BY AUSTIN OGWUDA, DEMOLA AKINYEMI & PETER OKUTU
FOR Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Martin Elechi (Ebonyi) and Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), today is a decisive day. Whether or not the three Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors will continue to remain in office will be decided today by election petition tribunals.
Uduaghan is facing a challenge from his Democratic Peoples Party, DPP, opponent, Chief Great Ogboru; Elechi has a hurdle in the petition filed by the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, governorship candidate, Senator Julius Ali Ucha; and Ahmed has a handful stopping Muhammad Dele Belgore SAN of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, from halting his jolly ride so far.
In Abakaliki, Secretary of the tribunal, Mr. Ahmed Shawai, told reporters that the panel would deliver judgment on Ucha’s petition today.
Senator Ucha is praying the panel to declare him winner of the election claiming that he secured the highest number of lawful votes cast during the April polls.
Counsel to the petitioners and respondents led by Prof. Ilochi Okafor and Dr Jacob Ibik had last month adopted their final written addresses at the tribunal following the conclusion of court proceedings, which lasted for about six months.
Tight security in Asaba
In Asaba, security has been beefed up in readiness for today’s verdict.
Vanguard reliably gathered that the date for the judgment had been formally communicated to the counsel to the parties involved. The reading of the judgment is expected to commence as from 11 a.m this morning.
Already, security in and around Asaba, the state capital has been beefed up in order to contain any ugly incidence before or after the judgment.
The tribunal headed by Justice Joy Unwana had last week, after the adoption of written addresses from both parties, adjourned indefinitely while promising to communicate the exact date for the judgment to the respective lawyers when the judgment is ready.
The legal fireworks ended with the adoption of written addresses.
Tension in Ilorin
Ahead of today’s ruling, there is palpable tension and apprehension in, Ilorin, the Kwara State Capital.
Vanguard checks revealed that in order to avoid possible break down of law and order, security has been beefed up around the state capital as armoured tanks have been stationed in strategic places, while plain clothes security officials have been deployed around the city to curb any untoward development.
Furthermore, Vanguard reliably gathered that schools around the venue of the tribunal have been ordered to go on holiday while residents were seen in groups everywhere in Ilorin discussing the possible outcome of the judgment.
Spokesmen for the two concerned political parties, Director of Media and Publicity of PDP, Mas’ud Adebimpe and the media aide to the ACN gubernatorial candidate are expectant of positive ruling.
Masu’d Adebimpe, said PDP was expecting nothing less than justice “because we were willingly voted for by the good people of Kwara State during the April 2011 gubernatorial elections. The judgment, without pre-empting its outcome would by the Grace of God show to the whole world that PDP is not only entrenched but is also the only political party acceptable to the people of the state.
But Rafiu Ajakaye of the ACN said:” Our expectation from the tribunal is to nullify election in areas (five local councils and 28 wards) we are challenging based on documentary evidence exposing widespread irregularities. We want the tribunal to hold that we won the highest number of valid votes and declare the ACN Governorship Candidate, Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN), the duly elected governor of Kwara State.”