So many intrigues, accusations and counter accusations had come into play before the pendulum of victory swung towards Senator Buruji Kashamu, who represents Ogun East Senatorial district in the National Assembly. Looking at the events that unfolded before the Appeal Court in Ibadan delivered its judgment, it will be right to say that the senator traversed a rough road to victory.
His victory at the March 28 election was challenged by one of his opponents, Mr. Dapo Abiodun who contested on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, APC, alleging that the election and eventual declaration of Senator Kashamu was fraught with irregularities and non compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
After several days of tension, the tribunal delivered its verdict in favour of the petitioner and ordered a rerun of the election in 91 out of 110 polling units in the senatorial district.
The judgment was perceived by Senator Kashamu as a travesty of justice and consequently headed to the Appeal Court in Ibadan to seek redress. But, just as the three-man panel was about to deliver judgment, there was a strongly worded petition against the panel with loyalists of the senator alleging compromise.
This led to dissolution of the panel. Earlier in the day before the panel was disbanded, supporters of Buruji stormed the court calling on the court to be fair in its judgment. They besieged the court with several placards demanding justice for Senator Kashamu. Some inscriptions on the placards read: “we want justice for Kashamu”.
One of the protesters, Mr. Adeleke Shittu said; “We are here to let the whole world know that we want justice and we are averse to violence”. He further explained that the security agents had difficulty in controlling the surging crowd, and disbandment of the panel somehow reduced the tensed atmosphere.
When all lawyers, litigants, newsmen and scores of loyalists of both the APC and PDP had seated expecting the arrival of the panel, an official of the court stepped forward around 10 a.m. and apologised to all people in court that the panel would not be sitting because it had been disbanded and a new one reconstituted adding that concerned parties would be informed of a new date for hearing.
Counsel to the parties in the case include Dr. Alex Izion for Senator Kashamu Buruji; Mr. Ajibola Oluyede for PDP, while Yussuf Alli, SAN, held briefs for the first and second respondents, Prince Dapo Abiodun and All Progressives Congress, APC. Counsel to both parties could not hide their feelings.
While the PDP and its supporters were happy that the court did not close its eyes to their petition, the comments by the counsel of the respondents implied that they were not comfortable with the step but they stated clearly that the court did that so that justice could be done.
Speaking with newsmen after the stalled sitting of the panel, Mr. Ajibola Oluyede said, “the case was adjourned because the original panel had been disbanded. The allegations were very weighty that they couldn’t be swept under the carpet. I am not surprised that justice is seen to be done.”
But, the APC candidate in the election, Prince Dapo Abiodun described the allegations as very laughable. According to him, for all litigants to have left their homes and rushed to the court, their expectation was that the appeal would hold by 9am. “I am surprised that the panel had been asked to step down. My only concern is that the clock is ticking. The media has been inundated with accusation and supposed petitions, so, it is my opinion that maybe it is a reaction to that.
If one party feels they will not get justice because of some accusations or the other and the judiciary in its wisdom decides to take that into consideration, we believe in the Nigerian judicial system, whatever the judiciary decides to do, we shall abide by it. The judiciary has taken step. The judiciary only wants to ensure justice is done.”
On the allegations, he explained that he was not even in the country neither the person they were alleging knows my house. It is just because people on the other side didn’t get what they wanted, they continued to cry wolf. The allegations were very ridiculous. I, my party, APC believe in the judicial system and we would vigorously pursue all legal means to a logical conclusion be it today or tomorrow. It is just a matter of time.”
Also, Mr. Adebayo Dayo, Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party(PDP),Ogun state, said, “what has happened here this morning is that, I think the judiciary is trying to be fair to all concerned and the way I see it, we discovered that, the thinking of the Lord is different from the thinking of some of our leaders in Nigeria and we have discovered that they (APC leaders) have been going around to manipulate all the arrangements that has been sealed by God. Today’s announcement is a victory for us”.
After the sitting of the reconstituted panel, the Chairman of the panel, Justice Mitshelia , A.G said all parties concerned in the case would be informed about the judgment day on the appeal. All their arguments and counter arguments were hinged on admissibility or otherwise of documents tendered as evidence before the lower tribunal that delivered the judgment which Kashamu applied against, the competence/qualification of the principal witness in the case as well as fairness of the lower tribunal in its judgment.
While delivering its judgment on last Monday, the three man panel comprising Justices A.G Msheila, M.L Shuaib and Ignatius Agube faulted the verdict of a lower election petition tribunal and declared Buruji winner of the election. While reading the lead judgment, Justice M.L Shuaib said the tribunal was wrong saying the decision of the tribunal was curious and illogical.
He further said that the tribunal placed so much reliance on the evidence of one of the witnesses, PW 44. To him and other members of the panel, the documents which the tribunal admitted as evidence were clearly inadmissible in law. According to the panel, “PW 44 sold himself out and the tribunal should not have held that he was an expert when he himself had agreed that anyone could do what he did.
No expert opinion is needed in this case since PW44 stated that anyone, even a layman could do what he did and he has no degree in statistics. “There is no certification of the admitted print out by the said forensic expert. So, it is not an exhibit and he also sold himself out when he stated that the Appendix A, B and C which was his report was printed from a computer but the tribunal held that it was PW44’s statement on oath and not a print out.
“The case of the first and second respondents (Abiodun and APC) in this appeal collapses like a pack of cards as the respondents failed to lay necessary foundation for the admissibility of the annexes.
Exhibits A, B and C are expunged as inadmissible. PW44 was a hatchet man brought to truncate the appellant’s victory and since his testimony is that he thoroughly analysed some documents from INEC’s register and used a computer to draw a table and print it out, the annexes are indeed a printout. It is wrong of the tribunal to place so much reliance on the evidence of a discredited witness and use an inadmissible document to arrive at its judgment.
Speaking on the judgment, Prince Kashamu said, “I dedicate this victory to the Almighty Allah. I am happy at today’s verdict of the Court of Appeal. I am happy that justice has been served. I am particularly elated that the judiciary has once again risen to the occasion as the last hope of the common man. I am happy that despite the ills of our society, the judiciary still boasts of men and women of integrity and great courage who can resist filthy lucre and stand up for the truth and justice.
“I salute the good people of Ogun East Senatorial District who overwhelmingly gave me their mandate. I thank my party leaders, elders, associates and supporters, for standing by me all through the litigation. I thank my legal team, the media, clerics, the youths, students, artisans, okada riders, market men and women, for their best wishes, prayers and support.
“I promised them quality representation. We have begun the journey and there is no going back. We are committed to making a difference in and out of politics. I wish to appeal to my younger brother and friend, Mr. Dapo Abiodun, not to see himself as my opponent. Rather, he should join hands with me to take our senatorial district to greater heights. There is no victor, no vanquished.
“It was an electoral contest and someone was bound to be elected. This time, it has pleased the Almighty Allah to use the good people of Ogun East Senatorial District to give me their mandate. Next time, it could go to anyone else.” As at the time of filing this report, it was not clear what the APC would do.