There was jubilation on Friday after the Edo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal dismissed a petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party and its candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, challenging the declaration of Godwin Obaseki of the All Progressives Congress as winner of the September 28, 2016 governorship election.
In a two-hour ruling read by the Chairman of the three-man panel by Justice Ahmed Badamasi, the tribunal also upheld the return of Obaseki as governor of the state by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The tribunal held that the petition lacked merit as the petitioners failed to prove their case.
The PDP and Ize-Iyamu had in the substantive petition marked, “EPT/EDS/GOV/2/2016,” urged the tribunal to declare him as the rightful winner of the election, having scored the highest number of votes cast.
They had listed INEC, Obaseki and APC as first, second and third respondents, respectively, and called 92 witnesses to prove their case.
Prior to the ruling, there was a heavy presence of security operatives on major routes leading to the venue of the tribunal.
In a unanimous ruling on the five issues for determination, including the identity of the first petitioner, allegations of non-compliance with electoral procedures and corrupt practices during the election, the tribunal held that the first petitioner had the locus standi to file a petition, having been sponsored by the PDP.
It said, “In the instant case, the first petitioner has pleaded that he contested the election, ab initio, and the second respondent has admitted that in his reply to the petition.
“Again, the first petitioner in its affidavit in support averred that Ize-Iyamu Osagie is his given name, Andrew is his baptismal name and Pastor is a prefix to his name. These averments are not controverted in the further affidavit of the second respondent.
“We are of the view that the name Ize-Iyamu Osagie is the same as Pastor Ize-Iyamu Osagie Andrew.”
However, on whether there were corrupt practices during the election and whether the second respondent deserved the votes he was said to have scored, it held that it was on record that no single witness of the petitioners cited any issue of corrupt practice, adding that the petitioners chose to confine their case to non-compliance and, therefore, abandoned their pleadings on the former.
It held, “It is the duty of the petitioners to show credible evidence that they scored the highest number of lawful votes to the first petitioner and satisfied the requirements.
“From the witnesses presented by the petitioners, none of them alluded to the issue of wrongful votes. And in fact, their testimonies were discredited under cross-examination.”
On the recounting of ballot papers used for the conduct of the election in four local government areas, the tribunal held that the report of the recounting exercise filed by its secretary was inconclusive since the exercise itself was never concluded.
This, it said amounted to dumping the documents before the tribunal.
The tribunal said, “The petitioners have not, in our view, led credible evidence to justify the ground of their reliefs and we so hold.
“On the whole, we hold that the petitioners have no credible evidence to prove their case and they have failed to show that they are entitled to their reliefs. Accordingly, the petition is, therefore, dismissed.
“The election of the second respondent, Godwin Obaseki, is hereby upheld.”
However, Ize-Iyamu rejected the ruling of the tribunal and vowed not to only appeal the judgment, but also to pursue his case up to the Supreme Court.
No sooner had the tribunal pronounced its judgement than the arena erupted in jubilation by members of the APC, their supporters and some of their lawyers.
The governor, who was accompanied by his deputy, Philip Shaibu, on a motorcade, commended the judges and his counsel for what he described as an “amazing job.”