The Court of Appeal, sitting in Ibadan, has struck out the appeal filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) on behalf of a former governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, against the electoral and tribunal victories of Senator Kola Balogun, currently representing Oyo South senatorial district in the National Assembly.
The judgment has laid to rest the move by Ajimobi to return to the Senate over his dissatisfaction with the results of February 23,2019 National Assembly poll in the state. The result declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) indicated that Balogun won the election and defeated his closest rival, Ajimobi of the APC with a vote difference of 13,502. A total of 105,720 votes were recorded in favour of Balogun and 92,217 votes for Ajimobi.
The APC on behalf of Ajimobi listed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the first respondent and Senator Balogun as second respondent.
The judgment of the three-man panel of the Court of Appeal, delivered by Justice Haruna Tsammani, struck out Ajimobi’s appeal on the grounds that it lacked merit and upheld the judgment of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal delivered on September 10, this year, saying the tribunal was right in its judgment.
The court held that one of the issues raised by the petitioner that Balogun did not qualify to participate in the general elections because he did not participate in the primary election conducted in PDP in 2018 was a pre-election matter that should be taken to the Federal High Court and not tribunal.
The court also submitted that a person that did not participate in the party primary did not have the right to challenge the outcome of the primary, and that a person is qualified to contest an election, if he or she satisfies the conditions stipulated by the party and if INEC confirms him or her.
Tsammani also held that most of the witnesses presented by the petitioner were not qualified to tender exhibits and give evidence because they were not the makers of the documents tendered, adding that many of the documents were also tendered from the bar and that only makers of documents could testify on such documents.
In his reaction to the judgment, Senator Balogun, described Senator Ajimobi, who was in the Senate from 2003 to 2007 and also served as governor from 2011 to 2019, as his friend and brother, saying: “We will continue to relate with ourselves as brothers. Ibadan is such an extended family. So, we are brothers and we know ourselves. It’s his right to do what he did. I can’t fault him for taking that decision.
“The only thing I hear people say is that sometimes it is unwise to get in combatant mission against the grace of God and the will of the people. Once you do that, the result is obvious. For me, I know that since there is no other court to go, this is the final court on this election crisis, I am sure that everybody will now realise that when God says yes, nobody can say no. It is not just my message to former Governor Ajimobi, it is just a message to the whole mankind that when God says yes, nobody can say no.
“I am happy about this judgment. It’s a judgment that is consistent with the judgment of the Election Petition Tribunal. It’s accurate. From the reports we have received, it’s deviod of logical contradictions, and the judgment has been maximally delivered with the maximum fear of God. We give all glory to God Almighty.”
Alhaji Omilabu Ghandi, leader of the Providence Coalition, the group that worked for Kola Balogun’s victory and PDP in the state, also said: “I thank Almighty Allah that it was by His divine grace that made us to win all the court cases. A lot of water went under the bridge. We are grateful to God for the victory. There is nothing we can say or do than to thank Almighty Allah for His support all through. Five litigations at the same time and God gave us victory over all of them.”
The lead counsel to PDP, Bamidele Ogunjinmi, told journalists that the court of appellate jurisdiction “has delivered a well-considered judgment. There were a lot of issues raised by the petitioner, like the issue of non-qualification of the second respondent, Senator Balogun. The issues raised by them were ought to be challenged at the Federal High Court, because they were not election matters.
Chief Olumuyiwa Makinde, lead counsel to Senator Balogun, also told journalists: “We give glory to God. This is the final judgment. Those that participated in the election knew that the appellants were chasing shadows. We knew that the elections were properly conducted, results properly evaluated and Dr. Kola Balogun properly declared as winner of the Oyo South senatorial poll.
“Senator Balogun can now face his work properly because the court cases were distractions to him. We know by the special grace of God, he will deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Oyo South and the state at large.”