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Election Petition Appeal Tribunal: Desperate Ekiti PDP In Fresh Attempts To Subvert Justice

September 30, 2010

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Ilorin, recently reserved ruling for a later date in the unresolved 2007 Ekiti gubernatorial race.  The court met today for the adoption of final addresses by both parties in the case. On the specially constituted panel sat the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, alongside Justices Clara Ogunbiyi, Kayode Ariwoola, C.Nweze and Adamu Jauro.

The Court of Appeal, sitting in Ilorin, recently reserved ruling for a later date in the unresolved 2007 Ekiti gubernatorial race.  The court met today for the adoption of final addresses by both parties in the case. On the specially constituted panel sat the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami, alongside Justices Clara Ogunbiyi, Kayode Ariwoola, C.Nweze and Adamu Jauro.

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After four hours of legal arguments and verbal plea by lawyers for the appellants and respondents, the case was reserved for ruling at a later date to be communicated to the parties.

However, SaharaReporters has received detailed information about the desperate efforts   by the PDP stalwarts in Ekiti to intimidate the judges as well as promote what is referred to in PDP circles as the “Sokoto option”.  The Sokoto option refers to the gubernatorial case filed against the PDP by the DPP in Sokoto State in that state’s 2007 gubernatorial Appeal petition in which there has an inexplicable suspension of judgment by an order of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for the past four months.  The stoppage is on grounds of allegations of interference by the President of the Court of Appeal, a decision that has been widely criticized by the former President of the Bar and several other legal luminaries as “fundamentally flawed.” 

In pursuit of the so-called “Sokoto option”, Saharareporters can authoritatively reveal that the embattled state governor, Olusegun Oni, and the Acting Chief Judge, Mr. Justice S.B. Oyewole, on September 27, 2010 paid a nocturnal visit to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, to plead with him to come to their rescue.  Although the CJN’s response to the visiting duo was not known, sources close to Justice Katsina-Alu claim that he is careful to avoid anything that could bring the judiciary into further disrepute given the various allegations of corruption levied against the bench in recent times.  Besides, Saharareporters learned that the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mohammed Bello Adoke, (SAN), who is also known to be very close to the CJN, has advised the CJN that the Jonathan Goodluck government wants to keep respecting the rule of law and would not want to interfere in judicial matters.

Prior to the visit to the Chief Justice of the Federation, Saharareporters learned that representatives of the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP) led by the Ekiti Deputy Governor, Dr Tae Lawal, had also visited the former Chief Justice of the Federation – Justice Alfa Belgore in Ilorin, Kwara State and sought advice from him on the possibility of causing a petition to be written against Justice Isa Ayo Salami. The petition, according to our sources,  would allege bias in favour of the Action Congress appellant on the part of the Appeal Court President on account of an alleged friendship with former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and as a means of stalling judgment in the case. The retired CJN was said to have advised that it would be difficult to sustain such an argument since it was not the first time an Appeal Court President would preside over an Election Petition Appeal.  Second, he argued that friendship with people could not constitute a basis for sustaining such an allegation – especially when Justice Ayo Salami is also known to maintain close friendships with Chief Afe Babalola, an influential figure in the Bar and a known supporter of the Ekiti Governor. 

But the PDP delegation reportedly still insisted that Justice Belgore should assist them in pushing the matter at the National Judicial Council.  It was not clear if any petition had been received by the NJC at the time of going to press. According to reliable party sources however, the PDP hierarchy is ready to spend up to N5 billion to get a judgement in Oni’s favour.    

Not content with these moves, the desperate elements within the party are adding political blackmail to the judicial pressure, choosing as the main arrowheads – First Lady,Dame Patience Jonathan and Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo.  Former President Obasanjo is playing a yet to be fully determined role.  Indeed, Governor Segun Oni has virtually relocated to Abuja and now spends a considerable amount of his time in the Presidential Villa, seeking assistance from whoever may be of help in the matter.  His Works Commissioner, Mrs Abiodun Olujimi, has also been sighted several times in the company of the Defence Minister, Chief Adetokunbo Kayode, who is rumoured to be one of the key links to the judiciary and some elements within the Jonathan Goodluck Campaign Group.  

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Saharareporters further gathered that Governor Oni and Mrs. Olujimi have also resorted to presenting their case to PDP stalwarts and President Jonathan’s supporters as being potentially harmful to President Jonathan not just in Ekiti but the entire South West if they do not win the case before the Appeal Court. Elements opposed to Governor Oni inside the PDP, including his erstwhile Finance Commissioner who just resigned, however insist that Mr. Oni has no grip of the party structure and his exit would in no way undermine President Jonathan’s overall chances in the State. Given the total disarray in which the party has been thrown in Ekiti State and his seeking of salvation in Abuja, it would indeed appear that Governor Oni has demonstrably lost control.

Mr. Oni has also targeted lawyer and prominent civil rights activist, Femi Falana, who has been hired by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to fight the tenure elongation plot by governors of PDP. But Falana shot back in a press statement, titled, "I am Not going to succumb To Cheap Blackmail", wherein he took on the Ekiti state government.  

Mr. Falana wrote as follows:

“I confirmed my acceptance of the INEC’s brief to vehemently oppose the tenure elongation of some elected governors because it is immoral, iniquitous, illegal and unconstitutional. Since I am not a member of the Panel of the Justices of the Court of Appeal that would determine the appeal on tenure elongation the petition of the PDP is bunkum, mischievous and diversionary. It is common knowledge that the lawyer who represented Professor Maurice Iwu-led INEC at the Federal High Court supported tenure elongation. The PDP never protested.

“In its undiluted opportunism the PDP government in Ekiti State recently engaged my services to handle the appeal filed by ex-Governor Ayo Fayose against his impeachment at the Court of Appeal. Notwithstanding our profound ideological differences I handled the brief to the satisfaction of the PDP. “Since the National Conscience Party headed by me is not a beneficiary of tenure elongation there can be no conflict of interest whatsoever with respect to my decision to handle the appeal for INEC at the Court of Appeal.

 “However, if the PDP is convinced that I have run fowl of the ethics of the legal profession it should direct its grouse to the disciplinary committee of the Nigeria Bar Association and not engage in puerile blackmail aimed at violating the constitutional right of INEC to be defended by a lawyer of its choice. It is too late in the day for charlatans of questionable pedigree to divert my attention for defending the letter and spirit of the Constitution on tenure elongation.


Though the Ekiti state government frantically wants tenure extension for the governor whose election was marred by vote robbery on several occasions, the federal government, through the Office of the Attorney General, opposes tenure elongation. But INEC, until recently had retained a lawyer, Roland Otaru (SAN), who sides with the government of Ekiti state in all matters of election irregularity.

INEC sources told Saharareporters that Mr. Otaru, who is retained by INEC, actually receives his fees from the Ekiti State government.

At another level, the Ekiti state governor is making frantic efforts  to convince the new National Security Adviser, Colonel (rtd) Kayode Are, through fictitious and dubiously manufactured security reports, that the  AC candidate, Kayode Fayemi, would constitute a risk to national security threat because he is an operative for the American CIA and the British MI6 .    

During the closing sitting of the court, Dr. Fayemi is quoted as saying on leaving the Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin on September 23rd that he does not have a choice than to abide by whatever decision the Appeal Court gives on the matter.   

The impending court judgment has thrown Ekiti State into a state of paralysis.  Governance has ground to a halt and politicians and civil servants alike are often found in groups discussing what would be the fate of the state in the wake of the forthcoming Court of Appeal judgment. It is not clear when the ruling would be given but judicial sources have told Saharareporters that it would not be later than the end of October. Unless, of course, the CJN applies the "Sokoto option".  



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