Ondo Guber : Issues As Jegede,PDP take Battle To Supreme Court

Shortly after the verdict of the Appeal Court which dismissed the petition filed by Eyitayo Jegede, governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the October 10 governorship election challenging the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, Jegede and the PDP rejected the ruling of the Appellate court and vowed to approach the Supreme Court

It is however surprising that Jegede’s issue for determination is neither about the conduct of the governorship election nor its outcome as he won in only three local government areas of the 18 that make up Ondo state. Interestingly, the three are the Akure-speaking stock of Akure North, Akure South and Ifedore. Jegede is an indigene of Akure.

Reacting to the verdict of the Appeal Court delivered by Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua, PDP’s Publicity Secretary, Kennedy Petetei said: “The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ondo State and candidate of the party will challenge the Court of Appeal’s decision at the Supreme Court”.

In concluding her lead judgment, Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua said the Appeal was partially dismissed and partially allowed. To the ordinary man in the street, the judgment was ‘inconclusive’ and we must approach the Supreme Court to help them conclude the judgment

“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 All Progressives Congress, APC, to sign the Nomination of Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN) for the governorship election.

While the Court of Appeal acknowledged that it was 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

If the statement by the PDP was out of the need to explore further grounds for justice, later issues raised Jegede’s men are pointers that he had lost faith in the judiciary aside inexplicable expressions used to describe the justices of the appeal court.

In a piece ostensibly sponsored by the PDP and titled: “As Jegede Proceeds to Supreme Court, Akeredolu may be Governing on Borrowed Time.” and published in a national daily, relentless attacks were launched on the learned Judges of the Governorship Election Tribunal that adjudicated on the 2020 Governorship Election Petition of Ondo State as well as the Justices of the Court of Appeal panel that sat on the appeal from the tribunal’s decision, for their verdicts in favour of Governor Akeredolu and the APC.

Two lawyers, namely Dada Awosika SAN and Aki Amuluku as well as Kennedy Ikantu, described as PDP Publicity, were quoted as the sources for the contents of the write-up. In a most uncouth language, Ikantu disparaged the learned Judges of the Court of Appeal for deliberately withholding copies of their judgment from Jegede and the PDP.

According to him: “Nothing but willful disobedience of the Constitution, unethical practices and blatant refusal to follow public service rules and ethics will explain a situation whereby a major political party and appellant in an election case would have to resort to press releases to get officials of the Judiciary to do their job…”

The attack on the learned Justices were not limited to the PDP Publicity Secretary. The two of Jegede’s leading lawyers, Dada Awosika, SAN and Aki Amuluku joined the fray in laying outrageous accusations against the Justices. They accused the Justices of lack of grasp of the issues in Jegede’s petition and of rendering unjust decisions in the most uncouth, unethical and unprofessional language.

The lawyers were quoted to have informed the writer that: “The judgement of the trial tribunal was to the effect that the alleged sponsorship of Akeredolu by Governor Mai Mala Buni despite being constitutionally barred under section 183 of the constitution, was an internal affair of the APC. The trial court held that the issue raised by Eyitayo Jegede’s lead counsel being a constitutional infringement on candidate sponsorship as required under section 177 (c) of the constitution cannot be consigned as pre-election matter

However, the court declined the interpretation of the constitution and subsequently dismissed the case.” The above position is a clear and deliberate as well as misrepresentation of the issues put forward by the parties and decided by the lower tribunal.

There are basically five main issues that call for determination at the tribunal. The first was whether the tribunal has the jurisdiction to entertained the complaints in the second leg of Jegede’s petition founded on issue revolving around internal governance of the APC. The second was whether Jegede, who is not a member of APC, and therefore did not participate in APC primary election, has the locus standi to question APC sponsorship of Akeredolu.

The third was whether the APC Governorship candidate shown to have won his party’s nomination can be said not to have been validly sponsored pursuant to section 177(c) of the Constitution, merely because the letter forwarding his name to INEC was signed by a member of the APC and the Chairman its Caretaker Committee, who also happened to be Governor of a State.

The fourth was whether given the weighty nature of the alleged constitutional infraction levelled against Mai Mala Buni, it will not amount to a denial of fair hearing for the tribunal to decide the issue without giving Buni a fair hearing. All of these issues were resolved in favour of Akeredolu and the APC. The fifth issue is whether on the merit, Jegede successfully proven allegation of invalid nomination.

With regard to the decision of the Court of Appeal, it was stated in the write-up as follow: “On the main appeal presented by the counsel to Jegede, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, there were six issues raised out of which majority were resolved in favour of the appellant. However, on the main issue of the breach of the constitution by the APC’s caretaker committee chairman who is equally the Governor of Yobe State, Governor Mai Mala Buni, the court affirmed the constitutionality of the action but queried why the Governor was not made a party to the matter.

The court, therefore, concluded that the exclusion of Buni who the APC had admitted acted for it in his capacity as the caretaker chairman, was unfair and had become fatal to the appeal. It, therefore, dismissed the case.”

It is not correct that Jegede’s counsel presented six issues before the Court of Appeal. Jegede’s counsel presented seven issues at the Court of Appeal by multiplying one of the five issues at the tribunal into four. Four of the seven “issues”, namely, issues 1,2,3,4 and 5 raised by Jegede at the Court of Appeal were practically saying the same thing in different combination of words.

This development prompted the Court of Appeal at page 53 of the leading judgment to state that: “… this Court observed that some of the issues are intertwined and therefore thinks it expedient to consider those issues together, that is to say, issues 1,2,3,4 and 5…”.

Issues 1,2,3,4 and 5 revolved around whether the trial tribunal had jurisdiction to adjudicate on alleged invalid sponsorship predicated on alleged infraction of section 183 of the constitution as a post-election litigation, and whether Jegede a member and candidate of PDP had the locus standi to question matter relating to APC sponsorship of Akeredolu as its candidate.

The foregoing is the reason the Court of Appeal held at page 71 of the leading judgment observed inter alia, that:“… one cannot divorce issue 2 from issue 1, they are intertwined. Issues 4 and 5 are subsumed under issue 1….”

In the write-up, Akin Amuluku accused the Learned Justices of the Court of Appeal of violating a certain doctrine he termed as “doctrine of suo motu”

However, one of Akeredolu’s lead counsels, Remi Olatubora opined that there is no such doctrine in law.

The former Attorney General disclosed that there is a rule which requires that a court cannot raise an issue not submitted by the parties for adjudication on its own self-prompting (i.e. suo motu) without allowing the parties to address it on it.

“The issue on which he propounded his strange “doctrine of suo motu” is the alleged failure to join Mai Bala Buni. The Court of Appeal did not raise this issue suo motu. It is unethical for a member of the Bar to make such outrageous allegation against members of the bench simply because Judges do not respond to allegations in the press.

“Contrary to the claim of the counsel, the issue of non-joinder of Buni was raised in the preliminary objections of the INEC, the APC, and Akeredolu at the trial tribunal. The petitioners, i.e Jegede and PDP responded and opposed the objections. They were resolved in favour of Akeredolu and the APC at the tribunal and the Court of Appeal. APC. The allegation that the “doctrine of suo motu” was violated is an unfair attack on the learned justices of the Court of Appeal.

“Aki Amuluku in the write-up made reference to section 137(2) of the Electoral Act which specifically dispenses with the necessity of joining officers of INEC, where INEC itself is made a respondent to a petition and postulated that the same rule ought to apply when a political party is made a respondent, as to enable an election tribunal hear complaints against members of such political party on allegation of electoral non-compliance, even when such members has not been joined as a party.

“It has to be pointed out clearly here that the rule of analogy postulated by this counsel is unknown to our adversarial system of justice. More importantly, the Electoral Act does not contain provisions similar to section 137(2) in relation to political parties. Making a political party a respondent does nor dispense with the constitutional requirement on fair hearing which required that a person against who a complaint is made, be afforded the opportunity of hearing before the court of law can validly decide his fate.

“The Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal have held in many election cases too numerous to mention that when specific allegations are made against individuals in an election petition, failure to join those individuals will render those paragraphs in which allegation as made incompetent and liable to be struck out. See Egolum v Obasanjo (1999) 7 NWLR (pt. 611) 311; Biyu v Ibrahim (2006) 8 NWLR (pt. 981) 33; Kalu v Chukwumereije (2012) 12 NWLR (pt. 1315) 425. There rule of analogy ignorantly suggested by Amuluku is on the basis of the foregoing very specious.

Speaking on the issue, the Ondo state commissioner for Information and Orientation, Donald Ojogo described Jegede’s recourse to Buni as a failed effort.

“The recourse to Buni and whether or not he signed a letter that conveyed the names of the governor is a failed attempt to corner the governorship of the state through the back door; it can’t work. How can someone who refrained from calling witnesses at the tribunal and won only three local government areas in the last election lay such a spurious claim

culled from Opera News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *