The September 19 governorship election in Edo State has come and gone, but the contest is not over yet as the battle shifts to the courts, FELIX NWANERI reports
The governorship election in Edo State lived to pre-poll billing that it would be a test of might between the country’s leading political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
After a keenly contested poll, the governorship candidate of the PDP and incumbent governor of the state, Godwin Obaseki, polled 307,955 votes across the 18 local government areas of the state to defeat his closest rival, Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu, who scored 223,619 votes.
Though the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has presented a Certificate of Return to Obaseki, there is no doubt that the contest for the Edo State government house is yet to be over as the battle has moved to the courts.
While Ize-Iyamu had on October 5, disclosed that he would rather continue with his two pre-election cases in court against the PDP, Obaseki and his running mate, Philip Shaibu, challenging their eligibility to contest the election rather than approach the Edo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, three political parties and their candidates have filed petitions against the victory of the PDP candidate. Ize-Iyamu had in a statement he personally signed, said: “Elections are far more than actual voting, just as democracy includes more than just elections.
It is in this light that we draw attention to the fact that the PDP and its standard-bearers (Obaseki and Shaibu) have continued to pursue many pre-election suits in various courts against us, all totalling 13. One of such cases came up in the High Court of Benin on October 2, days after the election.
“On our part, we had filed two pre-election cases against the PDP and its standard bearers, challenging their eligibility to contest the election. These are all lawful and integral parts of the electoral process in any democracy, which we must all respect and acknowledge, as genuine democrats.
“The outcome of these pending cases has direct effect on the election. Consequently, we have decided to continue with our pre-election cases in full exercise of our legal rights, just as our opponents have considered it their prerogative to also continue with their pre-election cases against us. “Our cause to uplift our state, using the democratic system, is a noble mission, from which we shall never waiver.
As law-abiding citizens, we must all continue to believe in the electoral process as an important part of the democratic system, as it remains the best method of choosing who leads the people, devoid of violence and avoidable acrimony.”
Those who have taken their respective cases to the tribunal are the candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and its governorship candidate, Iboi Emmanuel; Action Alliance (AA) and its standard bearer, Ukonga Onaivi and the Action Peoples Party (APP), without joining its governorship candidate.
Last Saturday (October 10) was the last day for filing of petitions by political parties and their candidates and respondents in the various petitions have 21 days, from the dates they are filed to respond to the petitions/allegations levelled, after which the inaugural sitting of the tribunal would be held.
The APP, in its petition, which had Obaseki, PDP and INEC as respondents, with reference number: EPT/ED/GOV/02/2020; claimed that it was unlawfully excluded from the election.
Also, AA in a petition with reference number: EPT/ED/ GOV/03/2020, claimed that its candidate was also excluded unlawfully, in spite of being the validlynominated candidate of the party.
Consequently, both parties and their governorship candidate prayed the tribunal to nullify the September 19 governorship election and order for a fresh poll within 90 days, so that their respective validly- nominated candidates would be included in the new ballot papers.
The ADP and its candidate, the first to approach the tribunal, have INEC, PDP, Obaseki, APC and its governorship candidate, Ize-Iyamu as respondents to their petition.
The party and its candidate are praying the tribunal to disqualify Obaseki over the controversy tailing his first degree certificate from the University of Ibadan (UI), nullify votes cast for him and order INEC to conduct a fresh election that will exclude the PDP and its candidate.
ADP’s National Chairman, Yabagi Yusuf Sani, who spoke on the party’s petition, said the decision to take the legal action was aimed at strengthening democratic rule. According to him, the party believes that the court should determine the propriety of Obaseki’s educational certificates and the process that led to his selection as the candidate of the PDP for the poll.
His words: “The questions are very simple. Can a candidate buy nomination forms from two parties in the same election cycle? Can a student get into a university with just three credits and without Mathematics and English? “Can a political party shift the date of the sales of its nomination forms after giving INEC and the public a date? Can a political party extend the date of its primaries with just five days’ notice to INEC, when the Electoral Act stipulates seven days? Can a dead and buried vice chancellor sign a student’s result and date it after his death?” “Most importantly, if any of these issues is resolved in the negative, can the PDP be said to have fielded a candidate in the Edo State governorship election? “We should all be thankful to our candidate, Iboyi Emmanuel, who has gone to court to ask these fundamental questions on behalf of Nigerians. The man will end up deepening our democracy. “This country shouldn’t be about political parties; it should be about laws, justice and equity. I want to assure you that we are ready to prosecute this matter to a logical conclusion until justice is done to the great people of Edo State.” Reacting to the different suits against its candidate, the PDP said they will not achieve any good result. The party, particularly, said that Ize-Iyamu’s attempt to justify the legal actions against it, Obaseki and Shaibu is destined to fail. A statement by Edo State PDP Publicity Secretary, Chris Nehikhare, read in part: “Hope is the currency of politicians. We are aware that the only currency left to share within the APC and Edo Peoples Movement (EPM) is the currency of hope. The futile preelection matter is to act as oxygen for the few remaining Edo people still in APC/EPM bondage. They are to be fed hope as a strategy, so that the shackles fitted to their ankles and wrists can be maintained. “The defeated APC’s governorship candidate in Edo stated that the election, which has been adjudged as one of the best in the history of the country, was characterised by violence, manipulation and disenfranchisement, among others, but he would not challenge it at the election petitions tribunal. “We reject and condemn his jaundiced position on the election and wish to advise him to show respect to the wishes of Edo people. He should respect their views and decisions as Edo State has been very kind to him. “Pastor Ize-Iyamu should know that he cannot retrieve what he lost at the poll at the court. The PDP, Governor Obaseki, Shaibu and other Edo people are waiting for him.” While Nigerians wait for the legal fireworks to commence at the various courts, it is expected that justice should not only be done but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.