Alhaji Ahmed Raji SAN is one of the lawyers who defended Governor Seyi Makinde at the Appeal Court in an appeal filed against his election by the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State, Chief Bayo Adelabu. He speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on the judgment delivered by the higher court on Monday last week, submitting that nothing has changed with the judgment regarding to position of Makinde as the governor.
The Court of Appeal judgment, which set aside the judgment of the election tribunal in the case filed by the APC governorship candidate, Chief Bayo Adelabu, has left tongues wagging because it is sort of hanging.
The judgment, as far as the Appeal Court did not say it nullified the election. It is not hanging. The election was not nullified and if the election and the returning of Engineer Seyi Makinde as the duly elected governor of Oyo State is not set aside, the governor remains.
But the judgment of the tribunal which affirmed his victory has been set aside…
Yes, it was set aside and the Appeal Court Justices went ahead to say that they have examined the evidence that the appellants claimed were not examined by the tribunal. After evaluating it, they said there was no basis for nullifying the election. The complaints of the appellants were about non-compliance with the election guidelines released for the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They did not talk about violation of the Electoral Act. And since it is complaints about the guidelines and not the Electoral Act, such complaints will not lead to the nullification of the election. So, the result of the election stands since it was not nullified.
All the Court of Appeal said was that the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal ought to have listened to certain aspects of their claims or ought to have considered some materials that they did not consider. However, this or any other claim will not amount to anything because it did not amount to the violation of the Electoral Act. You can quote me as saying it is a valueless victory for the appellants and a tacit endorsement of the victory of Governor Makinde. The governor remains.
If it is a valueless victory, does it then mean the Appeal Court is trying to push both parties to the Supreme Court to decide what the issues in dispute are?
No, it does not mean that. What it means is that if no step is taken, the status quo remains and who benefits from status quo? It is Governor Makinde. If they appeal the judgment of the Appeal Court, we will also appeal. If they don’t appeal, we don’t need to appeal. Right now, except they make further move, they have nothing in their hand.
Chief Adelabu, in a statement after the judgment, said he will approach the Apex Court to reclaim his mandate, which, according to him, the Court of Appeal judgment has helped him to brighten the hope of recovering
Let him go to the Supreme Court, we will meet there then.
So, it does not bother you that an Osun State scenario can play out in the case in Oyo?
Osun scenario can never happen in Oyo.
Are you saying the cases are not similar?
They are not in any way related.
The Appeal Court, in the Osun case, also set aside the decision of the tribunal.
No, what the Appeal Court said in the case of Osun was to nullify the decision of the election tribunal outright. In the case of Adeleke versus Oyetola, the Appeal Court set aside the judgment of the majority of the tribunal members which declared Adeleke as the duly elected governor. The tribunal, by majority, gave it to Adeleke. But the Court of Appeal set it aside. So, what the Supreme Court did was to restore the minority judgment of the tribunal. So, they are not similar.
Part of the complaints in the case by the appellants in Oyo was that they were not given fair hearing and the Court of Appeal agreed with them on this.
Fair hearing on what point? On a point that will not add up? They are just complaining about fair hearing on a point that will not add up. The Appellate Court Justices, in their judgment, are saying, yes, they were not given fair hearing, but the point on which they claimed they were not heard did not matter and could not have led to the nullification of the election. So, the Court of Appeal, by its judgment, is saying even if they were heard, it would not have amounted to anything for them. The Court of Appeal went further to say that it has examined the point on which they claimed they were not heard and found nothing upon which to nullify the election. So, what else do they want? I agree with the Court of Appeal that even if the tribunal had listened to and heard them, it would still not add up or amount to anything to warrant the nullification of the election. What the lower court said was that it did not need to hear them because they did not make any point. The Court of Appeal now said no, the tribunal should have heard them, even though it would not add up. Therefore, the tribunal erred by not hearing them.