…..Abiodun’s mandate as “divine” – APC
ABEOKUTA: The Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abeokuta, on Saturday affirmed the victory of Prince Dapo Abiodun, as the winner of the March 18 governorship election in the State.
The three-man panel, in the judgement read for over 11 hours, dismissed the petition filed by the candidate of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu for ‘lack of merit’.
The tribunal headed by Hamidu Kunaza submitted that the petitioners failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a unanimous decision by the panel, the court dismissed Adebutu’s decision for “lack of merit” and affirmed the second respondent (Dapo Abiodun) as duly elected governor as declared by INEC.
The tribunal held that the allegations of corrupt practices, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, multiple thumb printing of ballot papers, ballot stuffing, and forgery as alleged by Adebutu and his party were not proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
He also described the testimonies of the witnesses brought by the petitioners as “industrially manufactured, mechanically produced and adopted” by them, thereby “proven to similar, too coincidental and unbelievable.”
On the allegation of certificate forgery levelled against Abiodun, the Tribunal held that the petitioner failed to prove the criminal allegation beyond reasonable doubt by providing a witness from the United States of America (USA) to testify that the second defendant (Abiodun).
In striking out the allegation of vote buying and corrupt practices, the tribunal held that the allegations were two inseparable twins for which the petitioner has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt.
The court also held that the allegation of certificate forgery and arrest and detention of Abiodun in 1986 were pre-election matters which ought to have been determined 14 days before the election.
“The Tribunal rules that the petitioners have failed to prove any of the grounds of the petition and thus are not entitled to any of the reliefs sought. The petition fails and is dismissed. The return of Governor Abiodun is affirmed”
It would be recalled that Adebutu and his party had prayed the court to order INEC to conduct fresh election in 99 polling units in 41 wards across 16 Local government areas of the State, where elections were either not held and/or cancelled due to disruption and over-voting.
The petitioners also urged the Tribunal to declare Adebutu, the winner of the election.
Reacting to the tribunal ruling, the State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), described Governor Abiodun’s mandate as “divine”.
The party in a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Tunde Oladunjoye, quoted the state Chairman of the party, Chief Yemi Sanusi, as describing the victory of the party at the polls and the tribunal as “divine mandate”.
The statement read, “We went round the 20 local government areas of the state, we went to some local governments twice, we campaigned vigorously in the wards, we showcased what our party and government have done in four years. l and was doing. In most of our campaigns, we commissioned projects and inaugurated new ones which was unprecedented in the electioneering annals of Nigeria. Our people believed in us, trusted us and voted for continuity. We had no doubt about our electoral victory and It was indeed a divine mandate,” Sanusi said.
“We have always known that the PDP is as disorganized as its ramshackle petitions. which the party and its highly incompetent and run away defeated candidate knew or ought to have known cannot succeed. They merely wanted to reap where they did not sow, forgetting that you can’t build something on nothing. The tribunal has rightly done justice and due diligence to their spurious petitions. We only hope that Ladi Adebutu will eat the humble pie and return to Nigeria and face his criminal charges of votes buying and money laundering hanging on his neck at the High Court. We challenge him to be man enough to return to Nigeria,” the APC chairman said.
Sanusi also commended the victorious legal team: “Our party and governor assembled the best brains in election tribunal warfare in Nigeria today. There is no election dispute of note that is relied on in this case that at least one of our lawyers is not a part of,” he added.
“Finally, to God be the biggest credit and glory. We appreciate the unusual grace of God upon Prince Dapo Abiodun, to the chagrin of his detractors. Not many have this grace that when you think they are locked in, God opens the roof for them to walk free. Till today, many cannot understand why God chose Dapo Abiodun against all odds, but He did, and there is nothing his detractors could do about it,” Sanusi concluded.