Anselm Ojezua is the chairman of the Edo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). In this interview, he describes the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, before the Edo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal as poorly designed and miserably executed.
By Gabriel Enogholase
YOU must be relieved after the tribunal gave your party and candidate victory. How do you feel now?
I want to thank the good people of Edo State for the resounding mandate they have graciously given the APC and our candidate, Governor Godwin Obaseki, who has done so much in such a very short time. This indicates that great things will be achieved in the days and years ahead. The leaders and members of the Edo APC ably led by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole also deserve praise. Just like Oshiomhole, I agree that the verdict was good judgement delivered by good judges on a Good Friday.
How will you describe the judgement taking into account the issues raised by the PDP?
In the election, they claimed INEC did not comply substantially with the law in the conduct of the election and, therefore, our candidate, Godwin Obaseki, should be deprived of his hard earned and well deserved victory, while the Pastor should be declared winner. Is it not laughable that they wanted to be declared winner in an election they condemned as falling short of legal requirements. To substantiate their claims, they made several wild claims pertaining to a substantial number of units in the wards. In doing this, they bandied incredible, false and baseless figures that they conjured from their imaginations. They forgot that they will be asked to prove every single fact in the course of the trial.
In the end, they fielded 91 witnesses, who turned out to be impostors claiming to be PDP agents in the election. The names of the agents they brought to the tribunal were different from the ones contained in the list of agents they submitted to INEC before the election. In any case, the evidence they led were only relevant in 27 units out of the over 2,000 units they complained about.
Expectedly, their witnesses were roundly discredited under cross examination because they clearly had no personal knowledge of the facts they sought to prove. Even their star witness, the petitioner himself, spoke about things that happened in all the local government areas as was reported to him by other people. As a lawyer, I expected him not to talk about hearsay evidence. They dumped on the tribunal virtually all the materials used for the conduct of the election but failed to allude to them in their evidence.
What about the claims made by the petitioners concerning ticking of names of prospective voters on the voters’ register as a mark of eye accreditation?
They predicated their argument on what I will describe as no issue. The PDP predicated their case on the non-compliance of INEC to the contents of a training manual INEC itself developed for the training of their staff as against the stipulations of the Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections and clear provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. In its well considered judgement, the tribunal was unanimous and equivocal in dismissing the petition because the petitioners failed woefully in their feeble attempt to prove their case.
The tribunal stated that they had witnesses but no evidence. Having failed to prove their case, there was, therefore, no obligation on the part of INEC, Godwin Obaseki and APC to even offer a defense or response. In other words, the petition was dead on arrival. What I can say about their petition is that it was misconceived, poorly designed and miserably executed destined for failure.
So, what advice can you offer the PDP at this point in time?
I extend my hands of fellowship to my brothers in the PDP to join us in the arduous task of building a robust and self-sustaining local economy that will serve the interest and welfare of our people, particularly the youths. There must be end to hostility; politics must stop after the elections and governance must take centre stage. The government of Governor Godwin Obaseki has promised to give youths jobs and offer them vocational training.
As you can see, the governor is committed to his promises, not only to the youths but to all Edo people. I therefore urge the PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu to reconsider their premature plans to go on appeal and save our dear state the needless torment and distraction a protracted legal battle will cost us all.