It was celebration galore yesterday in Abuja and I can only imagine what Happened in Edo State. The Edo State Election Petition Tribunal declared former Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole of the Action Congress (AC) as winner of the April 14 governorship election in the state.
The tribunal, in a unanimous six-hour judgment read by its Chairman, Justice Peter Umeadi, held that Oshiomhole scored one quarter of the lawful votes in 12 of the 18 local governments in the state.
Consequently, the tribunal ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue a certificate of return to Oshiomhole and withdraw the certificate earlier issued to Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The tribunal’s judgment was outcome of the former labour leader’s challenge of INEC’s declaration of Prof. Osunbor as the governor of Edo State.
Oshiomhole had challenged INEC’s declaration of Osunbor as governor-elect, contending that he ought to be returned, having scored the majority lawful votes cast at the April 14, 2008 governorship election.
He therefore, asked the tribunal to declare him winner or, in the alternative, void the election, as it was marred with corrupt practices, violence and rigging.
The tribunal, after reviewing the election, held that the petitioner had proved beyond reasonable doubt incidences of multiple registration and voting, corrupt practices, violence and rigging during the election, particularly in 10 out of the 12 local government areas where he challenged the conduct of the election in the state. The local governments are Esan West, Esan Central, Esan South-East, Igueben, Esan North-East and Etsako West.
Others are Owan West, Owan East, Orhionmwon and Ovia North East.
The tribunal, after deducting the unlawful votes cast at the election, held that Oshiomhole scored 166,577 votes as against 129,017 scored by Osunbor of the PDP.
“We order that the certificate of return issued to Professor Osunbor as the elected governor of Edo State is hereby withdrawn. The 2nd respondent (INEC) is hereby ordered to issue a certificate of return to Adams Oshiomhole as governor of Edo State,” the tribunal said.
The tribunal’s chairman, while commending the industry of counsel of the parties, lashed out at the INEC’s Head of Operations in Edo State, Mr. Olawale Kayode, who was subpoenaed to give evidence at the tribunal, saying that the INEC official did not live up to his billing as he claimed to have traveled to Edo Central from 11:00am to 3:00pm on April 14, 2008, when his presence was most needed in his office.
Reacting to the judgment, AC and Oshiomhole’s lead counsel, Chief Adeniyi Akintola, said by the judgment, the justices of the tribunal had written their names in gold, adding: “You may not appreciate the level of how you have helped this country to move forward.”
In his comments, lead counsel for the PDP and Prof. Osunbor, Dr. Alex Izinyon, said: “My Lords, you have done your best. In 1992, it happened here. Undoubtedly, we must go upstairs.”
Soon after the tribunal gave its verdict, which was broadcast live on NTA on Thursday, wild jubilation erupted in Benin, even as security was tight.