Many Edo people are still wondering why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) still believe they can take over the reins of government in Edo State. It is simply impossible because the party left a bitter taste in the tongues of many citizens of the state. As our youths of today would put it: the PDP fucked up big time! But instead of giving up and face the reality on ground, they keep rearing their ugly heads in the state.
After the September 28, 2016 governorship poll, I had counseled the PDP to accept the outcome of the election in utmost good faith because I know that power belongs to God and he decides who he cedes power to here on earth, but they ignored my counsel and went to the tribunal to challenge the results. Fine and good for them. Part of their prayers was to have the votes recounted which the tribunal graciously granted them and the Electoral Act allows 14 days for the submission by the party and after the 14 days, you are on your own.
The petitioners’ counsel, Mallam Yusuf Alli (SAN) had filed for a ballot recount in four Local Government Areas, namely Egor, Akoko-Edo, Estako West and Estako East to prove their case
At the end of 14 days of days given to them to present their case, including the recounting, the tribunal asked them to stop and proceeded with other aspects of hearing of various parties to the dispute. They contended that the tribunal erred when it stopped the recounting of the ballot papers once the 14 days given to them to present their case have elapsed. One wonders who were those behind the PDP’s moves.
But they forget that the court is not father Christmas. The party lost at the court of first instance to challenge the stoppage of their presentation after 14 days and proceeded to the appellate court. Only last week, the Court, sitting in Benin City, threw out the appeal, which included a request by the petitioners that the time spent recounting the ballots should be restored so that they could call more witnesses.
In a unanimous judgment on the appeal, Justice Mudasiru Nasiru, who read the lead judgment, said he decided to take great caution not to go out of bounds since the tribunal was yet to deliver judgment on the main petition. He held that paragraph 41 of First Schedule of the Electoral Act prescribed the time upon which petitioners and respondents were to prove and defend their case.
The judge ruled that any action done outside the prescribed time would be a nullity and that the tribunal was right to stop the counting of ballot papers after the 14 days had elapsed.
His exact words, “Whatever any party should do to prove its case must be done within the time produced by the schedule. Once a party commences, the time prescribed to it will start to run.
“The two issues for determination are resolved against the appellants. The appeal is unmeritorious and lacked merit. It is hereby dismissed.” Period!
But has Edo PDP learnt anything from all these, the answer is simply no. They believe in chasing the wild goose. They believe in feeding legal practitioners fat. They want to spend the money as they are well known as a party that shares the money as part of its core mandate. PDP! Share the money!!
Even at the tribunal, the electoral umpire was cautious in its submission and refused to call witnesses for very obvious reasons for which the PDP like an imbecile went to town celebrating their ignorance of the law. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), recently defended its decision not to call any witnesses at the Edo Election Petition Tribunal, noting that the burden of proof never shifted from the petitioners to the respondents.
Citing the case of CPC vs INEC at the Supreme Court, Counsel to INEC, Mr. Onyebuchi Ikpeazu said, “The Supreme Court was categorical that where, in an election petition, there are allegations of non-compliance and irregularities among others, the petitioners must, prima facie, establish their case. Where they fail to, the respondents will not even be called upon to give any evidence and that is exactly where we are now”.
On its decision not to call any witness, INEC’s Counsel, Mr. Onyebuchi Ikpeazu said, “My Lords, we must draw a distinction between not calling evidence and not calling a witness. My Lords, if a party cross-examines, he has elicited evidence, and we have cited the cases on that point.
Where a party, as in this case, whose documents are tendered in evidence, that constitutes evidence with respect to the content of such documents. In this case, the petitioners themselves had tendered polling unit results and those results are presumed valid and authentic until the contrary is established. That being the case, it means that the first respondent called evidence with respect to every polling unit whose results are now before my Lords and that is the position of the Supreme Court”.
He also noted that PDP only dumped documents on the tribunal without producing competent evidence and so there was no basis for the burden to shift and that if the judges considered that position, it was immaterial whether first respondent called a witness.
Edo people are happy the way the cases were presented, and the defense put up by all accused persons. Edo people are waiting for the pontification of the tribunal any moment from now as both parties have adopted their final written addresses.
Interestingly, Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, expressed satisfaction with the conduct of counsel, adding that the date for the judgment will be communicated to them. The good news is that our justice system have come of age and the All Progressives Congress and Edo State Governor, Mr. Governor Obaseki as well as the well meaning people of Edo State are very hopeful that justice will not only be heard to have been done, but would be seen to have been done.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.