Facts about Barrister Jegede’s appeal against Gov. Akeredolu, APC

Nigerian Concord Newspaper

*The Applicability Of The Law In The Petitions (Appeal) Filed By Barr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN & PDP Against Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN & APC On The Raging Ondo Governorship Tussle*.

The Barr. Eyitayo Jegede’s appeal and Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu’s cross appeal against the judgement delivered on 20th April, 2021 by the Ondo State Election Petitions Tribunal came up in Appelate Court on Thursday, 3rd June, 2021. As usual, the two parties to the dispute displayed their brilliancy, doggedness and, of course, some weaknesses in the hearing which was virtually conducted on zoom platform.

To get updated, it’s expedient to reminisce on the legal fireworks that took place during hearing and the judgment the 3-man Election Petitions Tribunal delivered.

*The Legal Fireworks & Basis For The Tribunal Ruling*

1. The Eyitayo Jegede & PDP’s Crux Of Argument:
* Alleged substantial infractions against Section 183 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, fallout of which made Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Lucky Ayedatiwa, both of APC, not to be validly sponsored as Governorship Candidate and Deputy Governorship Candidate respectively for the Election by their party, APC.
2. The breach of Article 17 of APC’s Constitution which provides that any official of the party at any organ cannot concurrently occupy any other executive position in government, thereby faulting the sponsorship of Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Lucky Ayedatiwa as Governorship Candidate and Deputy Governorship Candidate respectively.
3. Eyitayo Jegede prayed the Tribunal to declare that APC had no Governorship Candidate and Deputy Governorship Candidate for the Election, and that he, Barr Eyitayo Jegede SAN should be declared as the validly elected Governor of Ondo State.

The Respondents, Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN, Lucky Ayedatiwa & APC anchored their defense on the following:
1. The Tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to interprete Section 183 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.
2. Eyitayo Jegede is not a member of APC and cannot, therefore, interfere in an internal crises of APC.
3. Eyitayo Jegede failed to prove that Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and Lucky Ayedatiwa were not validly nominated for the Election and therefore appealed to the Tribunal to dismiss the petition of Eyitayo Jegede for lack of evidence.

For thorough understanding, let’s shed some light on what *Nomination* and *Sponsorship* are. Nomination is the process of selecting or electing a candidate for election. This is done by the members of the political party in the Constituency of the aspirant(s). In this process, a candidate who has been selected or elected to represent his or.her political party is endorsed by the party. The process of selection or election may be based on one or more primary elections or by means of a political party convention or caucus, according to the rules of the party and any applicable electoral laws.

In Nigeria, the candidate of a recognized political party is therefore sponsored by the party to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). This is the provision according to Section 177C of Nigerian Constitution. Hence, the name of the candidate will be sponsored by his or her political party in order for the party to gain ballot access. The sponsorship forms will be endorsed by the National Chairman and the National Secretary of the party.

Generally and legally, all candidates have to meet all the sponsorship rules as stated in Nigerian Constitution and Electoral Acts before the sponsorship can stand.

*Summary Of TheTribunal Judgment*

It should be recalled that the 3-man Tribunal delivered its judgment on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. The Tribunal members tacitly tilted their judgment in favor of the governor as they watched off their hands on the interpretation of section 183 for lack of jurisdiction. The section forbids anybody that becomes an executive governor in Nigeria from occupying another political position or performing any other executive role whatsoever.

On the sponsorship, the APC flouted the section by the appointment of the present governor of Yobe State, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni as the Acting National Executive Chairman of APC. For October, 2020 election, the Yobe State Governor, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni illegally and unconstitutionally doubled as the Executive Chairman of APC and signed the sponsorship form of the party’s governorship and deputy governorship candidates

As the petitioners, Barr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN and PDP appealed the tribunal’s verdict because of its failure to interpret the relevant section of the Constitution, Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN and other respondents also filed cross-appeals against the verdict. Two decisions that the governor contended with in the Appeal Court are as follows:

1. The Tribunal’s agreement that “the matter before it is a constitutional matter but not an internal affair of APC as a party”.

2. That the Tribunal judgment acknowledged the ground of Jegede’s pleadings and affirmed that the matter raised cannot be treated as pre election matter but shifted the burden of interpretation and probably final pronouncement on the supreme court

As it is now, the appelate court had heard the parties. There, the petitioners, Barr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN and PDP are hopeful that the senior court will assume jurisdiction and interpret the section 183 of the Nigerian Constitution

*The K-legged Cross Appeal Of Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN and Other Respondents*

In the Appelate Court on Thursday, June 3, 2021, the petitioners and appellants, Barr Eyitayo Jegede SAN and PDP pointed the attention of the court to the technical blunder committed by Gov. Akeredolu’s team in the process of serving the Eyitayos the cross-appeal notice. Having established this, the lead counsel, Dr Onyekachi Ikpeazu raised an objection against the governor’s cross-appeal on the ground that the governor did not properly serve them the notice. This objection was anchored on the earlier judgment of the Appelate Court which made it mandatory for any appellant(s) to directly serve the respondents (judicial precedence). The judgment forbids and outlaws the practice whereby the respondent(s) to any appeal will be served by proxy or by substitution. Hence, lex lata (the.law as it is), Barr Eyitayo Jegede SAN and PDP were not served with the notice of cross-appeal of Gov Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN and others.

To that extent, the aspect of the tribunal judgment which did not favour Governor Akeredolu will stand. So, the issue of section 183 of the Constitution raised by the petitioners (Barr. Eyitayo Jegede SAN and PDP) in the Election Petitions Tribunal will be determined by proper semantic interpretation. The merit of the case will be squeezed out without struggling with technical hitches from the respondents at the Appelate Court.

Driving to the epilogue of the issues on ground, it’s necessary to make reference to two Latin legal maxims namely, “Ubi Societas, Ibi Jus and Ubi Societas, ibi Remedium”

Firstly, “Ubi Societas, Ibi Jus” means “Where there is a society, there is law”. Meaning: law is found in all forms of stable. It means that each fact, event or experience that we live and face each day can be traced back to an abstract case contained in a rule of law.

Secondly, Ubi Societas, Ibi Remedium”. It also means that where there is a wrong, there is a remedy. If any wrong is committed then the law provides a remedy for that. The maxim can be phrased as that any person will not suffer a wrong without a remedy, it implies that once it is proved that the right was breached then equity provides a suitable remedy. This principle also underlines the fact that no wrong should be allowed to go without any compensation if it can be redressed by a court of law.

*The Golden Question* asked by Dr Onyekachi Ikpeazu that “Would Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, the Executive Governor of Yobe State, sign his sponsorship form if the election of October 10, year 2020 was to hold in Yobe State and he was the candidate of APC? is yet to be honestly and constitutionally answered. It is sure that the Appelate Court will do that!

Therefore, the breach of the section 183 of the Nigerian Constitution by the APC on the sponsorship of candidates for the governorship election in Ondo State cannot be swept under the carpet. The law will take its due course and the remedy shall be determined in favour of the petitioners who are now the only appellants.

By: Remi Ofakunrin