BY DAPO AKINREFON
…As PDP kicks against use of technicality
Yesterday’s keenly expected judgment on the appeal by the ACN against the tribunal victory of the PDP on the contest for the strategic Ikoyi-Obalende local council throws up questions.
The ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Lagos State yesterday finally fought off one of the most embarrassing challenges to its grip of the state after the Court of Appeal ruled in its favour the decision on who won the Obalende/Ikoyi Local Council Development Area in the last election.
The court decision inevitably removed the prospects of having its rabid enemy, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP taking charge over the territory where its national leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu lives.
Ikoyi/Obalende LCDA is home to some of the nation’s most powerful citizens including the national leader of the ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who holds court regularly from his Bourdillion Street residence which is located not far from the council office.
The PDP had claimed victory in the election penultimate October in a tightly contested election where the PDP fielded Jide Obanikoro, a scion of one of the leaders of the party in the state against Adewale Adeniji.
The PDP candidate is son of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Nigeria’s ambassador to Ghana and a one time close associate of Asiwaju Tinubu.
Controversy immediately shadowed the outcome of the election conducted in October 2010 after the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, LASIEC delayed the release of the result of the election for more than 24 hours without any logical reason. PDP enthusiasts had cried foul as they claimed to have through their own compilations achieved victory over the ACN in Tinubu land.
Despite protests and public outcry against the ACN with many asking the ACN to practice what it preaches at the federal level, the authorities in Lagos stuck to their guns with the declaration of Adeniji as the winner.
Obanikoro who had mustered some impressive political wizardry in the approach to the election immediately resorted to the courts with what he claimed was more than sufficient evidence to debunk the claim of an ACN victory.
Supporting him in his court battles was a large entourage of the Hausa community living in the Obalende area of Lagos who reportedly voted massively for him on account of his strategic decision of picking one of them as his running mate.
At the Election Tribunal, the victory of the ACN was reversed as the Justice Dolapo Akinsanya (ret) led tribunal voided the return of the ACN candidate declaring boldly that Obanikoro won the election.
The tribunal ruled that the PDP won the election by 6,780 to 6,248 votes.
The tribunal result immediately shocked the large entourage of ACN enthusiasts that flocked the court on that day last October.
After a period of dithering during which the ACN allegedly considered conceding the office to the PDP as an example of its large heartedness, party radicals chose to fight the battle at the court of appeal where they obtained victory yesterday.
Both sides were yesterday unforgiving in their separate reactions to the court verdict which favoured the ACN on the basis of the lapse of time.
Accept court decision — ACN
Speaking through its state publicity secretary, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the ACN, appealed to the PDP to accept the decision of the appellate court.
“Whatever the decision of the court is final and I think as law abiding citizens, we have to accept the decision. That is my appeal to the opposition. They should not take laws into their hands, they should accept the judgment in good faith and move on,” Igbokwe told Vanguard in a telephone interview yesterday.
It’s miscarriage of justice — PDP
THE Lagos State chapter of the PDP immediately rejected the counsel describing the judgment as miscarriage of justice.
In a statement by its publicity secretary, Mr Taofik Gani, the PDP described the judgment of the local government Appeal Tribunal, “as miscarriage of justice done deliberately to satisfy the ruling ACN in the State.”
While it threatened to report the appeal judges to the National Judicial Commission, NJC, it alleged that “they have deliberately misapplied the law to satisfy their paymaster.”
The party also accused the ACN of exposing itself as “pseudo democrats who should not be allowed to jettison our nascent democracy with their now apparent desperation to hold onto the illegal contraptions called LCDA.”
In addition, the party said the judgment of the Appeal tribunal is “provocative and capable of aggravating the already tensed polity in the state.”
The PDP candidate, Obanikoro expressed disappointment at the judgment which he said was essentially based on technicalities and was done without of the appeal tribunal which upturned his earlier victory.
In a telephone chat with Vanguard, Obanikoro said “I am totally against the judgment and highly disappointed that the merits of the case were not looked at. They just based their decision on time and did not even bother to find out how we got to where we were.”
According to him, “while at the tribunal, we filed a motion for extension of time, the tribunal judges said there was no need to move that motion because they had dismissed the preliminary objections that was brought by the ACN. The Appeal tribunal judges now used that against us. The court ordered us to withdraw our motion, which we did, now they are using it against us. I think it is totally biased, I think it is unfair and I think it promotes disobeying the law. It is totally uncalled for and it is a shame on democracy and a shame on the judiciary as well.”
In its unanimous judgment, the five-man Appeal panel chaired by Justice Opeyemi Oke, reversed the decision of the Election Tribunal saying that the case exceeded the 30 days time line as stipulated in section 14 (1) of LG Election Laws of Lagos State.