By Kolade Larewaju
Amid fear of uncertainty and tight security, Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital literally went asleep Thursday as the governorship election petition tribunal delivered judgment in a re-trial petition filed by All Nigeria Peoples Party candidate in the 2007 election, Senator Ibikunle Amosun against Governor Gbenga Daniel, whose election was upheld.
The judgment was Gov Danielâ€™s second victory before the tribunal whose membership was reconstituted following appeal court judgment which ordered retrial of the petition after Senator Amosun appealed the first tribunal judgment that dismissed his petition.
A reprieve, however, came for Amosu as the appellate court ordered a retrial of the petition de novo with a reconstituted tribunal.
Dismissing the petition, the Tribunal Chairman, Justice Suleiman Ambursa said the petition lacked merit and upheld the election of Governor Daniel.
While the judgement was going on however, the ancient city of Abeokuta virtually died as streets were deserted and shops closed apparently out of fear of another possible bloody clash between supporters of Daniel and Amosun on their way to or from the court.
Heavily armed policemen guarded all roads leading to Isabo, venue of the sitting while security was tightened in and around the tribunal by the 1,800 policemen said to have been deployed for the special operation.
Justice Ambursa in the three hour judgement said Amosunâ€™s petition failed on the two grounds of his appeal to the tribunal, adding that he completely failed to prove his averment of violence, rigging, ballot stuffing and ballot snatching on one hand and also failed to establish that he actually had more votes than Daniel.
Moreover, he said Amosun failed to produce video clips of his alleged electoral malpractices he averred in his petition while his 40, among 41 witnesses who alleged the malpractices were all found wanting during cross-examination.
Justice Ambursa said all the materials that Amosun relied upon at the trial proper were not pleaded in the petition, adding that it was wrong for a party to try and take advantage of the other as all full disclosure of facts must be made in pleadings, adding â€œthere should be no evidential ambushâ€
Declaring Governor Daniel the winner of the April 14, 2007 polls, the Tribunal said that he polled 421,132 votes as against Amosunâ€™s 135,149 votes.
Governor Daniel in his reaction after the judgement thanked God for the victory but adding that throughout the legal battle, he had no fears.
He said â€œrather than fear, what I had was amusement because we went to an election, won all the three Senatorial seats, all the 9 House of Representative seats, all the 26 House of Assembly seats, all the 20 local government Chairmanship seats and all the 236 Councillorship seats at the wards. How then could another person have won the governorship seat?
In her own reaction, Amosunâ€™s Deputy Governorship candidate; Mrs. Elizabeth Shonubi who was in court too, however, said that her principal was going to appeal against the judgement.
In her own reaction Ogun Deputy Governor, Alhaja Salmot Badru said â€œwe give thanks to God. I want to say here that todayâ€™s verdict has once again vindicated my leader, the governor of Ogun State , Chief Gbenga Daniel, as the authentic winner of the April 14, 2007 elections. It is victory for Ogun People, the Party at the State level and the Nigeria as a whole. The rule of law has prevailed once again. We now know who the winner of the election isâ€.
Chairman of the PDP, Elder Joju Fadairo, said â€œwe thank the judges for their sense of judgment. The judge took his time to explain every bit of the judgment to the understanding of ordinary layman. ANPP challenged the victory of Governor Daniel and the evidence was there that Governor Daniel won convincingly. The petition of Senator Ibikunle Amosun was frivolous.
At a point he wanted the election cancelled, at another time, asked that he be declared the winner of the election. He did not have the mandate of the people of Ogun State .
â€œThe opposition party should come round and support the government of the day in building a new Ogun State.
Names of members of the tribunal panel includesd Justice Suleiman Amburssa [Chairman]; Justice E.F.F Obot; Justice Sadi Mato, Justice Nathan Musa, Justice Mutairu Yushau.
Daniel Thursday said that with his victory at the tribunal, the legitimacy of his government was no longer contestable. He however warned that in the celebration of the victory, all acts of lawlessness would not be tolerated. Governor Daniel in a state broadcast to the people on radio and television said â€œlet me assure us all that regardless of how the tribunalâ€™s verdict affects specific interests of the individuals and parties in the contest, the true winner in all of this are the good people of Ogun State who now have a government whose legitimacy is no longer contested.
â€œAs we celebrate this collective victory, let me warn that any act of lawlessness at this time can only derail our train of progress and will therefore not be tolerated. â€œIt is time for us all to forget the divisive aspect of politics and refocus on the developmental purpose of politicking.
We must all now put heads together in our determined effort to bequeath a better future to our childrenâ€ He praised members of the tribunal â€œwho in the face of manipulations from people who wanted to get from the law courts what they could not achieve through the ballot box, stood firm on the side of the truth.
â€œOver the past two years, we have, as an administration, coped with both real and simulated, without relenting in our efforts to put in place solid and enduring edifices and re-engineer the governance of our state. â€œLet me once again affirm my solemn pledge to our people that our Administration shall leave no abandoned projects. I therefore urge all officers at both the state and local government levels to redouble their efforts over the next few months to ensure that on-going projects are completed”.