THE Supreme Court, yesterday, in a split decision of four-to-three, upheld the electoral victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, and dismissed the appeal brought before it by candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the governorship election of October 10, 2020, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN.
A seven-man panel of justices of the Supreme Court heard the appeal.
While the majority judgment that affirmed Akeredolu’s victory was delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the dissenting minority verdict that upheld Jegede’s appeal was delivered by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, who was the head of the panel.
The apex court, in its majority verdict, said it found no reason to set aside the concurrent judgements of both the Court of Appeal and the Ondo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which earlier dismissed Jegede and PDP’s case for being incompetent.
Jegede and his party, PDP, had approached the apex court to void July 16, 2021, judgement of the Court of Appeal in Akure, which validated Akeredolu’s election.
The appellate court had affirmed the decision of the tribunal which dismissed the joint petition Jegede and the PDP lodged against the declaration of Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the valid winner of the Ondo gubernatorial contest.
Jegede and PDP had in their case, queried the legal validity of Akeredolu’s nomination by the National Caretaker Committee of the APC headed by the Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mal Buni.
They specifically urged the court to determine whether Buni, as a sitting governor of Yobe state, could double as National Chairman of the APC to sign the nomination of Akeredolu, SAN, for the governorship election.
However, the Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua led panel of the appellate court dismissed their case which it said only succeeded in part.
Though the appellate court acknowledged that the issue raised by the Appellants, had constitutional implication, it, however, held that non-joinder of Buni as a party in the matter proved fatal to Jegede’s case.
The appellate court, therefore, declined to set aside the decision of the election tribunal, which held that the issue of Buni signing Akeredolu’s nomination form, was an internal affair of the APC.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Jegede and PDP, through their counsel, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, approached the Supreme Court, urging it to determine whether it was a matter of necessity to join the Chairman, APC National Caretaker Committee and Governor Buni, in the petition he lodged against Akeredolu’s candidature, despite immunity provided for governors in Section 308 of the 1999 constitution.
On his part, Akeredolu, aside from seeking the dismissal of the appeal, also lodged his Cross-Appeal contending that Jegede’s petition was statute-barred.
He argued that both the tribunal and the appellate court erred in law by not declaring Jegede’s case as statute-barred.
Jegede’s appeal dismissed
Meantime, in their split judgement, yesterday, while four members of the apex court panel, led by Justice Agim, agreed with the Respondents that non-joinder of Buni rendered the appeal incompetent, three others, led by Justice Peter-Odili, disagreed.
Justice Peter-Odili’s group went ahead and dismissed all the three Cross-Appeals as lacking in merit, stressing that since the APC, for which Buni acted, was a party in the case, there was no need to include him as a necessary party in the appeal against Akeredolu.
My victory is an act of God, says Akeredolu
Reacting to the Supreme Court judgement, Governor Akeredolu, who described his victory as an act of God, said: “I believe that we can still be proud of our judiciary in this country.”
Akeredolu said: “I have every reason to thank God and to appreciate our judiciary for standing by the truth and for not yielding to any influence. I believe that we can still be proud of our judiciary in this country.
“For me, it is an opportunity again for us to get on board and do more work.
“My advice to Jegede is that this has ended now. Let him come, let us work together, at least for the upliftment of Ondo State. I don’t doubt his love for the state.
“Let him come over, let us work together and work for this state. It has ended here.”
We accept defeat — Jegede, PDP
Also reacting to the verdict, the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Jegede said he has accepted defeat.
Jegede, in a statement, said: “Now that we havenexplored the grievance procedure permitted by the constitution and the law, it is time to give glory to God.
“The outcome of the judgement should not deter good and well-meaning individuals from aspiring for leadership in our state and our country. For all our people who have stood strong, we salute you.
“With this outcome, our respect and reverence for the judiciary and our justices of the supreme court has not diminished. I congratulate Governor Oluwarotimi
Similarly, in a statement, the PDP Publicity Secretary in Ondo State, Mr. Kennedy Peretei said: “The PDP in Ondo State and its candidate have accepted the verdict of the Supreme Court being the apex court in the land.
“Our party wishes to encourage all our party supporters to remain steadfast and be consoled that, we fought a good fight, from the beginning to the end.”
Buhari, APC hail judgment
Similarly, President Muhammadu Buhari, who felicitated with Governor Akeredolu urged the governor, and all elected leaders of the APC, to always place the people first in their consideration of development programmes and projects.
The President, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina extolled Akeredolu “for assiduously working for the development of the state, with reforms that continue to attract the goodwill of investors, and insistence that education, health and security take priority.”
Also, the APC, in the statement by the National Secretary of its Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, CECPC, Sen. John Akpanudoedehe said: “Governor Akeredolu has followed up his people-oriented policies with several other developmental inititiatives which are returning Ondo State to its deserved status and consolidating on the landmark and progressive legacies of late Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, the first civilian governor of the state”.
Verdict is sound, faultless —Ondo APC
Also, the state chairman of the APC in the state, Mr. Ade Adetimehin, said: “The party is thrilled by the resolve of the apex court to uphold the decisions of the lower courts on the petition. The truth is always constant.”
It’s a validation of people’s mandate, says Sanwo-Olu Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, on his part, described the verdict as a “validation of the people’s mandate.”
Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Gboyega Akosile, said: “As democrats, we must submit ourselves to the tenets of democracy, which include post-election litigation.
Today’s judgment has put paid to all insinuations and doubts about the resounding victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu.
“I, therefore, call on all lovers of democracy, especially the people of Ondo State to come together for a continuation of good governance and the developmental process of Ondo, started by Governor Akeredolu from his first term of office.”
It’s a sound judgement, deserving–Oyetola
On his part, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State described the judgement as a ‘sound one’ and deserving victory.
Oyetola, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan said: “The judgement has put to an end the needless bickering and distractions that greeted the election. I hope that the opposition will team up with my brother Governor to move Ondo forward in the overall interest of the State.”