Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has once again emerged victorious at the Elections Petitions Tribunal. His latest victory came on July 25, 2011 when the Delta State Re-run Tribunal sitting in Asaba, upheld his victory at the January 6, 2011 Delta State Governorship re-run election and dismissed the petition of Chief Great Ogboru, who had challenged the results of the elections and asked the Court to declare him winner.
Amid massive security presence surrounding the Court premises and environs and an atmosphere of huge uncertainty and tension amongst party supporters and Deltans both inside the court room and across the state, the Tribunal, headed by its Chairman, Hon. Justice Doris Uzoamaka Ogwurike and members justice Ogbonna Okereke and justice Bello Duwale ruled that the petitioner, Great Ogboru, did not provide substantial evidence to support his prayers that elections did not hold in the contentious 8 (eight) Local Government Areas in Delta state and that he scored the highest number of votes in the January 6, 2011, re-run election.
Recall that the petitioner, Chief Great Ogboru had stated specifically in his petitioner that Elections did not hold in 8 (eight) Local Government Areas of Delta state and had on the strength of this submission prayed the Court to nullify the results from the said Local Government Areas and using the remaining votes from the remaining local government areas declare him the winner, having satisfied the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010 (amended) and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2009 (amended) and scored the highest number of lawful votes cast in that election.
Prior to her ruling, which lasted for the better part of three hours, justice Uzoamaka Ogwurike first set the preamble for her judgement by citing all the evidences and witnesses tendered by all the parties in the trial proper, identifying each in accordance with the examinations and cross examinations carried out by the petitioners and respondents, in the course of the trial.
In her ruling justice Ogwurike said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) substantially complied with the provisions of the 2006 Electoral Act and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in the conduct of the January 6, 2011 re-run election. The petitioners are not entitled to any of the reliefs being sought. “The petitioner did not score the highest number of lawful votes or the total of the lawful votes cast in the contended eight local governments of Delta state for their return at the election”.
Ruling further, Justice Ogwurike asserted that all the witnesses and evidences presented by the petitioner that elections were not conducted in eight local government areas of the state were rebutted by the respondents’ witnesses and documentary evidences, which outweighed the petitioner’s claims.
“Accordingly, this petition is hereby dismissed,” She ruled.
In other words, while Chief Ogboru tried very hard but could not provide sufficient proof to substantiate his claim that elections did not hold in the 8 (eight) Local Government Areas, Governor Uduaghan, the PDP and INEC were able to prove with substantial and sufficient documentary evidence and witnesses, including ballot papers, voters registers, voters cards and indeed the voters themselves, who came to testify before the court, that elections actually held in those Local government Areas.
Reacting to the judgment, a victorious Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan hailed the ruling as an another judicial success which will surely restore the confidence of the people in the Judiciary.
Speaking through his media aide, Phrank Shaibu the governor described the ruling as “a cast-iron victory for truth and a clear cut expression of the electoral wishes of the good people of Delta State.”
Said Governor Uduaghan, “I am proud of the courageous judgement. Truth and electoral wishes of the people have prevailed. I congratulate the judges on the tribunal who acted like modern day Daniels, for their courageous judgement.” Governor Uduaghan further said that, ” despite the victory at the tribunal, there is no victor no vanquished, adding that, “Deltans should put aside their political differences and join him in the task of building a new Delta state that will be the envy of all”
In his reaction, Turner Ogboru, a DPP Chieftain and younger brother of Chief Ogboru, said, “There is a misconception in the burden of proof to no voting instead of no election, in the judgement that has been delivered. That was where the judges got it wrong and when that is corrected at the Court of Appeal, like it was corrected on the November 9, 2011, they will lose again. This is clearly a case of the battle between the stone and the water and as very know the water will win in the end. The petition has only been kept in suspense. The petition is alive and we will go to the Court of Appeal.”
However, Counsel to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan Mr. Ken Mozia Esquire, was charitable in victory, describing the judgement as painstakingly prepared, and giving kudos to the legal team of the respondents who prepared for the case with dedication and plenty of hard work.
According to him, “The judgment was well prepared by the Tribunal and we were also very ready for the case even though we were rushed sometimes, in view of the time limit allotted for the case. We prepared a good case and we were sure of our case”
Speaking further, Mozia chided the Petitioner thus, “They have said they will go to Appeal and i want to tell them that the Road to Benin is free. We will to meet them at the Appeal Court in Benin and the ongoing April 26, 2011 election petition tribunal in the state. The issue here is the Delta state governorship and they really have to make up their mind on what they really want. You cannot be fighting several battles on the same front. What is in issue is office of the governor of Delta state. You cannot be pursuing in the Tribunal, Federal High Court and everywhere. You need to make up your mind on which one you want to face and you face it diligently instead of dissipating too much energy.”
In his own reaction, the Delta state commissioner for information, Barr. Chike Ogeah lamented that the legal battle has caused a lot of distractions to the development agenda of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan.
“Whether you like it or not, these distractions are all over the place and once this is going on, it departs from what we, in the executive are trying to do for the people of Delta state, who we believe deserve and must get the best form of government”, Ogeah said.
Reacting to the ruling, Delta State Commissioner of Works and erstwhile Secretary to the PDP Delta state Campaign Council Hon. Solomon Funkekeme simply said metaphorically that,“ It is impossible for the back Tyre to overtake the front Tyre”.
Prior to the ruling the Tribunal had earlier entertained an application from the Delta state governorship candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) Prince Collins Eselemo who had sought to join the matter on the grounds that both Governor Uduaghan and Chief Ogboru were “playing a cat and mouse game with Deltans”.
According to Eselemo, Uduaghan is accusing Ogboru of rigging in Delta Central while Ogboru is accusing Uduaghan of rigging in Delta South but i am complaining that both of them rigged me out of victory in the 25 Local Government Areas. The Tribunal subsequently dismissed his application on the grounds that he was not a necessary party to suit and his application had come too late in the matter.
Recall that the Delta State Re-run elections tribunal commenced sitting on Saturday July 2, 2011 after a delay of several months occassioned by issues of security and inadequacy of the venue.
The Trial proper commenced on July 8, 2011 after pre-trial hearing and inspection of election materials and ran through to July 16, 2011 amid some intriguing legal twists and turns which saw the Petitioner Chief Greta Ogboru survive at least three attempts from the respondents to have his petition dismissed, the last of which was the Asaba Federal High Court ruling which invalidated his candidature for the April 2007 election.
The fact that Great Ogboru is once again heading to the Appeal Court in Benin, as confirmed by his Lawyer Mogbeyi Sagay, SAN, who expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling, means that the last is yet to be heard of the election saga which started in 2007 and has dragged on now for over four years.
The ruling was greeted with great jubilation from supporters of Governor Uduaghan and the PDP, as they embarked on an impromptu celebratory procession along some major street in Asaba, with chants of “PDP, Power to the people” and other solidarity songs for Governor Uduaghan, renting the air.
Meanwhile, the Okpe Union Worldwide has congratulated Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan on the declaration by the Governorship Election Tribunal sitting in Asaba that he was duly elected as Governor of Delta State in the rerun election of January, 2011.
The union in a statement signed by its Secretary General, Mr. Henry Ebireri assured Governor Uduaghan of the full support and cooperation of the Okpe people in the performance of his duties. The union also asked Governor Uduaghan to settle down and focus on the agenda of transforming the oil rich Delta State.
It will be recalled that Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan is also still embroiled in another Elections Petitions matter with Chief Great Ogboru, who had gone to the Elections Tribunal sitting in Asaba to challenge Governor Uduaghan’s victory over the April 26, 2011 governorship election in Delta state.
The Trial proper for the adjudication of that matter will commence on Wednesday, july 27, 2011.