Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)
The Supreme Court in a split judgment of four-to-three on Wednesday upheld the victory of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress at the Ondo State governorship poll.
It upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and the Ondo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in the appeal brought before it by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Eyitayo Jegede, challenging the victory of Akeredolu, saying the petitioners failed to include the Yobe State Governor and Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the APC, Mai Mala Buni, as a party
In a majority judgment delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, four of the seven-member panel dismissed the appeal by Jegede and the PDP on the grounds that it lacked merit.
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Justice Agim held that “the appeal lacked merit since the appellants failed to include Yobe State Governor and Chairman Caretaker Committee of the All Progressives Congress, Mai Mala Buni, as a party in the suit.”
This brought to an end the legal battle that had trailed the October 10 election that brought in Akeredolu.
However, the minority judgment read by Justice Mary Peter-Odili, and backed by Justices Tijjani Abubakar, and Ejembi Eko, held that the appeal should be allowed.
Justice Peter-Odili said since the APC was the principal and was made a party, there “is no need to join Buni in the suit.”
Recall that the Court of Appeal sitting in Akure, the Ondo State capital, had on June 16 dismissed the appeal by Jegede against Akeredolu.
The state election petition tribunal had earlier struck out the petition of the PDP candidate for lack of merit.
The appeal court, having examined the seven grounds of appeal of the appellant, had dismissed the appeal, saying it lacked merit.
In his petition, Jegede had alleged massive irregularities at the poll. He had also alleged that Akeredolu was not validly nominated on the ground that the Mai Mala Buni-led executive was not legally constituted.
Akeredolu woos Jegede
Meanwhile, Akeredolu on Wednesday in his reaction lauded the Supreme Court judges for standing by the truth.
He called on Jegede to join him in his efforts to move the state forward.
He said, “I have every reason to thank God and appreciate our judiciary for standing by the truth and for not yielding to any influence.
“My advice to Jegede is that, this has ended now. Let him come, let us work together, at least for the uplift of Ondo State. I don’t doubt his love for the state…. Let him come over, let us work together and work for this state.”
Similarly, the state chapter of the APC, in a statement by its state Publicity Secretary, Mr Alex Kalejaiye, said, “The party enjoins the governor and his deputy to put the legal gymnastics and distractions behind them, and focus on their selfless approach to governance, in the interest of every resident of the state.”
Also, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday congratulated Akeredolu on his victory.
The president, in message by his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, urged the governor, and all elected leaders of the governing party, to always place the people first.
The President said, “The Supreme Court Judgment preceded by that of the Court of Appeal, further bolsters the strength and reach of the APC, and its bright chances of consolidation in coming elections.’’
Likewise, the Lagos State Governor Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Gboyega Akosile, said the verdict put paid to all insinuations and doubts about the victory of Akeredolu.
Sanwo-Olu, who was the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress Committee on the Ondo State governorship election, said, “I therefore call on all lovers of democracy, especially the people of Ondo State to come together for a continuation of good governance and the developmental process of Ondo.”
Also, the Osun State Governor, Adegboyega Oyetola, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismail Omipidan on Wednesday, said, “It is my hope that the opposition will team up with my brother Governor to move Ondo forward in the overall interest of the state.”
Jegede, accepts defeat, congratulates Akeredolu
However, Jegede on Wednesday said he had accepted the judgement of the Supreme Court.
In a statement he titled, titled, ‘Ondo State, it is time to give glory to GOD,’ Jegede congratulated the APC candidate on the victory, saying his loss had not reduced his respect for the judiciary.
The statement reads partly, “Now that we have explored the grievance procedure permitted by the constitution and the law, it is time to give glory to God… With this outcome, our respect and reverence for the judiciary and our justices of the Supreme Court has not diminished. I congratulate His Excellency Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN.”
Verdict, test of democracy – PDP
However, the state chapter of the PDP in a statement by the Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Kennedy Peretei, said, “The Supreme Court is the ‘Guardian Angel’ of our constitution and democracy. To ensure that nobody tramples upon it without consequence. To this end, the judgement will also go into history as one of the major tests of our democracy which ought to be guided by the rule of law.”