- PDP’s Wada loses by 2-1 split decision
- Minority ruling nullifies poll, directs INEC on fresh election
BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – Governor Yahaya Bello, has described the Tribunal judgement affirming his electoral victory in November 16, 2019 gubernatorial race as a “validation of the people’s mandate.”
Bello narrowly held on to office as the elected Chief executive following a 2-1 split decision by the Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Reacting to the Tribunal’s ruling that dismissed a petition by Musa Wada of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), challenging his re-election, Bello, who was the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag-bearer, said the judgement is a re-affirmation of his “landmark victory” at the November 16, 2019, guber election.
A statement by his spokesperson, Onogwu Muhammed on Saturday, said; “The landmark judgment affirming his (Bello) landmark victory is a validation of the people’s mandate and an added impetus to his drive to do more for the good people of Kogi State.”
Governor Bello, who applauded the tribunal for being “upright and just” in its ruling, thanked the entire citizens of the state for their support.
According to the statement; “The Governor noted that with the majority ruling of the Tribunal dismissing the petition of PDP candidate Musa Wada today, the rule of law once again came to the defense of democracy by affirming the collective will of the people which was expressed on the 16th of November, 2019 when a vast, compelling majority of the electorate cast their votes for him to serve them for a second term.”
The Governor further described the judgment as “most comprehensive of outstanding thoroughness, reason, and stretch on the many issues presented before the tribunal”, adding that the “judiciary remains the last hope of common man.”
Meanwhile, the Tribunal’s majority judgment that upheld Bello’s election said the petitioners failed to support their allegations with sufficient evidence.
In rejecting the minority opinion canvassed by a member of the panel, the Tribunal, headed by Justice Kashima Kaigama, ruled that there were no concrete and sufficient evidence to back the petitioners’ claims of “over-voting, violence, violation of electoral law, hijacking of polling units and electoral materials by armed thugs in seven local government areas of Kogi State.”
Similarly, the tribunal dismissed the testimonies of some witnesses on the grounds such were hearsay evidence that are of no value in the face of existing electoral laws.
“On the whole, the petitioners failed to prove the allegation of over voting beyond reasonable doubt”, the tribunal said and consequently affirmed Yahaya Bello as the duly elected Governor of Kogi state in the November 16, 2019 gubernatorial polls held in the North Central state.
It also ordered each of the petitioners to pay the sum of N500, 000 to the second and third respondents in the petition.
However, in his dissenting position, Justice Ohimai Ovbragele faulted the Panel’s majority judgment, insisting that Bello was not dully elected governor by lawful majority votes.
The judge noted that evidences were tendered to the effect that the election that produced Bello was marred with violence and other electoral malpractices.
He argued that his colleagues on the panel should have given credence to the testimony of Professor Tanko Ishaya, an electoral expert and a professional called as a witness by the petitioners.
Justice Ovbragele noted that Prof Ishaya’s testimony was not contradicted nor challenged by any of the respondents’ witnesses.
Accordingly, Justice Ovbragele said; “I hereby make an order nullifying the election of the second respondent.”
“INEC should withdraw the certificate of return issued to him and conduct a fresh election into the governorship position of the state”, the judge ordered.