Shortly after the Election Petitions Tribunal in Benin affirmed Godwin Obaseki, as governor of Edo State, former governor of the state, Adams Oshiomhole, led a road show to celebrate the ruling.
Tribunal leader, Ahmed Badamasi, had ruled the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, failed to prove their case beyond every reasonable doubt.
The PDP and Ize-Iyamu had challenged the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of September 28, 2016, governorship election in the state.
The two parties listed INEC, Obaseki and APC as first second and third respondents respectively in the petition filed in the tribunal.
During the ruling, Justice Badamasi, who led tow other justices, insisted “the petitioner can only succeed on the strength of his case and not on the absence or weakness of the defence.”
He said the evidence presented to the tribunal did not establish there was substantial non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act in the 2,627 polling units they contested.
The judge also insisted the petitioners did not call witnesses in the majority of the polling units in the state.
He pointed out that the petitioners in a bid to prove their case called on witnesses who could not give evidence and that the petitioners did not call any witness to prove a case of misapplication of votes.
He stated that the PDP and Ize-Iyamu could not put forward substantial reasons for the latter to be declared the winner of the election or make the tribunal nullify the result of the election.
While the tribunal declared that accreditation constituted the foundation for a credible election, it, however, asserted that allegation of poor or uncompleted accreditation by the petitioners could not be established.
Justice Badamasi said the reliance of the petitioners on the ticking of the name of a prospective voter on the left side of the voters’ register to mark complete accreditation was only an administrative guideline for election officials.
“On the whole, we hold that the petitioners have not by credible evidence proved their case and they have failed to show that they are entitled to their reliefs,” Justice Badamasi said.
“Accordingly, the petition is, therefore, dismissed. The election of the second respondent, Godwin Obaseki, is hereby upheld.”
Earlier in the first issue that was determined, the tribunal threw out the argument of the 2nd respondent that the Osagie Ize-Iyamu, whose name was recorded as the candidate of the PDP in the INEC register, was not the same person as Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu Andrew, whose name was listed as first petitioner in the case.
The tribunal gave that there was nothing to prove that there was a case of clash of identity in the 2nd respondent’s argument and that the first petitioner was able to prove that “pastor” was his appellation and that “Andrew” was his baptismal name.
In his comment, Mr. Obaseki, who was present in the court along with his deputy, Philip Shaibu, appealed to the judges through his counsel, Kehinde Elijah (SAN), not to award any cost against the petitioners, saying he was a governor for all Edo people.
“I want to thank the people of Edo state for standing by the APC and my government. We thank God, we thank the judges from an amazing job they have done. We want all of you to go back home peacefully and enjoy the Easter holiday,” the governor said.
The governor was later joined by APC leaders and supporters in a victory dance around parts of the Benin metropolis.
The procession was led by Mr. Oshiomhole and other leaders of the party in the state.
Reacting, Mr. Ize-Iyamu said the ruling is porous and assured his supporters the matter will be pursued to the Supreme Court.
Addressing PDP elders, leaders and supporters at his campaign office in Benin shortly after the judgement, he gave the assurance that the judgment cannot stand.
“From the snippets I heard of the tribunal judgement, it cannot stand in the higher courts. This case must be pursued up to the Supreme Court,” the PDP candidate said.
“Don’t be dismayed. We are still hoping for your support. I urge you all to be calm and refrain from being provoked into violence.
Also speaking, the state chairman of the PDP, Dan Orbih, corroborated Ize-Iyamu, saying Friday’s judgment will be appealed.
He said, “Definitely we are going to appeal against the judgement. We reject the judgement of the tribunal; it is not acceptable to us.
“We have told our lawyers to appeal the judgement. The issues we raised in the petition were not addressed by the tribunal.
“I appeal to Edo people to remain calm but be resolute in our bid to reclaim the mandate given to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.”
Meanwhile, former Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who was present in court, described the petition filed by the PDP and Ize-Iyamu as an abuse of the court process.
Oshiomhole advised that the Electoral Act should be amended such that if a party bring a frivolous case such as that of the PDP and Ize-Iyamu, sufficient cost be awarded against them to serve as deterrence to others.
“I knew our people will never vote for the PDP and the didn’t vote for the PDP. They thought they could do smuggling through the court,” Mr. Oshiomhole boasted.
“The judiciary has shown that they have men and women of impeccable character and I’m happy about that.”