The Ondo State Election Petition Tribunal on Tuesday struck out the petition filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the October 20, 2020 governorship election, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, against the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
Jegede had approached the tribunal seeking the nullification of Akeredolu as the winner of the election on the grounds of irregularities and invalid nomination of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission declared Akeredolu the winner of the election after scoring the highest valid votes cast in the election .
The three-man panel led by Justice Umar Abubakar delivered the verdict via zoom as the regular venue of the panel was not open due to the strike action embarked upon by members of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria.
The tribunal dismissed all the grounds of the PDP candidate’s petition for lack of merit .
One of the grounds of the petition which was based on the issue of nomination of Akeredolu as the candidate of the APC was also struck out as the court said the matter raised in the petition was an issue of internal affairs and management of a political party which the tribunal has no jurisdiction on.
The tribunal held that Akeredolu and his deputy, Aiyedatiwa, were duly nominated and sponsored by the APC in line with Section 177 of the Constitution and Section 31 of the Electoral Act.
It ruled, “The tribunal cannot determine whether Mai Bala Buni, the Governor of Yobe State is illegally occupying the seat of caretaker chairman of the planning committee of the extraordinary convention of the APC.
“There is also evidence to confirm that the APC as the sponsor complied with the law in the process for the submission of the names of its candidates, Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa. Jegede’s case is flawed and hereby dismissed.”
In his reaction, Akeredolu said the victory was for the people of the state, calling on his opponent to join hands with him to work for the state.
He said, “I must use this opportunity to thank the people of this state for the confidence they reposed in us. The people have spoken and they cannot be wrong. The result is there for all of us to see. It is a victory for all time and it has never happened in this state before, but we thank God for this victory. We thank God for the judgment of the tribunal.
“I want to thank my brother, Eyitayo Jegede, who is not just a brother but also my learned brother. He is somebody I respect a lot and he knows that; I see him as a friend. I want to call on him and implore him, let us join hands together, there is no need for litigation. I don’t see anything in it, let us all join hands together to build this state together. There is room for many and more, and I believe that we can join hands together and work together to build the state. He loves the state and I don’t have doubt about it as a gentleman par excellence.
“I don’t see this as any victory: no victor, no vanquished, it is just for us as contestants. Just like a game: you win some, you lose some; you can’t win them all. We thank God today that we are victorious.
“It was not just a victory, it was a double victory. We had people who went to court, about seven political parties against us at the Federal High Court, the case too was dismissed. There is no other thing, all I can say to you is that it is not me, it is not us; it is God, I give God all the glory. To God be the glory.”
Jegede said he and his legal team would review the judgment to know whether or not to challenge the verdict at the Court of Appeal.
According to him, “I will consult my counsels, who are knowledgeable in this business. A good number of them, some of them my senior. By the time I add my own knowledge, we shall forge forward.”
Jegede added, “We don’t want to rush to do anything. We will look at the judgment. We will request for the copy of the judgment given the fact that we have 60 days within which to conclude and we shall appeal if there is one and the time starts today. So it is important that we have access to the judgment just delivered. We need to look at what they have read. It is very critical and that is what we intend to do.
“I commend the judges that they were able to deliver the judgment within 180 days despite the strike. There is no emotion about this, we are interested in governance in Ondo State.”
In the same vein, the Ondo State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, said it would appeal the judgment of the tribunal, delivered virtually on Tuesday .
In a statement issued by the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Ondo State, Mr Kennedy Peretei, stated that the party had a good case to present at the appellate court.
He said, “It is important to stress that, in its wisdom, the tribunal admitted that issues raised by the petitioners were sufficient for consideration but constitutional, which the tribunal is not in a position to do justice to. The interpretation of the constitution is a role reserved exclusively for the highest court in the land- the Supreme Court of Nigeria.
“The constitution of every country is the document that regulates actions and behaviour of her citizens. Therefore, it is our belief that nobody can flagrantly trample on the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and escape with the excuse that the tribunal has no jurisdiction.
“The PDP is convinced that we have a strong case for which we shall be vindicated at the end of the day.”