At the Ekiti State Election Petition Tribunal, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has lost its bid to displace Governor Kayode Fayemi. During last weekend’s presidential and National Assembly polls, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) also defeated the opposition party. EMMANUEL OLADESU writes on the significance of the polls.

EKITI State All Progressives Congress (APC) is singing victory songs. Governor Kayode Fayemi has triumphed over his challenges, Dr. Kolapo Eleka at the governorship tribunal. The ruling party has laso beaten the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the recent presidential and National Assembly polls.

But, it remains are hurdle to cross, APC is also warming up for the House of Assembly polls in the

Fountain of Knowledge.

The tribunal, affirmed that Fayemi was duly elected in the July 14, 2018 election.

There was wild jubilation in Ado Ekiti, capital of Ekiti State when news filtered in that the tribunal sitting in Abuja, had validated the election.

Fayemi polled 197,450 votes to defeat Olusola Elekah.

The tribunal initially commenced sitting in the state, but had to relocate to Abuja for security reasons.

The joyous crowd made up of party members and folks with no known political affiliation, snaked through the Akure-Ikere-Ado-Ekiti road and caused traffic snarl. There were jubilation and wild celebrations in other parts of the state including Ijero, Aramoko, Ikere, Okemesi and Ifaki.

There was no single incident of mayhem or fracas. No clash was reported between supporters APC and PDP.

It was a wide departure what obtained during the past administration. Observers believe that the mood was indicative of a genuine victory by Fayemi.

In the past, such processions would have been met with violence from miscreants, who held the state capital by its jugular.

The jubilation was in celebration of a new dawn.

In 100 days in office, things have begun to change significantly for the people. Pensions are being paid, salaries are regular and students now enjoy free education. The aged are beginning to savour a great sense of belonging in their own state. For these people, old things have clearly passed away and suddenly, all things have become new.

Delivering the unanimous judgment, Chairman of the three-man panel of justices, Suleiman Belgore averred that the petition against Fayemi lacked merit and stated that the PDP and its candidate at the election, Elekah failed to prove its case with any credible evidence that the election that returned Fayemi was marred by irregularities.

The jurists who were disappointed in the manner the PDP pursued its case, added that some of the oral evidences provided by the petitioners supported the respondents’ case that the election was free and fair.

According to Belgore, both PDP and Elekah did not substantiate their claim that the election in many polling units were characterised by lack of accreditation, over-voting, mutilation of results, inaccurate ballot account, votes-buying and snatching of election materials as well as cancellation of results, where the PDP and its candidates secured highest number of votes among other irregularities.

He therefore, contended that, in the absence of credible evidence substantiated with pleadings, all allegations that were raised by the petitioners were therefore deemed abandoned.

“Evidence of facts not pleaded goes to nothing,” Belgore said, adding that the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), with respect to the election would continue to enjoy the assumption of regularity, until such assumption is displaced with credible evidence.

“On the whole, we hold that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations on the balance of probability. In fact, oral evidence of some of the witnesses called by the petitioners strengthened the case of the Respondents.

“It is clear that the irregularities claimed by the petition cannot be substantiated. We found no reason to disturb the results,” Belgore stated in his lead judgment.

Expectedly, the APC in the state welcomed the verdict, thus, the party mood among its supporters in the state. But it was not so within the ranks of the PDP. They had reasons not to celebrate but not justified reasons, many reckoned.

The deputy chairman of the APC Sola Eleshin described the electoral victory as well-earned without any underhand tactics to warrant cancellation of the victory by the tribunal.

THe said: “The APC did not perpetrate any electoral fraud and it expected the victory to stand.

“We’re happy over the outcome of the election, but we are not in any way surprised. The governorship election that held on July 14 2019 was transparent.

“It was clear that Governor Fayemi won fair and square, so we are not afraid even if they want to appeal the judgment, we are ready for them, because we had no skeleton in our cupboard”

The PDP said it would appeal the verdict at the appellate court as provided for in the subsisting Electoral Law.

An associate of Fayose of many years and Director of Media for the Elekah campaign, Lere Olayinka, told reporters that the PDP would appeal the judgment.

“That is not the last bus stop as regards the election petition Tribunal. The law is very clear regarding the hierarchies of courts we can approach to seek redress on this issue. We are surely going to appeal the judgement,” Olayinka said.

Analysts however feel appealing the verdict could turn out efforts in futility. Those who hold this view insisted that nothing good would come off an appeal of the verdict, more so the realities on the ground seem to support this assertion.

Unlike the Osun State governorship election, where both foreign and local observers noted glaring irregularities, including intimidation of opposition party supporters with the connivance of security agencies, such was not the case with the Ekiti election that returned Fayemi. Observers – both local and foreign – gave pass mark to INEC.

Following the rancour free-jubilation and celebrations that greeted the tribunal verdict, observers insisted, was instructive of the feeling among people of the state that Fayemi won fair and square.

The notorious faction of the union of road transport workers, who which was alleged to have been used to manipulate or cause crisis in the state also welcomed the judgment, further lending credit to the contention of observers that the verdict scored good in both the court of public opinion and the temple of justice.

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