As litigations over the February 23, 2019 National Assembly elections among losers and winners across party lines end at tribunal levels, the fates of four out of the 109 serving senators seem to be hanging in the balance. TAIYE ODEWALE reports.
Senate job on line
Though as it has been the practice since 2003 general elections conducted under a democratic governance, more than 50 percent of the serving 109 senators in the 9th Senate, had cases against their mandates but going by pronouncements or judgements given so far at elections’ petitions tribunal level, four of them seem to be caught in the web of the judgements.
Orji Kalu and Mao Ohuabunwa
The four are the Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (APC Abia North), who going by the Elections Petitions Tribunal Ruling in Umuahia penultimate week, may have to go for re-run elections in two out of the four local governments with the litigant, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In 2015, while Ohuabunwa was declared winner of the senatorial district by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Orji Uzor Kalu litigated against his victory and got judgement up to Appeal Court level for re-run election, which was however won again by Ohuabunwa.
The tide, however, changed this time around with Orji Uzor Kalu of the APC winning the election on the field as declared by INEC in February and Ohuabunwa litigating against it and securing verdict for re-run at tribunal level which has been appealed against by Kalu for upturning or affirmation.
If the appellate court affirms the ruling of the Election Petitions Tribunal, a repeat of what happened in 2015 between the two senators will definitely happen by going to the field of electoral contests once again in determining who to actually represent Abia North senatorial district in the 9th Senate.
Meanwhile, pending the final determination of the case at the Appeal Court level, the two senators have been arrogating victories to themselves verbally through separate press statements.
First to claim such victory verbally, was Ohuabunwa, who in a personally signed press statement said: “by this ruling, the court has once again shown itself as the last hope of a common man. I dedicate the ruling to the judiciary and electorate in the Abia North senatorial district who freely gave me their mandate on February 23, the Election Day but got stolen by those desperate to foist themselves on the people”.
But Kalu, in a counter press statement on the same day, said he would not lose sleep over the judgement as he was sure of it being upturned at the appellate court.
He said, “Following the decision of the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Umuahia, I will appeal the decision of the tribunal at the Court of Appeal.
“The PDP candidate, Ohaubunwa, is not popular among the people and as such, my victory in the national assembly poll was landslide. Any day, any time, the APC will defeat the PDP in Abia North senatorial district. At the appropriate time, my mandate will be restored”.
Adedayo Adeyeye (APC)
Such verbal assurances reactions also trailed the tribunal judgement against the Senate’s spokesman, Adedayo Adeyeye (APC Ekiti South), whose victory was completely upturned in favour of the PDP candidate, Senator Biodun Olujimi.
Adeyeye in an angrily signed statement said: “The judgement of the tribunal today is not short of open robbery and a direct assault on the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary.
“The whole world knows that the senatorial election of February 23rd was the freest and fairest in the history of our state. No doubt the judgement was purchased and upon proper scrutiny, the filthy lucre that influenced it will be revealed.
“The judges shamelessly contradicted themselves throughout the judgement. They went to great lengths to reach a conclusion that did not follow from the premise with jaundiced and twisted logic.
“To the teeming masses of Ekiti south whose votes the tribunal is trying to steal for Olujimi, they should be rest assured that the judgement will not stand. I have instructed my lawyers to immediately proceed on appeal and by the grace of Almighty God, we shall have justice”.
Dino Melaye (PDP)
Also, Senator Dino Melaye (PDP Kogi West), whose election was partially upturned by the tribunal by ordering for a re-run between him and Senator Smart Adeyemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in a statement personally signed three weeks ago said it was a miscarriage of justice which, according to him, will not stand at the appellate court.
The statement reads: “The judgement is full of importation of information that are alien to the case. I, however, commend the courage and moral strength of the chairman of the tribunal for resisting evil and standing on the part of justice.
Between Manager and Uduaghan
“I have confidence in the appeal court to right the wrongs as contained in the pronouncements of the judgement. I also want to tell those jubilating that their jubilation will be short lived while appealing to my teaming supporters to remain calm as their mandate is safe and secured and cannot be taken through any mischievous means”.
However, neither Senator James Manager (PDP Delta South) nor Dr Emmanuel Uduaghan of the APC issued any statement when Election Petitions Tribunal in Asaba gave verdict of re-run election against Manager.
But since all the affected serving senators and even those whose electoral victories were affirmed at the elections petitions tribunal level, still have the hurdle of Appeal Court to cross , it may be too early to conclude on how the outcome of the entire litigation process will be.