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Edo governorship appeal: Searching for a needle in Haystacks

The Edo Project, as envisioned by Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki in 2015, is intact, healthy and on course! Thank God for the judgment delivered by the Appeal Court, sitting in Benin City, on Friday, June 9, 2017 re-affirming the election of Mr. Godwin Obaseki as Edo State Governor.

And thank God for the life of the erudite Judges that delivered the detailed and thoroughly researched judgment at the Court of first instance, the Tribunal.

The PDP and Pastor Osagie Ize- Iyamu had, with the fortitude of rough necked gamblers, filed an Appeal against the judgment of Edo Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which on February 14, 2017, upheld INEC declaration of Mr. Godwin Obaseki as the winner of the September 28, 2016 gubernatorial election.

Indeed, the Obaseki political ascendancy has been a story of unpunctuated chain of victories begining with the keenly contested primaries of the party.

This was closely followed by the sweet victory of the general election which the opposition bitterly fought with unprecedented propaganda machine that sought to denigrate the dignifying historical memoirs of his ancestry.

Ironically, the election which the PDP have sought to discredit without success has been adjudged the most peaceful election in Southern Nigeria under the present dispensation.

As the opposition proceed to the Supreme Court to continue their fruitless search for a needle in the haystacks, the most devastating blow ever, awaits their delinquent judicial misadventure.

There is a popular axiom in Edo worldview that ‘if you turn around a thousand times, the position of your buttocks will not shift to the front’. In plain terms, it means, the truth never changes. It is same everywhere!

These victories have been like tonic and humongous relief to the people prompting them to roll out drums and maracas in celebration every time. The people have enthusiastically embraced the change in the governance philosophy of Mr. Godwin Obaseki. Mr. Obaseki’s technical approach to governance is blind to sentiments and emotions.

It takes all issues head-on as dictated by law, rules, regulations and the highest interest of the majority of Edo citizens. This has not been seen hitherto. And single-mindedly, he seeks to restore sanity and enlist the collaboration of major stakeholders with a view to achieving the vision of an Edo State that is economically viable and attractive for investment in the real sectors of the economy.

With good fortunes smiling daily on Obaseki, it is unmistakable that God has lowered his holy hands to deliver uncommon favours on him and Edo State at this time. This fact is not lost to those with authentic divine attributions!

It was vividly captured when Omo N’ Oba, N’Edo, Uku Akpolokpolo, The Oba Of Benin, paid a thank you visit to Government House on January 24, 2017. On that occasion, His Majesty stated as follows: ‘

I assure you that you have the full support of our ancestors to be where you are’. He added ‘ Feel comfortable in office and focus on your plan to turn Edo State economy around’. The Oba hears and sees far beyond ordinary mortals and when he speaks, it is on behalf of the Edos, his ancestors and the two hundred and one deities of Edoland!

Pastor Osagie Ize Iyamu, the PDP candidate in the last governorship election is the main petitioner. In one of my recent articles, I did state that Pastor Ize-Iyamu and I had political interactions in the past. On the strength of that interaction and with characteristic candor, I make bold to state that he eminently deserves to be credited with great organizational capacity and competence.

For not less than a decade, the seemingly calm and innocuous looking Pastor, invested on raising and maintaining a formidable political structure at monumental cost to facilitate the achievement of future gubernatorial glory. It is a statement of fact to state that politicians with that kind of foresight are uncommon. He is thus idolized by many of his disciples!

Not so assuredly, he seems to believe and rightly so, that a single defeat has no power of finality. However, the correctness of that idea must be predicated on the capacity to concede defeat with stoical humility without losing heart.

First, he must accept the honest defeat handed down on September 28, 2016 and then seek to convert his electoral mistake into a portal for future success.

With visceral recollections, a postmortem of the election shows that Pastor Ize -Iyamu actually lost the election to self- sabotage occasioned by uncharacteristic slip of the tongue at the most critical stage of the campaign.

Edo voters including some of his supporters made up their minds finally, to vote for Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki as soon he declared that when he becomes Governor, state resources will be committed to the annual birthday celebration of a wealthy private citizen, and they never looked back thereafter. That one miscalculation and that one moment of distraction triggered series of fatal and devastating reactions!

The 2016 gubernatorial election campaigns had it fair share of raucousness and inflamed feelings of hatred created majorly by implacable surrogates. When political gladiators see electoral process from the old prism of unbridled struggle for the resources of the people, there is often a tendency to resort to the trenches and warfare.

Thus, weeks before the election, there were rumours and speculations that politicians were importing hoodlums and thugs from neighboring states into Edo state to cause mayhem. Security reports made public at the time confirmed some of the rumors thus creating a potentially combustible environment.

But the APC led government in the state worked hard with the security agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that the right environment for a peaceful and credible election to take place was created.

The September 28, 2016 gubernatorial election has gone down in history as one of the most peaceful in recent times as no single gunshot was fired throughout the State.

In addition, there was no single case of ballots stuffing or physical brawl recorded. The APC led government eminently deserves commendation for the role it played to ensure peace and tranquility during the election. Were it a PDP government in the state, they would have audaciously deployed their able-bodied men and the full paraphanalia of office to assist their party as was the case in some neighboring states.

For those who keenly followed the proceedings of the Tribunal, it was apparent that the petitioners struggled all through in want of evidence to prove its case. At a point, the Tribunal was forced to adjourn because the petitioners could not produce witnesses.

The petitioners had boasted that they had lined up about one thousand witnesses but at the end of the day, they managed to call about ninety paid conveyors of untruths. None of them tendered accreditation or identity card issued to agents by INEC and more than half of them admitted that they were not at the polling units during the election.

Most of them were described by the Tribunal as witnesses without evidences! The petitioners’ earlier claim that they were in possession of video tapes showing how the election was rigged was false as no such materials were tendered at the Tribunal.

Even when they applied to subpoena some INEC officials to give evidence in their favour, that line of action was abandoned when it dawned on them that their depositions were unhelpful to their cause.

They deliberately brought ballot papers to the Tribunal for counting only three days to the time allocated to them. The exercise achieved nothing! One is therefore, at a loss, why they are crying foul! But with a look beneath the surface, one begins to glean from the cacophonous grandstand, a semblance of rationality – the need to keep their political structure intact as 2020 hastily beckons!

Consequently, it is beyond doubt that the decision by the petitioners to go on appeal was based on grounds that are majorly orthogonal and impertinent to the case.

Perhaps, the tenuous legal grounds that immediately comes to mind is the none confidence inspiring desire to stoke and explore legal acrobatics and technicalities while laying ambush to take swift advantage of any slip on the part of the respondents.

But the orthogonal calculations are more attractive and worthwhile namely that the Court cases will keep his followers sedate at the waiting lounge for a flight that is already airborne.

On the part of the petitioners, their resilience may attract more funding support from the party stakeholders but more importantly, it will boost their standing in the party nationally. The Appeal Court has delivered judgment which did not surprise them.

They have vowed to proceed to the Supreme Court, not with new set of evidences or material facts but seeking clinical interpretation of the law. In practical terms, it is like searching for a needle in the mountainous heap of haystacks!

Osakue, a political analyst resides in Benin City, Edo State.

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