Celebration galore in Ekiti following light after the tunnel.

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Kayode  Fayemi
Kayode Fayemi

A spontaneous joy exploded on the streets of Ado-Ekiti Friday, horns blaring, chants, claps, stomping feet, hoarse and ruddy voices, tears of delight, relief and a big and happy day for democracy in a town and state at once weary and tireless in waiting.

Fulfilment came to the man at the centre of it all, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, at times ecstatic with his victory sign, and others with subdued exhilaration, savouring at last a victory that meant for him judicial jousts, electoral heists, official brigandage, injured silence, but at last a moment that trumped all moments. It took a unanimous five-person panel of judges to undo the injustice of over three years.

The victory, as he would admit, is sweet. And for Dr Kayode Fayemi, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria in Ekiti State, the fact that it was long in coming must have made it even sweeter.

After years of legal battle to claim his mandate in the disputed governorship election held in Ekiti State in 2007, the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, yesterday declared him the winner of the election.

It was the climax of a legal battle that had spanned three and a half years as the supporters of Fayemi and those of the erstwhile governor, Olusegun Oni, were divided into two camps of those that savoured the joy of victory and those that tasted the agony of defeat.

Fayemi and his supporters have the judiciary to thank for the victory. The court declared in clear terms that Fayemi was the duly elected governor of Ekiti State. Having scored 105,631 votes as against Oni’s 95,176 in the April 2007 governorship election, the ACN flagbearer was also returned as the winner of the April 2009 supplementary election involving some wards in the state.

In a unanimous judgment, the five justices, led by the Appeal Court President, Justice Ayo Salami, set aside the majority judgment of the trial tribunal that had declared Oni validly elected in the 2009 rerun and upheld the minority judgment.

The other justices are C.R Ogunbiyi, O. Ariwoola, C.C Nweze and Adamu Janro.

Justice Salami added that “Segun Oni was not validly elected as he did not form the majority of valid votes cast. Segun Oni’s election is hereby nullified,” he declared.

Salami added: “Dr Fayemi, having won the majority of votes cast and having met the constitutional requirements and the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act, is hereby declared the winner of the elections. Therefore the first appellant (Dr Fayemi) should be given certificate of return as the elected governor of Ekiti state.

The court arrived at the judgment after nullifying all the results of four wards in Ido-Osi, which was in contention. The court arrived at its decision after it had deducted all the votes cast in the four wards from the final scores of both candidates, leaving the ACN candidate with the highest number of votes cast.

“The appellant had succeeded in all the four reliefs he sought in his notice filed on April 25, 2010. The majority decision of the trial tribunal is hereby set aside, and in its place, the majority judgment is hereby affirmed,” the Appeal Court president declared.

The appellants had sought for “an order to appeal the case; an order granting the relief of the appellant; an order nullifying the election and return of the first respondent as the governor of Ekiti State and withdrawing the certificate issued to him, and an order declaring the appellant as duly elected governor of Ekiti State, having satisfied the constitutional provisions in that regard and Section 145 (1) of the 2006 Electoral Act.”

Lead Counsel to the appellant, Mallam Yusuf Ali, SAN, had raised four issues for determination by the Appeal Court.

Specifically, he challenged the judgment of the trial tribunal for authenticating the election of  Oni despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, adding that the majority judgments were not even-handed, based on the oral and documentary evidence the appellants tendered at the tribunal.

On the issue of substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act, Justice Salami ruled in favour of the appellants, saying that the issue of who set Ekiti INEC office ablaze was not credible in the matter.”

He added that that was not the forum to raise the issue, ruling out any act of malfeasance against the presiding officers, saying that “going by the presence of Section 144 (3) of the Electoral Act, the presence of electoral officers does not add or subtract from the validity of the election. Therefore, the allegation against them is hereby struck out.”

The judge noted that the purported resignation of the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs Ayoka Adebayo, who had earlier refused the results of Ido-Osi, based on irregularities but later accepted and announced the result, was not acceptable to the court.

Unlike the previous judgments when the court premises was packed full with Oni’s loyalists and supporters, only a sprinkle of supporters were at the court yesterday.

However, a detachment of plain-clothe and mobile police officers and men, as well as officers and men of the state security service (SSS), lined the road that led to the court premises, the venue of the judgment.

Reacting to the judgment, the Ekiti State Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Chief Olajide Awe, praised the judiciary for a job well done.

“For the past four years, falsehood has been running in Ekiti State. Today, within four hours, truth has taken over in the state. It is a judgment of the people, and the judiciary has once again shown that it is the last hope of the common man. I therefore dedicate the victory to God and the resilient people of Ekiti State,” he said.

Also reacting to the judgment, the lead counsel to Segun Oni, Adebayo Adenipekun, SAN, said:  “We agree with the judgment. There is nothing else we can do as lawyers other than to agree with the judgment. We will also advise our clients to obey the judgment. We have nothing more to say than to agree with the judgment.”

In his own reaction to the judgment, one of the ACN counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, thanked the judiciary for leaving up to expectations, adding that it was victory for democracy.

He thanked all the supporters of the party and Nigerians at large for their patience in the last three years. The Secretary of the PDP in Ekiti State, Gbenga Akinola, declined comment, but he said he was shocked and could not believe the judgment.

Source: The Nation