FAYEMI: JUSTICE AT LAST

2010-10-16
THE PUNCH Newspaper

The journey began on April 14, 2007, when Nigerians voted to elect governors in the 36 states of the federation. In Ekiti State, the contest was mainly between the Action Congress of Nigeria candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his Peoples Democratic Party counterpart, Mr. Olusegun Oni. Initial reports from various polling stations in the state that prides itself as the Fountain of Knowledge, indicated that Fayemi was leading.



But by the time the Independent National Electoral Commission led by Prof. Maurice Iwu announced the result, the table had turned. Oni emerged the winner. Determined to claim the mandate freely given to him by the people of the state, Fayemi headed for the state’s election petitions tribunal. His hope was, however, dashed as he did not get justice from the tribunal.



Undeterred, the ACN candidate headed for the Court of Appeal. The court said that Fayemi won the majority of the valid votes cast in that contentious election. It, however, did not declare him the winner. It ruled that a rerun election be held in 10 local government areas of the state, where the PDP rigged.



The 2009 rerun was, however, more dramatic and volatile than the full-fledged election, which was under contention as the PDP and the ACN deployed all in their arsenal to ensure that their candidates won the contest. The rerun was more controversial and dubious than the April 2007 election as the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, hit the headlines for the wrong reasons.



Having declined to declare the results of the rerun election on the premise that she would have done something against her conscience, and even tendered a letter of resignation, the Egba-born (Ogun State) chief buckled under pressure; threw away her conscience and declared the results, predictably declaring Oni the winner of the rerun.



Newsmen and observers were assaulted and wounded, while violence and thuggery were taken to new heights, throwing the 10 local governments, where the elections were held, literally into war.



The saving grace Fayemi had hoped for did not come as expected in his second journey to the state EPT. The five-man tribunal, headed by Justice Hamman Barka, delivered a split verdict: three of the judges upholding Oni’s victory, while two declared Fayemi the winner. While the petitioner lost, the minority judgement delivered by Justices Abiodun Adebara and Obande Ogbuniyan, however, signalled the grounds of appeal for Fayemi, who headed for the Appeal court again to challenge the rerun results in Ijero and Ido-Osi LGs, where Oni had scored an outrageous 15,000 votes to wipe out Fayemi’s 12,000 lead from the 2007 election as declared by the appellate court, which ordered the rerun.



The Justice Ayo Salami-led Appeal court in Ilorin, however, rescued Fayemi when it delivered a unanimous decision on Friday declaring the appellant as the winner of both the April 14, 2007 election and the rerun election of April 25, 2009 with highest lawful votes cast at the polls. The court resolved four out of five grounds of appeal in favour of Fayemi, and ordered INEC to immediately withdraw the certificate of return from Oni and issue a new certificate of return to Fayemi.



Just as the governorship elections in Ekiti left many questions unanswered while the legal tussle lasted, the judicial system in the country undoubtedly deserves to be reviewed, especially as it concerns election litigation; where public office-holders find themselves in offices on stolen mandate and use the resources of the state to, sometimes, legitimise their illegal regimes. It is equally worrisome that people who occupied offices they were not elected to should be left to enjoy the perks of offices which, by extension, the officers illegally cornered.

 

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