APC, PDP supporters clash as Ondo governorship election tribunal begins sitting

The Ondo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on Tuesday commenced sitting on the petitions filed against the winner of the October 10, 2020 governorship election in the state, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the election, Mr Eyitayo Jegede. 

This is just as the supporters of the two rival political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP clashed at the court premises, with some of the supporters injured during the clash. 

The PDP and Jegede in their petitions are seeking nullification of the election which produced Akeredolu as the governor of the state for a second term.  

Akeredolu was declared the winner of the governorship election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Speaking at the inaugural sitting in Akure, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Umar Abubakar warned counsels appearing before the tribunal against influencing members of the tribunal. 

Abubakar who solicited for the cooperation of all the interested parties towards accelerated sitting maintained that all contact should be channelled through the registrar of the tribunal.

According to the chairman of the tribunal, “Each and every one of the petitions is time-bound. There should be no communication, be it official or private with any member of the tribunal. All means of communication should be channelled through the registrar.

“Whatever relationship with any member before now should not be exhibited throughout the sitting.”

The two leading counsels, Lateef Fagbemi for APC and Onyechi Ikpeazu for PDP, pledged that all necessary cooperation would be extended to the tribunal, saying no time would be wasted during the sitting.

The grounds of the petition filed by Jegede include “that Rotimi Akeredolu was not validly nominated by his party, the APC. By the provisions of section 183 of the 1999 Constitution, a serving Governor of a state (in this case, Yobe State Governor Mai Mala Buni) can not serve as the National Chairman of APC at the same time to nominate Akeredolu as candidate of their party for Ondo election.

“Section 183 states that ‘The Governor shall not, during the period when he holds office, hold any other executive office or paid employment in any capacity whatsoever.”

Jegede added in the petition that “Article 17, section 1V of the APC Constitution also provides that, any official of the party cannot simultaneously occupy any other executive office in government.

“The election was marred with violence in some Local Government Areas as well as over voting in other areas.”

Meanwhile, the two political parties traded blames over the fracas within the court, while PDP alleged APC of mobilising political thugs to the court, APC described the allegation as unreasonable desperation by the PDP to smear the party. 

In a statement by the PDP Publicity Secretary,  Kennedy Peretei, explained that “APC thugs under the leadership of one “Chemical”  bombarded the venue, harassing, molesting, beating up, shooting sporadically into the air and attacking anyone perceived to be a supporter of the PDP. 

“The APC thugs caused so much panic and confusion within the arena. It took the combined efforts of the army and policemen to restore order.”

But the APC Publicity Secretary,  Alex Kalejaye, said the ruling party has no reason to mobilise thugs to the venue of the governorship tribunal, sitting in Akure.

He said, “The APC in Ondo State parades unequalled disposition to peaceful conducts and approaches to issues, and therefore would not promote nor condone thuggery for whatever gains.

“We learnt, with dismay avoidable rowdiness among people that were struggling to enter the court premises. To the best of our knowledge, the desperation gave room for the clash.

“We are of the strong opinion that political parties and other stakeholders should caution their sympathisers against unruly display throughout the legal process, rather than holding APC responsible for such indecent and aggressive attitude. 

“We wish to affirm our confidence in the tribunal to dispense justice, and would therefore have no reason to encourage violent disposition, under whatever guise.”

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