Lagos State governorship candidates of the Labour Party, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, and that of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olajide Adediran, popularly known as Jandor, have both lost their bids to overturn the victory of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in the March 18 governorship election.
The state’s Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Ikeja yesterday, in two separate judgements, dismissed the two petitions filed by Rhodes-Vivour and Adediran for lacking merit.
The three-person tribunal presided over by Justice Arum Ashom in the unanimous judgements, backed by the two other judges on the panel, Justice Mikail Abdullahi and Justice Igho Braimoh, held that the petitioners failed to present enough evidence to compel it to rule in their favour.
Sanwo-Olu who polled 762,134 votes to defeat his closest rival, Rhodes-Vivour, who polled 312,329, while Adediran came third with 62,449 votes, in his response to the tribunal’s judgement described the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the governorship election petition tribunal “as a victory for all.”
He stated this at the Lagos State House, Ikeja, shortly after the announcement of the judgement ruled in favour of his party.
Sanwo-Olu, who extended an olive branch to other parties’ contestants at the elections, urged them to join him, to contribute their quota towards building a greater Lagos.
The governor commended the Lagos State judiciary for “delivering a detailed and well-thought-out judgement.”
While delivering judgement on the PDP and its candidate’s petition, the tribunal held that they are not members of the APC. Therefore, they have no locus standi to challenge the party’s primaries that produced Sanwo-Olu and his deputy Obafemi Hamzat.
In the judgement read by Justice Mikail Abdullahi on behalf of the three-person panel, the tribunal also held that all the issues raised by the petitioners are pre-election matters of which the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to entertain.
On the issue of the forged certificate allegedly presented by Governor Sanwo-Olu, the tribunal noted, amongst other things, that the petitioner, Jandor, who testified in his petition, told the court that he did not attend the school, Community Grammar School, Ijebu-Ife where the certificate originated from. He had also testified that the principal of the school was still alive.
The tribunal wondered why he didn’t call as a witness the school’s principal or any of the staff to testify about the certificate.
Justice Abdullahi also stated, “This petition is dead on arrival given the evidence adduced before the court, the grounds on which the petitioners seek disqualification of the second and third respondents lack merit.”
In the final analysis, the tribunal held “that the petition lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed. I affirm the election and return of Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu as the duly elected governor of Lagos State. Parties are to bear their cost.”
The respondents in the petition filed by the PDP and Jandor are the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the deputy governor, Obafemi Hamzat, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party and its candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour.
They are asking the tribunal to disqualify Sanwo-Olu and Rhodes-Vivour for “non-compliance” with the Electoral Act 2022 as well as the guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
In the petition marked EPT/LAG/GOV/01/2023 dated April 7, the petitioners said APC did not comply with the INEC timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election, which stipulated that all political parties must give 21 days’ notice to INEC before the conduct of the primary election.
Besides the allegation of non-compliance with relevant provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, Adediran added that at the time of the governorship election, Sanwo-Olu, Hamzat, and Rhodes-Vivour were not qualified to contest the election.
He asked that all votes cast for them in the election be declared wasted and Adediran should be declared the winner.
The tribunal had earlier struck out the name of the Labour Party candidate, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, from the petition.
The tribunal, while delivering a ruling on the preliminary objection filed by Rhodes-Vivour, stated that the LP candidate is not a necessary party to the petition.
The tribunal held that the law only permits the candidate that lost an election to the winner and the electoral body.
The tribunal had also dismissed the preliminary objections filed by the third respondent, the deputy governor of Lagos State, Obafemi Hamzat.
Hamzat had argued in his objection that he is a separate and distinct candidate Sanwo-Olufrom the second respondent, Babajide Sanwo-Olu-Olu.
He had also asked the tribunal to determine whether the deputy governor could be listed as a respondent in the petition.
But in its ruling, the tribunal held that the issue had been decided in several cases and went on to hold that a deputy governor and governor are not separate candidates and they are not required to pay a separate security deposit.
In the second petition filed by Rhodes-Vivour, as the sole petitioner, Justice Ashom, who read the unanimous judgement, held that the petition was devoid of merit.
While ruling on the preliminary objections filed by the candidate, the tribunal reiterated its earlier judgement that the issue of nomination of candidates was a pre-election issue and that jurisdiction is vested in the Federal High Court.
The tribunal, therefore, dismissed this ground of Rhodes-Vivour’s petition.
It also held that the petitioner put forward no sufficient facts to support his ground that the election of Babajide Sanwo-Olu was invalid because of corrupt practices or non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Relying on the judgement of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in the petition of Peter Obi and three others, the tribunal discountenanced the oral evidence of four subpoenaed witnesses called by Rhodes-Vivour in the instant case.
The tribunal further held that, like the ten subpoenaed witnesses of Obi before the presidential election court, these four witnesses also had no witness statements and were never listed when the petition was filed, contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act.
The tribunal, however, ruled in favour of the petitioner when it held that he had the locus to file the petition but maintained that it survived on only one ground.
The tribunal, however, held that being a citizen of Nigeria by birth, his oath of allegiance to the US does not prevent him from contesting election.
Consequently, the tribunal rejected the witness statement and evidence of Mrs Olubusayo Fasidi, a US Immigration lawyer, stressing that her witness statement and testimony were misconceived.
It affirmed the declaration by INEC of the election of Sanwo-Olu and Hamzat as the governor and deputy duly elected.
Meanwhile Jandor has expressed his displeasure over the ruling of the Justice Arum Ashom led three-person Lagos State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
A statement issued by the head of Media and Communications, Jandora 4 Governor Campaign Organisation, Gbenga Ogunleye, said it was pretty unfortunate that the tribunal, in its wisdom, refused to accept the credible and convincing evidence presented by his legal team on the non-qualifications of the APC and the Labour Party candidates in the election.