The Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, yesterday partially upheld the appeal by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), in the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state.
Jegede, who is challenging Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s victory, had approached the appellate court after the tribunal dismissed his petition for lacking in merit.
His counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, had asked the court to sack Akeredolu and his deputy, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, because they were allegedly not properly nominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
But the respondents’ counsel, Akin Olujimi (SAN), for Akeredolu and Aiyedatiwa, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) for the APC and Charles Edosanmwon (SAN) for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), faulted all the arguments of Jegede’s counsel.
They contended that the case was a pre-election matter.
In the lead judgment by Justice Theresa Ngolika Orji-Abadua, the court partly allowed Jegede’s appeal on issues one, two, four and five.
She dismissed the appeal on issues three, six and seven.
In their judgments, Justice H. A. Barka, Justice J. G. Abundaga and Justice Andenyangtso Alli dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit.
Justice Orji-Abadua said the Electoral Act cannot override provisions of the Constitution on qualification or disqualification of a candidate in an election.
“The appeal is partly allowed and partly dismissed,” she said.
The PDP and Jegede vowed to challenge the decision.
The party’s spokesman Kennedy Peretei said in a statement: “In concluding her lead judgment, Justice Orji-Abadua said the appeal was partially dismissed and partially allowed. To the ordinary man in the street, the judgment was ‘inconclusive’.
“The kernel of the Eyitayo Jegede/PDP petition was whether or not a gross violation of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) should be allowed to stay; whether or not Mai Mala Buni, as a sitting Governor of Yobe State, can double as National Chairman of the APC, to sign the nomination of Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) for the governorship election.
“While the Court of Appeal acknowledged that it was a violation of the Constitution, it still went ahead to dismiss the appeal.
“We are still studying the details of the judgment, by virtue of the fact that it was delivered via Zoom. But we have sufficient grounds to appeal the decision of the court. We are confident the Supreme Court, which is the highest court in the land, will do justice.”
Akeredolu has extended an olive branch to Jegede, urging him to join hands with him in building the state.
Addressing reporters, Akeredolu said: “I have said this over and over: this case itself is so flimsy for me as a person. And it is clear because where you believe that you can go through the back door and upturn the will of the people, it is not going to work.
“We had an election in which the party won 15 out of the local governments; you won three. You are not contesting the result of the election, but you are hinging your petition on the Chairman of the party who signed the nomination that was forwarded to INEC.
“For me, it is clear. With God on our side, no matter where they go about this case, it will be the same result.
“It is just like when Yoruba say that if you throw the cutlass up 50 times by the time it’s landing, it will land on its side.
“Tayo, for one reason or the other, I said to him, we don’t need to pursue this case. I had called him once or twice. I don’t see why we are going about this action; that both of us can come together to work for the benefit of the state. That is my own belief.
“I respect him, but he must have a reason behind him pursuing this case the way he’s pursuing it. It is either the party is the one pushing him or he’s the one pushing himself. Whichever one it is, I know there must be something behind what he’s doing.
“But I can assure him, like a man who is building with straw, I can assure him nothing will come out of this case.
“I will call on him again for the umpteenth time: let him come, let us work together to build that state and let us work together for the Southwest and let us work together for Nigeria.
“Importantly, he is one person that I have a lot of respect for; he has respect for me. I see him as a brother. But in election matters, you cannot avoid this kind of contestation.”