interested in knowing further how much mama akara sold her akara and how much they got given out her akara because in Oshiomhole’s own word, the very sincere statement is pregnant with meanings and we want him to throw further light how much the akara was purchase for because am sure from this Nigerians will know what happened.
“We heard in the course of the Judgment how the chairman of the election tribunal laboured to redefined over voting saying that if 200 are accredited at a voting centre and at the time of writing the results you have reasons to write 800 votes, as far as that number does not exceed the 1000 registered voters in that unit, it is not over-voting. Well I believe that in the coming weeks people will start to analyse this Judgment and we will appreciate why Adams Oshiomhiole has come to tell Nigerians that the Judgement is mama akara judgment. Nobody gives akara for free.”
Even as the controversy rages between the APC and the PDP in the State, more support poured in for Governor Obaseki as revered Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare 11 called on the PDP candidate to join hand with Obaseki to rebuild the state and described the judgment as good for Edo people.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Desmond Agbama, the monarch said: “The affirmation came at a time the services of Governor Obaseki was needed most, especially in the sanitization of the society, provision of jobs for the teeming unemployed youths as well as infrastructural development. This is a landmark judgment. Everybody should join hands with the governor to move Edo forward. There is no victor no vanquished and I urge the PDP and its candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to accept the decision of the tribunal in good faith and forge ahead in the task of providing dividend of democracy for our people”.
Similarly, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in
Edo State, Senator Domingo Obende, urged citizens of the three senatorial districts, in the state irrespective of political affiliations to support the progressive works of Governor Godwin Obaseki in the state.
He said the tribunal’s judgement, delivered last week, had further re-affirmed the people’s decision during the September 28, 2016 governorship election in the state.
Obende, who represented Edo North senatorial district between 2011 and 2014 on the platform of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) said “Edo people remain one irrespective of political differences or affiliation. The ruling of the tribunal confirms the decision Edo people made and this decision should be respected and supported by all.”
He also said the administration “has demonstrated, as started by his predecessor, Adams Oshiomhole, that Edo State is its primary constituency and not political party affiliation or state of origin”.
Similarly, a member representing Egor/Ikpoba-Okha Federal Constituency, Mr Ehioze Agbonayinma urged other PDP members in the state to jettison political differences and support Governor Obaseki.
Agbonayinma, a PDP chieftain in the state, congratulated Obaseki saying: “The result reflected the true picture of the votes of the people of Edo State and Obaseki won the election. It happened due to the factional crisis wrecking the PDP and failure of Independent National Electoral
Commission (INEC), to recognise the authentic candidate of the PDP, which is Matthew Iduoriyekemwen, because we have always said that Ali Modu Sheriff is the authentic National Chairman of the PDP.