From Soapbox To Courtroom: Ajimobi, Ladoja’s Tango Over Agodi House | Independent Newspapers Limited
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From Soapbox To Courtroom: Ajimobi, Ladoja’s Tango Over Agodi House

Posted: Jun 23, 2015 at 1:35 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Oladele Ogunsola / Ibadan


Election has come and gone as far as some Nigerians are concerned, but not in all cases as we are presently having in Oyo State and in some others across the country where some aggrieved parties have taken up the gauntlet, challenging the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the election. It is not over until it is over as the popular saying goes and that best describes the tussle for the rightful occupier of the Agodi Government House, Ibadan,  the official seat of power in Oyo State which at present is a subject of litigation.

Abiola Ajimobi and Raheed Ladoja

Abiola Ajimobi and Raheed Ladoja

Just as it happened in some other states across the country on the 11th April, this year when governorship elections were held, there was a similar election in the state, which to the satisfaction of the electoral agency, the INEC that conducted the election was won by the incumbent governor, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But the verdict was wrong in the estimate of one of the opposition parties that slugged it out with the incumbent governor in the election, Accord, and which fielded the former governor of the state, Senator Rashidi Adewolu Ladoja, as its governorship candidate, following which both the party and the candidate kicked against the return of Ajimobi as the elected governor.

Ladoja, in his reaction to the result of the election had described it as robbery, saying that it was the mandate given to him by the people of Oyo State that was stolen. According to the result declared by INEC, Ajimobi was returned as winner of the election in contention with a total of 327,310 votes as against Ladoja, who came second with 254,520 votes.

To, however, resolve the riddle surrounding the authentic winner of the election, Sen. Ladoja had gone to the Oyo State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, where the fireworks will begin anytime from now to determine who should rightfully occupy the Agodi Government seat between him and his cousin, Ajimobi.

Ladoja, who declared the victory by Ajimobi in the election as his ‘stolen mandate’, wanted the three-man tribunal to quash the electoral victory of the APC candidate, based on various allegations of electoral malpractices. The former governor had dragged governor Ajimobi, the APC, Ambassador Rufus Akeju, who is the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) and INEC before the tribunal.

To lead his team of lawyers, Ladoja has hired Chief Richard Ogunwole, SAN, and will contend with Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, for Ajimobi (first respondent), Barr. Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, who will also lead other counsel to appear for APC (second respondent),while  Adeboye Shobanjo, will appear for the REC (third respondent) and INEC (fourth respondent) in the suit. At the inaugural sitting of the three-man tribunal, namely, Justice F.C. Obieze (Chairman) and Justices I.M. Muhammad Karaye, and J.E Ikede as members at the High Court 21, Iyaganku, Ibadan, which had in attendance politicians from both Accord and APC in large number, Justice Obieze told both the plaintiff and the respondents that frivolous applications for adjournments would not be accepted from the counsel, adding that the panel would sit from day to day, including Saturdays, to ensure that judgment was delivered on the petition within 180 days from the day the petition was filed.

According to him, “Election petitions are sui generis. The life of this tribunal is regulated by time. By Section 285(6) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, this tribunal must deliver judgment on every petition not later than 180 days from the date it was filed. This places an appreciable burden on all stakeholders – to wit- the tribunal, the legal practitioners, the litigants and the staff of the tribunal.

It goes without saying that to achieve this task, frivolous applications for adjournments shall not be allowed. Legal practitioners will, therefore, do well to avoid applying for adjournment. The tribunal shall sit from day to day, including Saturdays. We assure all concerned that this tribunal shall discharge its duty with honesty and fear of God.”

Reacting to the speech by the tribunal Chairman, the counsel promised that they would not fail the tribunal with a view to allowing judgment to be delivered on the petition within the 180 days stipulated by the constitution.

Giving the assurance of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ibadan branch, its Chairman, Barr. Kazeem Gbadamosi, assured the tribunal members of cooperation with a promise that the counsel will stick to the guidelines spelt out by the tribunal. Another senior counsel, Richard Ogunwole, SAN, in his reaction to the remark by the tribunal chairman also assured of his cooperation as well as that of his clients in ensuring that the assignment is completed within the 180 days stipulated by the constitution to entertain the petitions.

At the pre-hearing session of the petition, the tribunal Chairman, Obieze, said the session, which would last for 14 days, must begin on Tuesday following the service of Form TF 007 and 008 (Information Sheets) on the six parties in the case, which they were expected to return within seven days.

All the counsel told the tribunal that they were all served with the form on June 15 and the deadline would elapse on June 21. Apart from Akeredolu, SAN, the counsel to the second respondent, who told the tribunal that his client had returned the form, other lawyers said they would complete the process of returning and filing the form before the deadline.

The tribunal Chairman submitted that a lot of time had been wasted based on some difficulties encountered in the process of serving all the parties in the case with necessary documents prior to the commencement of proceedings, insisting that the tribunal must deliver judgment on every petition, not later than 180 days from the date it was filed.

He subsequently asked all counsel to the parties in the case to file their respective Forms FT 008, since they had been served with Form TF 007, and adjourned the petition to June 23 for the commencement of pre-trial session. Counsel for the third and fourth respondents, Shobanjo, told journalists after the proceedings that “the Form TF 007 is meant for some questions to be answered.

There are some questions listed in those forms, which we are to answer in Form TF 008. “So, after filing Form TF 008, the pre-trial session will commence and any of the party that has any application to move will move such applications during the pre-trial session. The hearing cannot commence without the pre-trial session”, he added.

Speaking in the same vein, the lead counsel for the petitioners, Ogunwole, SAN, explained that the first stage of the petition, pleadings, was closed the day before adding that the second stage, pre-hearing session, was the second stage which would commence on Tuesday.

Also, counsel to the APC, Akeredolu, SAN, said the tribunal had discovered that virtually all the parties were yet to file their pre-hearing notice, which is Form TF 008, saying, “we are still at the preliminary stage of hearing and pre-hearing is yet to start”.

Thus, by the time of reading this piece, the stage would already be set for fireworks between the counsel for the various camps with their supporters awaiting eagerly for the verdict of the tribunal to know who truly won the 11th April, 2015, governorship election in Oyo State.