Ekiti Gov, Oyebanji
•As Tribunal upholds Ekiti gov’s victory
•Describes Oni’s petition as vague, nebulous
•Join me to develop Ekiti, Oyebanji tells SDP candidate
•We’ll appeal judgment —SDP, ex-gov
By Rotimi Ojomoyela
THE Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Ado-Ekiti, yesterday, upheld the victory of Governor Biodun Oyebanji as the winner of the June 18 governorship election in Ekiti State.
The Tribunal subsequently dismissed the petition filed by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, governorship candidate, Segun Oni, challenging Oyebanji’s victory on account that the claims of the petitioner lacked merit.
Oni, a former Ekiti State governor, had approached the court, alleging that the All Progressives Congress, APC, didn’t have a validly nominated governorship candidate.
He argued through his counsel, Owoseni Ajayi, that Governor Mai Mala-Buni of Yobe State, who signed the nomination form of Oyebanji and who also superintended over the APC governorship primaries, contravened section 183 of the 1999 Constitution.
The SDP candidate also urged the tribunal to declare him the winner, alleging that the Deputy Governor, Monisade Afuye, presented a fake Senior School Certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Delivering the judgement, the chairman of the three-man tribunal panel, Justice Wilfred Kpochi maintained that the SDP candidate failed to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt that the victory of Oyebanji was against the country’s constitution and the Electoral Act (amended).
The tribunal held that the petitioner failed to call enough witnesses to prove allegations of malpractices across the polling units, wards and local government areas on the day of the election, adding that the SDP only relied on hearsay evidence which the court held was not tenable in law.
Justice Kpochi, while referencing the decision of the Supreme Court on Eyitayo Jegede’s suit versus Rotimi Akeredolu in Ondo State, noted that the nominations were valid given the outcome of the APC primaries which were decided mainly by party members.
The Judge held that the issue raised by the petitioners was a pre-election matter outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal, saying the Yobe State governor enjoyed immunity and could not be sued.
On the issue of certificate forgery against the Deputy Governor, Mrs Afuye, the judge held that the petitioner failed by not calling the management of the West Africa Examination Council, WAEC, to testify against the alleged forged document.
Justice Kpochi said it was wrong for the SDP candidate to introduce the allegation in his reply to the respondents and not in his initial petition filed within the stipulated 21 days period.
The Tribunal chairman said: “It is vague, nebulous, generic and lack specifics, the allegations of malpractices in the June 18 poll without giving satisfactory evidence. The candidates are qualified to contest the election and INEC conducted the poll in a free and fair manner.
“Therefore, we have come to an inescapable end that the petitioner failed to prove the cases against the respondents and we, hereby, dismiss the petition against the election of Oyebanji as governor of Ekiti state.”
Responding to the judgement, counsel to Oyebanji and former Attorney-General of Ekiti State, Mr Olawale Fapohunda, SAN, hailed the tribunal for upholding the victory of the governor, calling on the SDP candidate to place the interest of the state above his interest by supporting the government towards improving the lives of the people.
Fapohunda said: “Judgment has been delivered, every fair person who listened to the judgment will agree that it was fair, balanced and it affirmed existing authorities particularly those recently decided by the Supreme Court.
“I think what is more important is that we are all winners. I think the governor has never seen this as ‘us versus them’ and this affirms the need for all of us to come together and work for the progress of the state. I think that is what is important.
“We are all winners, it is time now to look away from the court and focus on what our people want – good governance. I am sure that very soon, the governor will also be reaching out to Segun Oni to join him in ensuring that the needs of our people are bettered.
“There were several issues, the issue of Yobe State Governor Mai Buni was raised, and the tribunal did justice to that matter by saying that it was not Buni himself that put candidates forward but APC, the issue of the certificate of the deputy governor which was a major issue raised by the petitioner was also dealt with and it is clear that the allegation that she is not qualified was not valid at all.”
Join me to develop Ekiti, Oyebanji tells Oni
Following the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal’s affirmation of his election as Governor Oyebanji extended the olive branch to his main rival, Oni to work with him to develop the state.
Addressing a crowd of jubilant supporters at the foyer of the Governor’s Office, Ado-Ekiti, shortly after the tribunal ruling, Oyebanji said the judgement was a further proof that God had a hand in his election as Governor of Ekiti State.
He said: “I commend the judiciary for this landmark judgement. It speaks to one thing- when God is in a matter, everything will end well.
“The judgement is to God’s glory and to the benefit of Ekiti people. I just want to plead with all of us. We are one in Ekiti State. The party that has gone to court did so in exercise of its fundamental right.
“I want us to celebrate moderately. I don’t want us to quarrel with anybody. I don’t want us to abuse anybody. Segun Oni still remains a leader in this state, and I have absolute respect for him and will continue to accord him due respect. The door of our party is open to as many people as want to join us and I will be waiting patiently to receive Segun Oni and his people back to APC, because this is where they belong.
“We need them to join us in our effort to make Ekiti more prosperous.”
Opposition should sheathe its sword —Fayemi
Also reacting to Oyebanji’s victory, former Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi said the victory was for all Ekiti people just as he urged the opposition to abandon further litigations and work together with the Governor for the growth and development of the state.
Fayemi, in a statement by the Head of his Media Office, Ahmad Sajoh said: “I wish to congratulate Governor Biodun Oyebanji of Ekiti State on his victory at the Ekiti State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which declared him the validly elected governor of the state.
‘’I did not doubt that the June governorship election which gave birth to his government was free and fair and would pass any judicial scrutiny. With this ruling, I call on members of the opposition to join hands with the governor for the growth and development of the state.”
We’ll appeal judgment —Oni
However, counsel to Segun Oni, Owoseeni Ajayi, who disagreed with the pronouncement of the tribunal panel, disclosed that the ruling would be challenged at the appellate court.
Ajayi said: “We are going to appeal the judgment. You should know that we have three legs of court, this is the first, we have the Court of Appeal; we also have the Supreme Court. That is our position and that is our comment.
“These people should rejoice minimally because you will realize that most of the petitions where governors were removed were done by the Supreme Court. In the case of Zamfara State, the APC governor won in the lower court and won in the court of appeal, but the Supreme Court removed him. In the case of Bayelsa State, they won at the lower court, they won at the court of appeal, and Supreme Court dethroned them. Even in the case of Governor Wike, it was the Supreme Court that enthroned him, so, I will advise them to minimally rejoice over this.”