Ogun Election Petition Tribunal begins sitting
The Ogun State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Isabo, Abeokuta, on Monday commenced hearing of the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ladi Adebutu against Dapo Abiodun of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Adebutu, among things, is seeking an order of the Tribunal to declare him as the winner of the election, alleging that the election was fraught with violence, irregularities and rigging.
There was a mild drama at the gate of the Magistrate Court, Isabo, venue of the Tribunal as hundreds of APC and PDP supporters stormed the court in solidarity to their parties.
They were however prevented from gaining access into the court premises as security operatives took charge of the situation.
It took the intervention of fully armed security operatives, comprising the police, DSS and Civil Defense who dispersed the supporters before peace could be restored.
The road leading to the court was also blocked preventing vehicular movement.
The supporters however re-converged on the road opposite the court premises, a development which sparked anxiety.
The Tribunal however began its sitting amidst tension as suspected political thugs “invaded” the court with canes and other weapons.
A governorship aspirant of the PDP, Segun Showunmi was allegedly attacked.
In his address, the Chairman of the three-man tribunal, Justice Hamidu Kunaza disclosed that the Tribunal received four petitions, adding that two of the petitions had been struck out.
Kunaza who warned the legal teams of both APC and PDP not to mislead the court and adopting “delay tactics” in the proceedings, urged them to cooperate with the Tribunal.
He assured the parties of fair justice and satisfaction at the end of the hearing.
Kunaza however, adjourned till Tuesday, June 13 for continuation of the hearing.
Addressing journalists, Counsel to the petitioner, Chris Uche (SAN) said, “We have lined up the witnesses that we intend to call, about 120 of them. Within the next four weeks. We will fill these witnesses, including our expert witnesses.
“We are very hopeful that this case will be dealt with expeditiously, we are here to search for the truth and to search for justice.”
Counsel to Abiodun, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) expressed optimism that the Tribunal would discharge its duties without fear or favour.
Osipitan said, “People can allege anything but he who alleges must proof, let them come and proof, that is why we are here and we are waiting for them to bring their evidence to support whatever they are claiming.”
Meanwhile, Otunba Segun Showunmi has called on the President of the Court of Appeal, to relocate the Ogun State Election Petition Tribunal to Abuja, because of the safety of the petitioner and his supporters.
He said, “Today was the beginning of the hearing at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal and obviously, people like us will go there to show our support and solidarity. Political leaders like us cannot just sit down in the comfort of our air-conditioned room and only ask our supporters to go there”.
“I parked my car at a distance and I walked to the Court gate, but I realized that there was no space in the court room and I decided to take my leave. Then the thugs attacked me. I took refuge in a police vehicle, but one of them removed my glasses and took it away”.
“The police and other security operatives were there with guns and sticks, but they couldn’t do anything. They were just standing helplessly”.
Some of my followers are in the hospital as we speak, attending to their injuries. Luckily, I was able to get away from the place, but it was not without its own scars”.
“What would have happened if I had mobilized thugs there, what would have happened if I had told our supporters that they should engage them in a fight, what would have happened if it had gotten out of hand? Do we need to make a bloodbath in Ogun State just because Dapo Abiodun has lost an election and he he is struggling very hard to justify his stolen mandate?
“You will never be governor that we will agree to, we will never give you legitimacy on this particular term, because as far as we know and as far as we are concerned, you have stolen our mandate and we are determined to collect it back.
“This is unacceptable. Governor Abiodun should call his boys to order. They did it in your name. Go and find out who they are and call them to order”.
“I want to call on President Bola Tinubu to call Governor Abiodun and his thugs to order, before this state is set on fire”.
On his part, an eyewitness, who identified himself as, Sulaimon Sobiye said, the media report that political thugs invaded the premises of the court where the Tribunal was sitting was a “lies from the hottest part of the hell”, saying it was deliberately concocted by some disgruntled elements in the political circle to satisfy certain selfish political desire.
“As an eye witness, members of the Tribunal in their wisdom ordered that the gate of the Magistrate Court should be closed immediately sitting commenced, which made large number of APC and PDP supporters, including other neutral observers who had arrived late to remain outside the gate of the court”.
“It was the same fate that befell the PDP governorship aspirant, Segun Showunmi, who came around much later and started to mount pressure on the security agents at the gate to open the gate for him, after identifying himself as a stakeholder”.
“His violent agitation and reaction, which eventually compelled the security agents at the gate to change their earlier stance and wanted to open the gate for him draw the attention of other people standing outside the gate, who protested against the decision and resisted the move”.
“The people, who were amalgam of individuals from different political parties prevented Showunmi from enjoying any preferential treatment, as many claimed the man doesn’t deserve such special treatment, while others said whatever is good for the goose is also good for the gander, adding that they were also very important in their own rights”.
Infact, majority of those who booed Showunmi and prevented his entry into the Tribunal premises were majorly PDP members, many of those who eloquently accused him of betrayal and started calling him all sorts of names”.
“So far so good, the Tribunal commenced on a very peaceful atmosphere without any blemish whatsoever, giving hope of justice without fear or favour”, Sobiye said.
Meanwhile, the Ogun State government has faulted claim of Showunmi alleging that he was attacked by members of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) at the premises of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, in Abeokuta.
The State government in a swift reaction, through a statement by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Strategy, Mr. Waheed Adesina said Showunmi’s claim of attack by members of the All Progressives Congress(APC) was a blatant lie, stressing that no such attack happened at the premises of the tribunal, which is been protected by a retinue of security personnel.
Adesina, while explaining what happened, said that some members of the public, who had attempted to gain entrance into the tribunal to observe its proceedings were prevented from doing so as the tribunal members ordered the gate of the Magistrate Court be shut immediately sitting commenced.
The statement further explained that a large number of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters, including other neutral observers who had arrived the venue late were affected, adding that Showunmi later came and mounted pressure on the security agents at the gate to allow him access after identifying himself as a stakeholder.
He added that the protest has no political colouration as it was spontaneous and carried out by all those outside the premises of the tribunal, including Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) members and the general public, who felt that they are also important as well as stakeholders in the state.
He warned against the spread of fake and unsubstantiated stories that could plunge the state into political quagmire.