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As Olujimi Makes Historic Return To Senate

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In this piece, ALO ABIOLA writes on the political bond between Senator Dayo Adeyeye of APC and former Senate Minority Leader, Biodun Olujimi in respect of their legal battle on Ekiti South Senatorial seat.

Former minister of state for works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye and Senator Biodun Olujimi, are renowned politicians and prominent gladiators prior to the July 14, 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State.

They were also top governorship aspirants who participated in the gubernatorial primaries on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state ahead of the poll.

Adeyeye and Olujimi had contested against Professor Kolapo Olusola, who was at that time the state deputy governor and favourite of the former governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose in the shadow election.

Their decision to participate in the governorship primary, made the duo to have a running battle with Fayose, which eventually led to the polarisation of the party in the state.

Professor Olusola won the PDP primary and clinched the party’s ticket despite Olujimi’s decision to withdrawal from the race to back Adeyeye for the ticket.

Adeyeye was until few weeks to the governorship election, won by the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) Dr. Kayode Fayemi, a member of PDP but following his disagreement with the then leadership of the party in Ekiti State, he dumped the PDP, joined APC where he was given the ticket to contest for the Ekiti South Senatorial district election.

Senator Olujimi who remained in PDP was later declared the leader of the party in the state and Southwest by some party stakeholders which further fuelled his disagreement with former governor Fayose and his loyalists.

She, eventually won the party’s ticket for Ekiti South senatorial district alongside some incumbent national assembly members from the state.

Having won the Ekiti South senatorial district ticket of their respective political parties, Adeyeye and Olujimi had slugged it out on different platforms for a senatorial seat. The former hails from Ise-Orun local government area of the state while the latter hails from Ekiti East local government, and both sought the votes of the people in their local council and four other local government areas that made up the senatorial district.

The victory of Adeyeye of the APC in the national assembly election held on February, 23, 2019 ensured that he was declared the winner of Ekiti South Senatorial district poll by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The two other Senatorial districts, Ekiti Central and North as well as all the six federal constituency seats in the state were also won by the APC candidates in the election.

Olujimi later approached the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ado Ekiti to challenge the victory of Adeyeye at the poll.

The election of the APC Senatorial candidate in Ekiti North and some other federal constituencies were also challenged by PDP candidates in the polls at the Election Tribunal but all except Adeyeye won at the Tribunal.

While all these were going-on, the 9th National Assembly was inaugurated on June 11, 2019 and the assembly is to run its course till June 11, 2023.

With no inklings that his the appeal judgement may go against him after about five months in office, Senator Adeyeye was made the Chairman, Senate Committee on Media and Publicity.

Meanwhile, Olujimi at the hearing of the Election Tribunal in September craved that she should be declared the actual winner  of the election .

The PDP candidate submitted that she scored the highest number of lawful votes cast during the keenly contested poll.

In the alternative, Olujimi prayed the tribunal to outrightly nullify Adeyeye’s victory and order supplementary election accordingly in the district.

In her written address, the petitioner claimed that the election was not conducted in substantial compliance with the provisions  of the Electoral Acts, having been allegedly fraught with all manners of irregularities .

She prayed the Tribunal to annul votes  in areas that were found to be incredibly marked with irregularities like over voting, multiple thump printing, ballot snatching, ballot stuffing and improper ballot counting  should be cancelled, so as to determine the actual winner of the poll.

The petitioner also accused the INEC of dereliction of duties, saying most of the documents used for the conduct of the election were not duly signed by agents .

But the respondents countered the submission, saying INEC did what was right and constitutional, by declaring the candidate of the APC the winner having found to have got the highest number of lawful votes.

Consequently, the election that produced Adeyeye as the winner of the National Assembly election in  Ekiti South Senatorial District was nullified by the Tribunal.  The three-man panel, in a unanimous verdict  declared former Minority leader and the PDP candidate, Senator Olujimi winner of the Senatorial poll.

Delivering the judgement, the three -man tribunal , led by Justice Danladi  Adeck nullified elections in some polling units to declare Olujimi the authentic winner of the polls.

Eventually, Olujimi polled a total of 54,894 to emerge victorious over the Senate Commmittee Chairman on Media and Publicity, who polled 52,243.

Justice Adeck added that apart from the nullification in some units, the outcome of the Tribunal’s verdict was predicated on the recount of  the   ballots by the contending forces as granted by the court.

Justice Adeck, also said that for the petitioner to be so declared, she must prove those cases of criminal allegations of non compliance with the provisions  of the Electoral Acts and other corrupt practices raised in her  petition beyond reasonable doubt , which he said she   did .

According to the Tribunal, in Ikere, Gbonyin and  Emure local governments, the petitioner was able to prove cases of over voting and votes in those units  were expunged from the ballots.

On the voting patterns, the Tribunal said: “it is not tenable to say that a marked ballots were not properly deposited in the boxes because when this did not happen, then it will lead to over voting and will affect counting at every level of collation.

“To avoid this pitfall, those elections must be expunged in order not to vitiate the electoral process. Therefore, after those votes were deducted, PDP was left with 54, 894 while the respondent polled 52, 243.

“The petitioner having polled the highest number of lawful votes should be declared the winner of the election.

“We hereby declare the petitioner the winner and he is hereby returned elected.

“We hereby direct the INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from the respondent and issue same to the petitioner,” he said .

Adeyeye while reacting to judgement  through his Lawyer, Chief Rafiu Balogun, said that the tribunal actually made  case for the petitioner by conducting a recount of the votes which was why he was approaching the appeal court to challenge the tribunal verdict.

He pointed out that there was no order from the court for the recount to be conducted either by  the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) or the tribunal.

The defence team, according to Balogun had argued against such during the proceedings wondered where the tribunal derived its powers to carry out such a sensitive task upon which its judgement was based.

Balogun said, “We are not satisfy with the tribunal ruling against our client because there are a lots of loopholes in the judgement .What the tribunal relied upon was the report of collation agent of the PDP who  said INEC deliberately voided their votes .He did not say he did a recount and there  was no order at all for the recount to be done at the INEC Office and we had argued against it and had been settled at the appeal in the case of involving Kayode Fayemi and Olusola Eleka recently., that you can only do recount at the open court. Even in the case of Fayemi versus Segun Oni and Oshiomole . What they are saying is that INEC deliberately voided their votes .The tribunal is making case for the petitioner. “

Speaking in the same vein ,the counsel to the APC ,Barrister Kabiru Akingbolu stated that; “the tribunal also  agreed with the defendants that all the witnesses have said were mere hear say and the document referred to at the  polling unit were documentary hear say. Unfortunately, the tribunal summersaulted 360 degree to say that the to the units results was valid.”

The Court of Appeal sitting in Ado Ekiti, in October reserved judgment on the matter. Justice Uzor-Amaka Anyanwu announced that parties in the case would be informed through their lawyers on the date for ruling when fixed.

While giving his final address at in the appeal, the counsel to the appellant, Mr. Dayo Akinlaja, (SAN) argued that the tribunal was wrong in declaring Senator Olujimi winner of the February 23 poll.

Adelaja noted that the report of inspection of election materials of which the tribunal based his decision on was not included as part of the original prayers of the petitioner at the time.

Senator Olujimi’ s counsel,  Mr. Wahab Egbewole held that the report labelled as exhibit 385 was admissible since all parties involved in the case were present at the inspection.

The election tribunal had in its verdict ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return from Adeyeye and issue fresh one to the  former senate minority leader, Senator  Olujimi.

The hearing on the case was later moved from Ado Ekiti division of the court of appeal to Kaduna Division.

Last Wednesday, November 6, the appellate court upheld the election petition tribunal verdict and nullified the election of spokesman of the Senate, Senator Adeyeye and order the INEC to issue certificate of returns to his challenger, Senator Olujimi.

Dissatisfied with Tribunal verdict Adeyeye had approached the Court of Appeal to set aside the judgement of the Tribunal. But in a judgement delivered on Wednesday in Kaduna State, Justice Uzor Anyanwu upheld the judgment of the tribunal and ordered INEC to issue certificate of return to Senator  Olujimi.

In their reactions to the appeal court judgement, the All Progressives Congress, (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti state expressed divergent views on the appeal court verdict.

While APC rejected verdict which sacked its candidate, the PDP commended the court for upholding the victory of the its candidate, Sen Biodun Olujimi’s, in the election.

The APC, in a statement issued by its director of media and publicity, Elder Sam Oluwalana, said the judgement did not reflect the wishes of people of the Ekiti South Senatorial district.

“The judgement, delivered earlier today can best be described as a travesty of Justice and robbing Peter to pay Paul,” the party declared.

Oluwalana, who doubles as SSA (Media) Party Matters to the state  Governor said: “We commend Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who was highly-reverred by his colleagues in the Upper Chambers, for the exemplary leadership, which he exhibited within the short period he spent in the Senate. We are proud of his achievements during the period, as he was able to manage information outflow, without any scandal in the House.”

He however appealed to the people to go about their normal businesses rather than taking the laws into their hand over the judgement.

“We advise our supporters in the state not to be swayed by the judgement, but to rather remain steadfast with the state government, in its quest to make things better for the people of the state,” the statement added.

But the PDP in its reaction said that the judgment of both the tribunal and the appeal court did not come as a surprise because the result declared by INEC did not reflect the true vote cast in the first instance.

According to a statement by the PDP Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr Jackson Adebayo, the party berated INEC for allegedly colluding with the APC to steal the mandate which was given to Senator Olujimi and PDP at the poll without minding the democratic consequences on the nation.

The party however, gave kudos to the judiciary for righting the wrong appropriately by declaring Olujimi and PDP as the authentic winner of the National Assembly election.

“We congratulate all members of our Party in the State and particularly congratulate Sen Biodun Olujimi for her courage to fight the battle to a victorious logical  conclusion . “

The party urged all the leaders as well as members of the party to see the victory as that of God, hence the need to cooperate to move the party forward.

“We want to assure all our members that with the victory of Senator Olujimi there is a great future for the party, what we just need is to walk in unison towards subsequent elections in the State.”

Governor Kayode Fayemi in his reaction  described the judgment of the Court of Appeal that nullified the election of  Senator Adeyeye, as painful. But Olujimi saluted the courage of Adeyeye, urging him to join hands with her to develop the constituency.

Fayemi said more painful was the fact that the ruling of the Appellate Court that sat in Kaduna, remained final in the matter.

He therefore urged Adeyeye to remain calm despite the judicial pronouncement, saying that the ruling, though shocking and unexpected, is not the end of his political career nor his public service.

The Governor, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Mr Yinka Oyebode, in Ado-Ekiti on Thursday, also congratulated Senator Olujimi for the victory, urging her to be magnanimous in victory and ensure that Ekiti interest is paramount in her agenda at the Senate.

Describing Senator Adeyeye as a dogged fighter and a politician of repute who is loved by his people, Fayemi said he was convinced that the former senate spokesman would bounce back and play more significant roles in the nation’s politics.

Fayemi added that the APC and Adeyeye campaigned vigorously during the last election and got the endorsement of the people of the district, adding that that made the Court of Appel’s ruling quite disturbing.

“As we continue to deepen our democratic culture, we cannot but witness occasional setbacks of this nature. It is part of the sacrifice for our nation building.

“We must accept the decision of the appellate court- which is the final arbiter in this particular election petition, with equanimity, though painfully.

“The court’s ruling notwithstanding, Senator Adeyeye remains a credible politician with huge democratic credentials. While many may see this as a temporary setback, I urge him to brace up and see it as part of the sacrifice for the growth of democracy in the country.

“I am convinced that Senator Adeyeye will bounce back, in view of the pride of place he occupies in the hearts of his people.” The governor said.

Meanwhile Olujimi in a separate statement said; “let me salute the courage and tenacity of  Prince Dayo Adeyeye, my brother,  my friend and my opponent in this struggle! He gave me a reason to put on my thinking cap, be on my toes.

“He gave me a strong reason to pursue my conviction with decency. Let me say, that I know how it feels to be in his situation, but I ask that he will understand that democracy is a bitter- sweet system which we all submitted to! I wish him luck as he moves on to plan for the future and ask that he should not jettison the zeal to assist and give back to his constituency.

“We must work to make our constituents better. I will be willing to work with him on projects that will enhance the development of Ekiti south. Politics must bind rather than separate us. I thank my colleagues,  constituents, party faithfuls and people all over Nigeria and abroad.”

The political watchers are of the opinion that the appeallate court’s judgement may mean Senator Olujimi becoming the PDP leader in the State.

For Ekiti APC, the ouster of Senator Adeyeye has reduced the number of the party’s representatives at the National Assembly which means that the party must do extra work in the zone for the sake of future election.

The implication of the appeal court judgement is also that Olujimi has come a rallying point figure for Ekiti PDP in the state and at the national level.

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