By Jacob Akpagbo
On Saturday, September 30, the Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal gave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the March 18, 2023 governorship election a reality check, throwing out their frivolous, vexatious and error-laden petition against Governor Dapo Abiodun and the All Progressives Congress (APC). In its unanimous judgment that lasted more than 11 hours , the tribunal struck out the petition for being “incompetent, defective, disjunctive and lacking merit.”
The three members of the panel, headed by Justice Hamidu Kunaza, held that the petitioners failed to prove their allegations of non-compliance, overvoting, disenfranchisement of voters and corrupt practices during the polls. Said panel: “On the whole, the petitioners have not successfully proved the allegation of non-compliance with the Electoral Act and have not discharged the burden of proof”. The panel made it clear that there was no direct evidence to prove that voters were disenfranchised, that none of the witnesses established the allegation of corrupt practices against Governor Abiodun, and that the petitioners failed to show that the governor was tried, arraigned and convicted in the United States. Said Justice Kunaza said, “I uphold the election of Dapo Abiodun as the duly elected governor of Ogun State in the March 18 election.” And then the petitioners shed hypocritical tears, bowed by shame and mired in their own malfeasance.
The judgment could not have gone the other way, because the petitioners turned the March 18 election, which they approached with desperation, into a joke in court, claiming that Governor Abiodun’s declaration as governor by INEC was merely purported. This, coming from a party whose vote buying antics were unmasked for all to see, and whose candidate is still on the run weeks after the Federal Government charged him with criminal conspiracy, vote buying and electoral subversion, was indeed strange. Details about the verve credit cards issued in the name of the candidate’s late mother, preloaded with N10,000 each and distributed to induce voters during the election, as well as the financial institutions that aided the crime, are all in the public domain, together with the testimonies of key witnesses and media reports of the arrests made during the election by security agencies. Vote buyers caught in their ignoble practice went to court to accuse Governor Abiodun of vote buying. They boasted to no end that the tribunal was going to ignore law and logic and award them undeserved victory, and came to court premises with song and dance, hoping to reap where they did not sow, a bunch of political marauders and pirates promoting the monetization of the electoral process as a grand tactic. They claimed that they scored the majority of lawful votes after APC’s unlawful votes are deducted and their own excluded votes added, but they never proved the unlawful votes credited to Abiodun or the source of their excluded votes, even as the figures in the petition (63,015 and 35,228) conflicted with the figures in their witness’ report (62,998 and 34,368). Never in the history of election petitioning in the country has a tribunal been beset with such a load of junk, puerile arguments and tortured logic.
For Governor Abiodun, all of this is no surprise. Throughout his political career, he has faced adversity. Nigerians cannot have forgotten the political landmines put in his way when he ran for governor in 2019. His posters were torn and his supporters, identified by their yellow vests, harassed and hounded. Even when he won election, he received no hand over notes, and the open-roof vehicle he used during inauguration was borrowed from another state. The challenges he has faced since March 18 are eerily similar to those he faced in 2019 when the then political Establishment sought to change his destiny without success. The lesson, quite simply, is that anyone who wishes to triumph must face adversity. As they say, nothing good comes easy. If he had got a second term without adversity, many of those thanking God on his behalf now would not really have appreciated what God has done for him. Given what he faced before his first swearing in, many could be forgiven for believing that he would be allowed to govern in peace. But that was not the case. His predecessor, who declared him his arch enemy, started campaigns of calumny around the state, declaring that he (Abiodun) would not get a second term of office. Like he did in 2019, Ibikunle Amosun got a candidate installed in an opposition party, ADC, and kicked off frenetic campaigns across the state, vowing to unseat him (Abiodun) and calling him names.
As Amosun rode his rebel train, his major challenger in the March 18 2023 polls, as the nation would later discover through the charges preferred against him by the Federal Government, was perfecting plans to buy votes. As if that was not enough, former Governor Gbenga Daniel, a man whom he (Abiodun) had helped to secure a senatorial seat and support with all necessary logistics, made a 360 degrees turn against him at the governorship polls, canvassing support for the opposition in all Ijebu/Remo axis. Many people believed that Abiodun was finished; some appointees clandestinely worked against him. But he triumphed. And then came the tribunal war when the adversaries, deploying their huge financial war chest in service of political propaganda, and using hack and hired writers heavily mobilized with bribes, dominated the airwaves, proclaiming their ‘impending victory’ over the governor and his party. But at the eleventh hour, just as the timeline for dispensing with electoral petitions was about to end, the Ogun Election Petitions Tribunal delivered a landmark judgment that exposed the shenanigans of his adversaries. Anyone backed by God will always triumph, no matter the opposition.
The people of Ogun State know that their governor means well; they know that he means to change the face of development in the state, building infrastructure and attracting investments. The future promises to be exciting.
Akpagbo sent this piece through firstname.lastname@example.org