Adeniran: Supreme Court won’t legitimize APC’s attempt to steal Makinde’s mandate
Chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Dr. Nureni Adeniran, is a lawyer and the State Collation Officer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the March 9, 2019 governorship election in Oyo State. He addressed journalists on the implications of the recent Court of Appeal judgment on the election, among other issues. MUYIWA ADEYEMI, Southwest Bureau Chief reports
The recent Appeal Court judgment in the Oyo State governorship election got some people saying it was confusing How do you see it?
As far as I am concerned, I want to believe that the judgment was not controversial; it is straight-forward, though some think it was not.
Unfortunately, people don’t know the difference between judgment against an election and pronouncement against the conduct of the Tribunal. The Appeal Court, in their wisdom, said that the appellants were not given fair hearing. But I have the opportunity of reading the judgment. When you go into the nitty-gritty of the judgment, you will realise that they were even given a fair hearing; the Tribunal listened to them. They listed about 60 witnesses. They called about 27 witnesses.
In the process, they could not, with their witnesses and testimonies, establish their case. So, what the Appeal Court was saying was that some of the facts or some of the testimonies elicited through cross-examination were not evaluated. In other words, what they were saying is that the witnesses called by the respondents, may be they said something that was in support of what the appellants were saying and the Court of Appeal said that the Tribunal only evaluated the testimonies, witnesses and evidences of the appellant and not that of the respondents. And as a result of that, they believed that they were one-sided, asking ‘how can you evaluate the testimony of a particular party and you don’t do the other?’ Unfortunately, the burden of proof is on the appellants. They should prove their case. It is not for the respondents to help them establish their case. One cannot now imagine how few witnesses, may be in the process of their testimonies were partly in support of what the appellants were saying. That, to me and other right-thinking persons, is not substantial enough to override over 150,000 votes.
Secondly, the Court of Appeal went further to say that in spite of that, they believed that the appellants were not given fair hearing. Therefore, they set aside the judgment of the tribunal, because the appellants were not given fair hearing. In a normal litigation, what would have been expected is to order for a retrial, if the appellate court discovered that fair hearing was not given to either of the parties. They would order retrial. But they have been caught up by effluxion of time, because election petition is sui generis. It is in a special class in which the Electoral Act clearly states that the issue concerning the election is to be handled by the Tribunal and it must be concluded within 180 days. And the 180 days have elapsed. That is why the Appeal Court said they could not order for a retrial. That shut them down.
And they went further that they could not also nullify the election, because there is nothing on ground to use for them to nullify the election results. It is only when the election is nullified that they can either declare the appellant or order for a rerun. But the election cannot be nullified because there is nothing on ground to nullify it. And the appeal court, towards the end of their judgment, said that they even evaluated the evidence and had nothing to say; that the election could not be nullified. As far as I am concerned, it is a closed matter.
I also want to remind you that in the Electoral Act, there are only four grounds on which an election can be nullified. The first ground is if the winner of the election was not qualified. The election can be nullified on the basis of non-qualification. The second is, if the winner of the election won not by lawful majority votes. It can be nullified. Also, the election can be nullified on the basis of corrupt practices. And the last ground is if the appellant has not been validly nominated, that he was unlawfully nominated. It is clearly stated in Section 138 of the Electoral Act. Without all these grounds, there is nothing available before court to justify nullification of the election results. That was why the Court of Appeal said that the ground they (APC) had was that they were not given fair hearing.
Many people don’t understand. The APC didn’t say they won the election. What the APC did was that they failed in establishing their own case and they were making attempt to use part of the testimonies of some of our witnesses to establish their own case. Unfortunately for them, I was a star witness at the tribunal and my testimony was very clear. There was nothing to suggest that there was unlawful deed or any malpractice during the election. Being the state collating agent for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its governorship candidate in that election, every right-thinking person knows that the people of Oyo State came out in droves to reject the APC at the poll. It is not imaginable for somebody that won in five local government areas, as against someone that won in 28 local government areas, to say they are going to get it. And I am sure no court will attempt to do that.
I am also using this opportunity to warn stakeholders in Abuja to remember what happened in the First Republic in 1964. The Oyo State people have spoken and their voice was heard loud and clear. The Oyo State people are enjoying the dividends of democracy as being given by the Seyi Makinde-led government. So, I don’t think anyone, even the Supreme Court, can see this and declare someone with only five local governments winner of an election. To declare a person winner of an election, he must be ascribed with votes. So, where is the vote? In the election, everybody knows that the people of Oyo State came out joyfully to vote against and resist APC. The election was peaceful and the people resisted the violence that could have happened.
There was no casualty. The election that was very peaceful, free and credible. Nobody should think he could use the back door to get it.
I also want to warn that we are not unaware that some people, because of their selfish ambition, want to pocket the entire South-West and they know the influence of Governor Makinde is being felt in the whole South-West. So, if someone is having a presidential ambition and he believes that because Oyo State is not an APC State, he must do everything to capture it, such person has failed. Oyo State is different from other states. Oyo State is not Kogi, Kano or Osun. What they did in those states and got away with cannot be done in Oyo State. They can’t get away with it here.
The APC and its governorship candidate have since been saying that they have a date with history at the Supreme Court. Is there anything for PDP to be worried about?
They are banking on their fraudulent activities and fraudulent approaches to issues. In the first instance, some of them were
expecting the Appeal Court to do abracadabra for them. But the court’s justices didn’t go where they wanted. The result of the election could not be tampered with. Maybe they are thinking that they would be able to manipulate the Supreme Court. That is why Nigerians are saying the Supreme Court justices should not allow themselves to be manipulated against the good people of Oyo State, because if they attempt it, the result will be unthinkable.
Are you saying the pronouncement of the Appeal Court is a mere academic exercise to deepen legal knowledge?
It is an academic exercise, because they said they were not given fair hearing. Okay. How can a serious-minded litigant, having failed to establish his own case, be relying on the shortcomings of the witnesses of the respondents to establish his own case? The Tribunal was not wrong by saying ‘you have not been able to establish your case and with what you have brought to court, there is nothing to suggest that all you are asking will be given to you.’ That was on the basis that they dismissed the petition at the Tribunal.
So, the judgment is not against the victory of Governor Makinde, rather it is against the conduct of the Tribunal. Good enough, they appealed and we also cross-appealed. Their own appeal is that since they said they were not given fair hearing; they should just declare them. On which ground will they be declared or get a rerun? And we are saying that the fair hearing they said they were not given is not true. They were given fair hearing. So, the essence of our appeal is that they were given fair hearing. Let the Supreme Court now determine if they were given fair hearing or not.
As I said earlier, I don’t think that anybody who resides in a house would like to be responsible for setting it on fire, because the fire will consume him too. President Buhari became Head of State in 1984 and one of the reasons he gave for coming was that the 1983 election was massively rigged. And one will be wondering now that he is presiding over a process that is so falsified, so corrupt. Look at what happened in Kogi. Was that an election? There was a video on Facebook and Instagram where they were saying “them go hear ta ta ta,” meaning they would take over the place with guns, which was exactly what they did.
What I am saying is that the Supreme Court justices are Nigerians. They know what is happening. And the APC cannot take over everywhere.
In the case of Osun, for instance, the decision was affected by the fact that one of the Tribunal members who did not appear at a sitting read the judgment. As a lawyer, don’t you think technicality could be exploited against your party?
The court is not a Father Christmas; it does not give what you don’t ask for. Secondly, the court bases its pronouncements on facts available before it. The situation in Osun was quite different from this. One, the man was the incumbent. Two, they actually visited the scene at the Appeal Court on the litigant then, because he didn’t come. All that didn’t happen here. They have not said they won election. They have not said they have justification. All they said is that no fair hearing and no fair hearing does not mean they didn’t allow them to make their case. They presented their case and if your case is presented and you are not able to establish your case, you don’t rely on others to establish your case for you.