THE Ekiti State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja on Monday upheld the victory of the state Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, in the governorship election held on July 14, 2018.
The tribunal said the petitioners, the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Prof Kolapo Olusola, failed to prove allegations of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act.
The three-man panel chaired by Justice Suleman Belgore held that the petitioners failed to prove that Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress was not duly returned as winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
It also quashed the report of the Justice Oyewole Commission of Inquiry set up by former Governor Ayodele Fayose, which placed a 10-year ban on Fayemi.
The tribunal said the panel lacked the power of a court and therefore could not sanction Fayemi.
In the over 700-page petition, Olusola had asked the tribunal to declare him the winner of the election “having scored the majority of lawful votes.”
According to him, he scored the majority lawful votes because the election was fraught with irregularities.
The petitioners challenged the results of the election in 1,458 of the 2,195 polling units.
In the unanimous judgement, which lasted five hours and was delivered by the chairman, the tribunal held that the petitioners were unable to prove cases of non-compliance, over-voting and voter intimidation among others as claimed in the petition.
Besides, the tribunal noted that no single ballot paper was tendered to prove that votes of the petitioners were deliberately voided by INEC officials in collaboration with agents of the APC.
“The petitioners did not show that only those that came to vote for them were affected by improper conduct, even if there was any.
“Nobody came to the tribunal to say they were driven away after accreditation. The petitioners have the burden to prove that all the affected voters would have voted for them. We hold that the onus of the proof was not discharged by the petitioners,” the chairman said.
He added, “We have no hesitation to say the election was held in a convivial atmosphere, accreditation peaceful, voting peaceful, sorting peaceful, counting peaceful and the collation of results peaceful.
“Forty-one polling agents as witnesses are grossly scanty and insufficient to invalidate the election. This is because polling units are at the epicentre of the election.
“The petitioners failed to prove that the third respondent (Fayemi) was not duly returned. There was no evidence that their agents were forced to sign the election results sheets by (INEC) officials.
“Upon a calm perusal of circumstances of these, it is incorrect to say the third respondent did not win the election by majority lawful votes. On the contrary, it is crystal clear that he was duly returned.
“We have no reason to distort the election. This petition is lacking in merit and it is hereby dismissed,” the tribunal said.
Immediately the news of the judgement filtered into Ado Ekiti, supporters of the APC and the governor trooped to the streets to celebrate the victory.
The broom-wielding supporters marched through the streets of the state capital, chanting pro-Fayemi and Buhari songs.
They later converged on the state secretariat of the APC on Ajilosun Road.
They were led by a House of Representatives candidate in Ekiti Central Federal Constituency I, Sola Fatoba; and the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Mobilisation, Tunji Ogunlola.
Meanwhile, the PDP governorship candidate has described the decision of the tribunal as “perversion of truth of the highest order and rape of democracy.”
He said he would appeal the tribunal’s verdict.
Olusola, in a statement by his media aide, Mr Onaopemipo Akinloye, said, “The judgment of the tribunal upholding the fraud called ‘victory’ of Dr Fayemi cannot stand because it doesn’t represent the truth.”
The PDP candidate said he was surprised that “despite the avalanche of evidence of massive electoral fraud committed by the APC and the Independent Electoral commission which were placed before the tribunal, the tribunal still upheld Fayemi’s election.”
He appealed to his supporters and the PDP members to remain calm and continue in their prayers, assuring them that victory would come their way soon.
A former governor of the state, Mr Ayodele Fayose, on his part said he was not surprised by the tribunal verdict, saying, “The judgment was already in the public domain and celebrated by the APC more than a week before today (Monday).”
Fayose said he would have been surprised at the outcome of the judgment if it had been otherwise, alleging that the judiciary was already coerced by the APC-led Federal Government.
In a statement by his media aide, Lere Olayinka, the former governor said the judgment would be appealed and the case pursued to the Supreme Court, assuring all stakeholders that justice would prevail ultimately.
Also, the PDP has called on its members not to despair over the verdict.
The party expressed optimism that the tribunal’s verdict would be overturned at the Court of Appeal.
The party’s position was contained in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan.
The statement read, “The PDP holds that the Court of Appeal will consider the matter strictly on its merit particularly with the abounding evidence of rigging including violence, vote-buying, ballot stuffing and alteration of results perpetuated by the APC which are still intact.
“Though the judiciary is passing through a trying time under the dictatorial tendencies of the Buhari Presidency, the PDP urges the Lord Justices to stand for justice by restoring the mandate freely given to the PDP candidate, Olusola Eleka, at the July 14, 2018 governorship election in Ekiti state.
“The PDP notes that the entire nation and the international community had widely condemned the manipulation that marred the Ekiti governorship election and strongly believes that justice will be served at the end of the day.” – Punch
– Jan. 29, 2019 @ 9:45 GMT |