The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed an appeal filed by People’s Democratic Party and it’s Ondo State governorship candidate Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) that challenged the election of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In a split decision of 4 to 3 , a panel of seven justices of the apex Court who heard Jegede’s appeal affirmed Governor Akeredolu victory at the poll that was conducted on October 20, 2020.
Jegede and the PDP had approached the apex court to upturn the decision of the appellate court and declare them as winner of the October 20, 2020 on grounds that Akeredolu was not validly nominated as candidate of the APC in the said election.
Acting Chairman of the APC, Mr Mai Buni who double as the Governor of Yobe State had forwarded the name of Akeredolu to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as candidate of the APC in the October 20, 2020 poll.
Buni was appointed on acting capacity by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC in May last year, after Court of Appeal sacked Comrade Adams Oshiomhole from office as the National Chairman of the party.
But the petitioners in their appeal argued that Buni according to section 183 of the constitution and article 17(4) of the APC, cannot function as Governor and acting Chairman of the APC concurrently.
They submitted that Akeredolu’s nomination breached the law, hence his election should be nullified.
However, while four of the justices of the apex court held that the appeal filed by Jegede and PDP was incompetent because it did not include Buni as a party, three other Justices in the panel held that it was not necessary to join Buni since the APC which is the principal has already been made a party to the suit.
In the majority decision delivered by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that failure of the appellants to include Buni as a party was fatal to their case.
According to Justice Agim, all the issues in the appeal revolved around Buni and so ought to be made a party.
In his judgment dismissing the appeal, Justice Inyang Okoro, held that the allegations made against Buni are grievous and so should be made a party to explain his side. This position was also canvassed by Justices Mohammed Garuba and Mohammed Abubakar.
But in their dissenting judgment, Justice Mary Peter-Odili,who presided over the panel and Justices Ejembi Eko and Ibrahim Saulawa held that Jegede’s was meritorious and allowed it.
She stated that since the All Progressives Congress (APC),which is the principal was already a party to the suit, it was not necessary to join Buni.
“Buni is just an agent while APC is the principal, presiding Justice Mary Peter-Odili stated in her dissenting judgement.
She said that the case of the appellants has merit and the appeal should be allowed and the election of Akeredolu nullified while the appellants declared as winner of the October 20, 2020 governorship poll.
In his own dissenting judgment, Justice Eko stated that Buni violated the Constitution when as a sitting Governor he acted as Chairman of the APC and submitted Rotimi Akeredolu’s name to INEC for purposes of the governorship poll in Ondo State.
Meanwhile, all the Justices dismissed the cross appeals filed by INEC and APC for being academic.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had declared APC and Akeredolu winner of the Ondo Governorship Election held on October 20, 2020 having won majority of votes cast at the poll.
But, the People’s Democratic Party and Eyitayo Jegede who were the runner up filed petition and claimed that Akeredolu’s election was a nullity and should be nullified as he was not lawfully nominated.
The Ondo State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, led by Justice Umar Abubakar struck out Jegede petition for lacking jurisdiction in the matter.
“Issues raised therein in this petition are settled issue of internal affairs and management of a political party on which this tribunal has no jurisdiction,” Mr Abubakar held.
Mr Abubakar, who delivered the judgment via zoom, therefore upheld the re-election of Mr Akeredolu for four years second tenure as governor of Ondo State.
Dissatisfied with the tribunal decision Jegede appealed had against it at the Court of Appeal.
A Court of Appeal panel presided over by Justice Theresa Orji-Abadua upheld the judgment of the tribunal and dismissed the appeal for lacking merit.