The winner and loser in the Edo governorship trial contest head for the Court of Appeal to contest the verdict of the Election Petition Tribunal faulting certain parts of the judgment
Under normal circumstances, the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate in the September 28, 2016, governorship election in Edo State, Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki, should be toasting to its victory at the state governorship election petition tribunal on Friday, April 14, 2017. The three-man election petition tribunal which had as chairman, Ahmed Badamasi, and Gilbert Ngele and Khadi Usman as members, had in its judgment, dismissed the petition filed by Osagie Ize-Iyamu, a pastor, and his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for lacking in merit. The PDP candidate and his party did not waste time in denouncing the judgment and indicating their intention to challenge it at the Court of Appeal, even up to the Supreme Court.
The PDP filed 41 grounds of appeal Friday, April 28, 2017, at the Court of Appeal sitting in Benin. Interestingly, the APC in whose favour the pendulum of victory swung, similarly filed a cross-appeal May 3, 2017, at the same court. According to the notice of cross-appeal, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Obaseki and the APC, said they were dissatisfied with a certain part of the decision of the tribunal contained in its judgment. To political watchers, it was curious that a party that won the case at the tribunal could still be challenging the same judgment that granted all its reliefs. Osarodion Ogie, a lawyer, and secretary to the state government explained the rationale behind the action of his party. Ogie said the party believed the tribunal erred in law in refusing to strike out certain paragraphs from Ize-Iyamu’s petition, which could have rendered it dead on arrival on the ground that it would not want the petition defeated on the technical ground. He said what the three-man panel was supposed to be concerned about was the position of the law on the issue. According to Ogie, “we want some certain principles of law to be re-established by the superior court for the future. Not that we have lost anything; no. But there are certain principles of law that should go to the Court of Appeal. We want a pronouncement again just to reaffirm our position that we were right on those issues. That is the purpose; because tomorrow, those ones can be the issues in some other petitions. Then you ask: what is the position of the Supreme Court on that?” Ogie said the same reason informed the decision of the APC to appeal one of the rulings of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court, stressing that “we won at the end of the day at the Court of Appeal, but it was still an issue we believe should be settled in law”.
The PDP, however, disagreed with Ogie that the APC won at the Appeal Court. Speaking to the magazine, Chris Agbonwanegbe, also a lawyer, who served as the state returning officer for his party during the disputed governorship election, said the APC indeed lost the two grounds of appeal it took to the appellate court on the issue of ballot paper recount in respect of four local government areas. “They made a prayer to the tribunal that the outcome, even though it was not conclusive, should not be used at all. Then the court of appeal said we cannot say that; that will be pre-empting the tribunal; but whatever they want to do with it because what has happened is like a visit to locus in quo. They (APC) also said the tribunal ought not to have made the order at all for a recount. Those were the two applications they took to that place. The court now said they made the order rightly; that there was a paragraph of pleading in the petition saying they want the thing to be counted on the floor of the tribunal. So, the two things they took to the Court of Appeal, they lost”.
Whatever may be the case, both parties will meet at the appellate court where issues will be sorted out, or finally at the Supreme Court, where matters will be laid to rest. In the meantime, the legal fireworks continue.