Ladipupo Adebutu, the 2023 governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State has said he will appeal the Saturday verdict of the election petitions tribunal affirming Dapo Abiodun as the duly elected Governor of the state.
Adebutu while speaking on Monday, rejected the tribunal judgement.
Adebutu described the judgement of Justice Hamidu Kunaza three man-led Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal which dismissed his petition challenging the victory of Gov Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress in the March 18 governorship election as unexpected, disheartening and a threat to the country’s fledgling democracy.
He declared that in as much as the tribunal would leave the subject matter of the case and would rather dwell on technicalities, the basis upon which he said the tribunal threw away his petition, he had been left with no choice than to exhaust all the available legal options including heading to the Appeal Court to claim his stolen mandate.
Adebutu disclosed this in a statement titled “Tribunal Verdict: Disheartening, Threat To Democracy But It Is Not Over” and made available to journalists in Abeokuta on Monday afternoon by his Media aide, Afolabi Orekoya.
He said “This judgment which was based solely on funny technicalities failed to consider the substantial merits and evidence tendered during the trial. We firmly believe in the principles of democracy, transparency, and the rule of law. It is with these principles in mind that we entered into the legal process to seek justice for the people of Ogun State whose mandate was stolen.
“Our commitment to this course remains unwavering, and we will exhaust all available legal avenues to ensure that the will of the people is upheld, justice prevails and the mandate is retrieved.
“Regrettably, the tribunal chose to focus on mere technicalities and the use of English rather than engage in a thorough examination of the glaring evidence presented. We submitted substantial evidence that raised serious questions about the conduct of the election, even marked ballot papers and we are confident that a closer examination of this evidence would have revealed the true nature of the irregularities and discrepancies that occurred during the election.
“In the course of the trial, our legal team presented enough evidence that establishing non-compliance, voters’ harassment and intimidation leading to the disenfranchisement of over 49,000 voters which is higher than the margin of lead of 13,915 as “purportedly” declared by INEC; the ballot boxes snatching, over voting among many other electoral malpractices perpetuated by Mr Dapo Abiodun and his party, APC.
“We obtained duly Certified True Copies of documents from the electoral umpire, INEC, and paid for with official receipts to back our claims which proved all the content of our petition and justified our concerns over the election.
“We condemn unequivocally the judgement of the tribunal, consequently, we have mandated our legal team to appeal the judgement of the tribunal. We will not relent until due Justice is served. With what was displayed at the tribunal on September 30, 2023, it is worrisome that the court may no longer be the hope of a common man who may seek redress through the court shortly if not curtailed.
Adebutu said that his supporters in the state should not be deterred by this little setback that would soon be shredded to pieces at the Appeal Court citing the example of the current Governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke of PDP, who was also deprived of justice at the tribunal but was favoured at the Appeal and Supreme Court.
He said his decision to approach the Court of Appeal was hinged on getting better bargains for the residents of the state saying that the people of the State surely deserve more than the handouts the APC had been able to offer in the last four years of Gov Abiodun’s administration.
Adebutu had asked the tribunal to quash Gov Abiodun’s victory for not complying with the Electoral Acts of 2022 as amended, for involvement in corrupt practices and for not being qualified to have contested the 2023 governorship election in the state.
The PDP governorship candidate had urged the tribunal to declare him as the duly elected Governor of the state instead of Abiodun having scored the highest number of valid votes cast at the election and satisfied the requirements of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In the alternative, the petitioner prayed for an order of the tribunal directing the 1st Respondent to conduct fresh election in the 99 polling units which cut across 41 wards and 16 Local Government Areas of Ogun State where elections were either not held and or cancelled due to disruption and over-voting.
Justice Hamidu Kunaza while reading the tribunal’s 11 hours judgement over Adebutu’s petitions on Saturday, held that the allegations of corrupt practices, non-compliance with the Electoral Act, and ballot stuffing, as well as the allegation of certificate forgery upon which the PDP candidate was seeking the disqualification of Abiodun and upturning of his electoral victory in their favour, were not proved beyond any reasonable doubt.
Kunaza had therefore upheld the governorship victory of Abiodun as declared by INEC on March 20 while he described Adebutu’s petition as lacking merit and therefore dismissed.