Eight state governors heaved a sigh of relief yesterday as the Supreme Court upheld their victory at the polls. They are: Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Oyo State, Seyi Makinde; Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom; Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai; Katsina, Bello Masari; Ogun, Dapo Abiodun; Nasarawa, Abdullahi Sule; and Ebonyi, David Umahi.
While affirming Makinde’s election, the apex court set aside the decision of the Appeal Court, which ordered a supplementary election in some of the contested wards in the state. The appeal court had ruled against the decision of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Oyo, State, which dismissed the petition filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Adebayo Adelabu.
The apex court held that the lower court erred by setting aside the decision of the tribunal, which upheld Makinde’s victory. It said the appeal court’s majority judgment setting aside the ruling of the tribunal deserved to be nullified. It further held that the respondents (APC and Adelabu) were unable to prove the allegations of violence and malpractices, which they claimed marred the exercise in parts of the state.
The counsel for Makinde, Chief Wole Olanipekun, had earlier urged the court to disregard and dismiss the appeal against his client’s victory at the poll. In the case of Katsina, the apex court upheld the submissions of Senior Advocate of Nigeria Lateef Fagbemi that the first respondent, Bello Masari, was eminently qualified for the March 9 governorship election.
It also agreed with Fagbemi that the appellant did not challenge the basic qualification of the governor but had resorted to mere allegations of submitting false information to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for his clearance for the said poll.
Justice Mary Peter-Odili, who delivered the lead judgment, held that the appeal by Senator Yakubu Lado lacked merit and went ahead to uphold the concurrent judgment of the tribunal and appeal court, which upheld the election of Masari.
The court in its unanimous judgment held that the appeal filed by Isa Hashiru, candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9 governorship election against the victory of El-Rufai lacked merit.
The appeal of David Ombugadu, the PDP candidate in Nasarawa, against the election of Governor Sule was also dismissed for lacking merit.
According to the judges, the appellants in the two different appeals brought before the court failed to substantiate their claims of irregularities and substantial non-compliance with the electoral laws. The judgment noted that the two appellants did not show evidence to warrant the setting aside of the concurrent decisions of the tribunal and appeal court. The appeals filed against Ebonyi, Ogun, and Lagos governors were similarly dismissed for lacking merit and failing to substantiate the allegations raised.
Reacting to Makinde’s victory, Oyo State APC chapter in a statement by its spokesperson, Olatunde Azeez, admitted it had exhausted all legal means of resolving the election dispute and urged people in the state to remain law-abiding. It congratulated Makinde and charged him to “utilise the opportunity of the validation of his mandate to focus on governance and remove himself from pettiness because as governor of the state, he is governor of all Oyo State indigenes, not just a section.”
Udom, in a statement by his chief press secretary, Ekerete Udoh, extended his hands of fellowship to “brothers and sisters on the other side of the political divide to come and let us build our dear state together. The period of politicking and litigations are over, it’s time now for governance.” He said the Nigerian judiciary had “again risen to defend our democracy. And for this, I say thank you for being the last bastion for the common man.”
Reacting to his triumph, Governor Sule said it was his “personal conviction and firm belief that those who challenged our election victory in court were moved by patriotism. We therefore do not consider ourselves as winners and do not see the opposition, who challenged our election victory, as losers. We are all one people bound by the common desire to serve our people and develop Nasarawa State.”
Reacting to Abiodun’s win, the APC chapter in Ogun State noted: “The highest court in the land has spoken, therefore the needless distraction arising from day-dreaming litigations and court-shopping syndrome have been finally and permanently buried.”
In a statement by the publicity secretary of its caretaker committee, Tunde Oladunjoye, the party said: “Our governor can now squarely face the business of governance in the execution of the mandate freely given to him by the good people of Ogun State.”