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Puncturing Nasarawa PDP’s cocktail of lies

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By Ali Abare

These are indeed interesting times, especially with the ongoing legal fireworks in the tussle for the Nasarawa State governorship seat between incumbent Governor Abdullahi Sule and candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), David Ombugadu.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Governor Sule winner of the March 18th gubernatorial election in the state, having polled 347, 209 votes against 283, 016 scored by Ombugadu.

That was the second time Governor Sule is beating Ombugadu in an election, having triumphed over his closest adversary during the 2019 governorship election.

However, dissatisfied with the outcome of the election, Ombugadu rushed to the governorship election petition tribunal to challenge the declaration of Governor Sule as winner of the election by the electoral body.

Interestingly, Ombugadu and the PDP got the upper hand when the tribunal in a split decision, passed its judgement in their favour, upturning the election of Governor Sule and ordering INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to him and issue a fresh certificate of return to the PDP candidate.

In the lead judgment delivered virtually, lasting more than four hours on October 2, the chairperson of the three-member tribunal, Ezekiel Ajayi, declared Ombugadu the rightful winner of the election.

It’s on record that the PDP welcomed the judgement of the tribunal, describing the judgement as ‘triumph of the will of the people.’

It’s also on record that throughout the duration of the trial at the tribunal, the PDP sponsored its members, as well as hired women and youths to embark on protests, wearing black clothes to symbolize their agitation.

Some of the protesters became notorious after they engaged in a denigrating show of nudity, ostensibly to draw attention and sympathy to their cause. The real reason for the protest was not to disrupt the relative peace in the state but to prosecute a psychological war on the minds of unsuspecting public, especially members of the judiciary and the three-man tribunal in particular.

Judging from what transpired at the tribunal, coupled with the relentless conditioning of the minds of the three-man panel, especially by a leading counsel to the PDP governorship candidate, who assailed and laced every of his assertions in biblical context, the PDP may have succeeded in pushing its case through by the nudity show and protest.

Those unsuspecting public, who may not be aware of the peculiarities of the politics of Nasarawa State may likely jump to the conclusion that the women protesting naked on the streets in Lafia must have been pushed to the brink to embark on such escapades, especially that most of them are past middle age. Unwary onlookers may hardly believe that the protesting women threw away chastity merely for a pot of porridge and not for any altruistic gesture.

The entire shindig became even more potent with a deliberate and purposeful collaboration and partnership with a section of the media. The space and slant across the mainstream and new media somehow added milage to the unscrupulous agitation by the PDP, selling dummies to the less critical observer.

In fact, from the judgement by the court of appeal, which upturned the decision of the tribunal entirely, it was obvious that the tribunal must have fell for the ruse by the protesting naked women, the strident sermonization by a leading counsel to the PDP candidate and of course, the relentless media war.

From the judgement of the appellate court, it was clear that the tribunal was not guided by the quest to uncover facts but instead, two members of the panel responded to the propaganda ochestrated by the PDP and its gubernatorial candidate, while the third member identified with the underlying facts orchestrated by the defence counsel.

Of course, certainly, there is power in propaganda.

And that is what the PDP and its gubernatorial candidate are vigorously exploiting ahead of the supreme court judgement. The same protesting women are back on the streets. The marriage of convenience with a section of the media have been rekindled.

Presently, a major thrust of the opposition game plan is to seek to condemn the judgement by the court of appeal in favour of Governor Sule. That the judgement at the court of appeal was unanimous was immaterial so long as they could whip up sentiments just like the succeeded while the tribunal lasted.

While declaring the decision of the tribunal that was in their favour, the PDP through its national spokesperson, Debo Ologunagba, hailed the ‘unfaultable verdict of the Tribunal’ as a ‘victory for democracy and the triumph of the will of the people of Nasarawa State.’

Even former senate president, Bukola Saraki, a national PDP chieftain, while reacting to the judgment tweeted, “I congratulate Hon. David Ombugadu of our great party, PDP, who has been declared the winner of the Nasarawa State Governorship election by the Nasarawa State Election Petition Tribunal. This judicial victory is a resounding affirmation of the people’s will, and it serves as a reminder that democracy is and must always be the bedrock of our nation.”

However, after the court of appeal reversed the decision of the tribunal, reinstating Governor Sule back on his seat as governor, the same PDP that hailed the judgement of the tribunal is now running from pillar to post seeking to discredit the judgement of the appellate court while hurling abuses on the same judiciary.

It’s understandable that the PDP would reject the verdict of the appellate court, which the party did, with the Nasarawa State chairman of the party, Francis Orogu, announcing their decision to proceed to the supreme court, as he claimed that the appellate court verdict ‘does not align with the facts presented during the tribunal proceedings.’

Unlike the APC which proceeded to the court of appeal to challenge the verdict of the tribunal, without raising any dust, especially after Governor Sule prevailed on party members and supporters not to protest his initial sacking by the tribunal, the case is not the same with the opposition PDP which is obviously back into the propaganda trenches as it did during the tribunal sitting.

Even more worrisome, is the dimension taken by one of the prominent legal practitioners, a leading counsel to the PDP and Ombugadu when he wrote a scathing comment on the judgement of the appeal court, casting aspersions on the judiciary ahead of the 2027 general elections.

The party has also commissioned hatchet men to spin tales depicting the same judiciary the party is relying upon in order to pursue its case, as being inconsistent in delivering its judgement. The same court that the PDP hailed when the tribunal ruled in its favour, has transformed into a villain, at least when the court judgement is not in their favour.

The strategy being employed by the PDP in Nasarawa State is pedestrian and unparalled desperation. The party is throwing everything into the fight, engaging in voodooism and fire rituals seeking to harm the person of Governor Sule and members of the APC.

From the unanimous judgement, thrust and decision of the appellate court, it’s obvious the PDP has lost confidence in the facts but are all out to try to hoodwink the public into believing they still have a case, whipping up sentiments and behaving like a bull in a China shop.

The facts however remain and as contained in the lead verdict that was delivered by Justice Uchechukwu Onuemenam, with the evidence before it establishing that the tribunal relied on legally inadmissible evidence to declare the candidate of the PDP, Ombugadu, as the valid winner of the governorship election.

According to the appellate court, the tribunal wrongly relied on the evidence of eight of the witnesses that were produced by the PDP candidate, whose statements on oath were not front-loaded alongside the petition.

It stressed that Section 285(5) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, Section 132(7) of the Electoral Act 2022, and Paragraphs 4(5) (6) and 14(2) of the First Schedule to the Electoral Act, mandated that every written statement on oath must be filed alongside the petition within the statutorily allocated time.

“Where a trial court admitted and acted on illegally inadmissible evidence, it is the duty of the appellate court to ensure that such illegally inadmissible evidence is expunged.

“A court of law is only allowed to act on legally admissible evidence. If documents are unlawfully allowed by a trial court, the appellate court is duty-bound to exclude the documents and discountenance the evidence.”

The appellate court thereafter stroke out all the evidence and exhibits that were tendered before the tribunal by the eight witnesses.

It held that the evidence of 12 remaining witnesses who testified for the PDP candidate was not sufficient to sustain the judgment of the tribunal.

More so, the appellate court held that the tribunal was in error when it deducted a total of 1,868 votes that were credited to Governor Sule on the premise that over-voting occurred in four polling units.

Obviously, the PDP in Nasarawa State is not in any pole position to challenge these incontrovertible facts at the supreme court, and as lucidly enunciated by the court of appeal. Instead, the party is seeking to procure judgement through whipping up sentiments couched in religious intolerance, ethnicity and the so-called indigenous people.

Abare is the special assistant on media to Governor Sule.

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