Edo State gubernatorial tussle between Governor Godwin Obaseki of the APC and the candidate of the PDP, Pastor Ize-Iyamu, has moved from the tribunal to the Supreme Court, PATRICK OCHOGA writes.
Expectedly, the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was optimistic that the five-man-led Appeal Court panel would rekindle its hope by upturning the judgment of tribunal which had thrown away the petition filed by its governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu against the victory of Governor Godwin Obaseki.
The PDP and its leaders had stormed the court with over 150 legal counsels in apparent determination to ensure that no stone was left unturned in its quest to upturn the Obaseki All Progressives Congress (APC)-led victory in the September 28, 2016 governorship election.
As the D-day came, security within and around the Court of Appeal premises was tight with stern looking security operatives frisking everyone including media practitioners before allowing them to gain access to the venue.
The Appeal panel, led by Justice M.B Dongban –Mensem, in less than 25 minutes, while dismissing the PDP’s case, described Ize-Iyamu’s appeal as unmeritorious.
The appellate court agreed with the Edo State Election Petition Tribunal led by Justice Ahmed Badamasi which returned Obaseki as governor of Edo State, saying that Ize-Iyamu and the PDP failed to prove before the trial court why Obaseki’s victory should be upturned.
Other members of the panel are Justices S. Tom Yakub, M.O. Bolaji-Yusuf, U.A. Ogakwu and Mohammed Mustapha. The judgment of the appellate court elicited thunderous celebration in Benin City as Obaseki, and the immediate past governor of the state, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole attributed the victory to God and the state.
It will be recalled that the Edo State Election petition tribunal had on April 14, 2017, upheld the election of Obaseki as governor of the state after dismissing PDP’s petition for lack of evidence.
Ize-Iyamu, who was not satisfied with the judgement, alongside other appellants ran to the Appellate court raising 41 grounds of appeal and nine issues for determination, praying the court to determine whether the trial tribunal was correct in its approach in considering and dismissing their case considering the defence of the respondents.
They prayed the court to allow the appeal, upturn the judgement of the tribunal and grant the main reliefs sought pursuant to Section 15 of the Court of Appeal Act. However, counsel to Ize-Iyamu, led by Yusuf Ali (SAN) and that of Obaseki, led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN), argued their briefs on May 30th, 2017. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) led the APC legal team while Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) represented INEC.
When the five-man panel entered into the court at exactly 9:35am, the presiding judge, Justice M.B.Dongban-Mensem delegated the second female judge, Justice U.A.Ogakwu to read the judgement. In its judgement, the appellate court held that the appeal brought before it by Ize-Iyamu had two major issues:
“One, whether the tribunal properly evaluated the evidence provided to it and gave correct value to it. Two, whether considering the entire evidence before the tribunal, the tribunal was right in declaring that the Appellants failed to prove their petition. “Separate objections were filed by the second (Obaseki) and third (APC) respondents respectively. All the objections were over ruled”. The court declared that:
“At the end, we found that the conclusion of the tribunal was unassailable. The tribunal carried out painstaking, detailed and clear considerations of all aspects of the Appellant’s case. Having dealt with the issues raised by the Appellants, I find this application unmeritorious and hereby dismissed and parties should bear their own cost”.
Ruling on the cross appeal filed by Obaseki and APC which faulted the lower tribunal for allowing the counting of ballot papers in the court, the appellate court, while dismissing the cross appeal, declared that the trial court was right, saying “I think it will be unfair to expect the trial tribunal to deny the Appellant fair hearing.”
“All these were done to avoid miscarriage of justice. It allows parties to ventilate their grievances in election petition without dismissing the petitions. The Cross Appeal failed for lack of merit and it is dismissed. Parties should bear their respective cost”. Reacting to the judgement, Obaseki asserted, “I had no doubts in my mind that, giving the quality of the judiciary we had, it would go straight to the matter. One thing you must always know is that the truth never changes. I won the election. God has affirmed that I won the election; the court has now affirmed that I won the election. No matter how hard they (PDP) try, they cannot change the truth. I am sure they will appeal, we will meet at the Supreme Court and it will be the same verdict.”
“I thank Edo people for their patience with us. We want to assure them that we are not distracted and we will continue on our path to recovery, on our path to progress.”
On his part, Ize-Iyamu said he was expecting the details of the judgement and will decide the next line of action after studying it with his Counsel.
However, the state chairman of the APC, Chief Dan Orbih, said “we have started the move so we will get to the end, which is the Supreme Court”. Oshiomhole stated that “the first time I said that PDP’s petition was like the petition filed by Mama Akara, they tried to twist it. Now if you listen to the judgement, you will see that the Court of Appeal even had more harsh words for them that the finding of the tribunal was unassailable, so they did not have to beat around the bush. This is clear and I just hope that the PDP can understand that concerning their rigging machine that was dismantled in 2007, they can’t return it and our people can never welcome them back.”
“I think it is now for Godwin to concentrate fully, happily he is doing very well and now with this clarity of his position, we have no doubt that he won the election. Even if the PDP wants to go to the world court we are ready. But the government will not be distracted and Edo people can be reassured that they voted wisely and they are getting the dividends of democracy that they voted for. I am excited.”
“The only thing is that we have to review the rules of the court in a manner that when a man has no case and files a fictitious petition, he should be asked to pay for the time wasted by the judges and others, so that we will have penalties for frivolities. Like I said, he who dies in sin can never resurrect and the PDP died in sin so they will never resurrect” he stated.
Shortly after the judgment, supporters of APC-led government in the state came out in their thousands, even PDP and its candidate insisted on pursuing the case to the Supreme Court.
However, in a quick response to the PDP, the chief press secretary, to Governor Obaseki, John Mayaki noted that in as much as it is the right of the appellant to contest the verdict at the Supreme Court, it is going to be another exercise in futility.
He stated “The party may reject the verdict of the Appeal Court on the lack of merit of its case. It’s its right to do so. But it must understand that it has no chance even at the Supreme Court. If it didn’t win at the polls, it would never win at the court, everyone knows it neither won the election nor were there cases of irregularities that robbed it of votes cast for it.”
“Ize-Iyamu was wrong in his response to the appellate court’s ruling.” According to him, “There are things it said that we believe cannot stand the test of time. If there is one thing that has refused to and will never stand the test of time, it’s his and his party’s claim to victory in the September governorship election.”
“Truth be told, as far as Edo State is concerned, the PDP is doomed by its past records of underwhelming and insulting performances. It was rejected in the two elections that brought in Oshiomhole. Same thing in the one that brought in Obaseki. Its case at two different courts were rejected on the considered fact that they were unmeritorious. Rejection awaits it at the apex court just as 2020 promises it another round of rejection.”