The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has nullified the election of Babajide Owoduni of the Peoples Democratic Party as the lawmaker representing Ikenne State Constituency in the Ogun State House of Assembly.
The court therefore declared Kunle Sobukola of the All Progressives Congress the winner of the March 18 State Assembly election in Ikenne State Constituency.
The appellate court in the appeal with suit number CA/1B/EP/SHA/OG/23/2023 Hon Olakunle Sobukanla & Anor v. INEC & 2 Ors directed the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue Sobukola Certificate of Return as the duly elected member representing Ikenne State Constituency in the State House of Assembly.
In March 2023, INEC declared Owodunni the winner of the election, despite the fact that on March 6, 2023, 12 days before the election, Owodunni resigned from the PDP and withdrew from the contest in letters delivered to the PDP and INEC.
Owodunni also went to Ogun State High Court, where he swore an affidavit of voluntary withdrawal from the race.
At the time, when PDP received Owodunni’s resignation and withdrawal notices, PDP wrote to INEC in an attempt to replace him, but INEC refused the replacement, retained Owodunni as the recognised candidate, and then issued him a certificate of return.
At the tribunal, Owodunni narrated a story about how he was kidnapped and forced to sign the withdrawal letters and affidavit.
Counsels to Sobukanla and the APC confronted him with contrary evidence, showing that Owodunni was freely campaigning for the APC after withdrawing from the race.
They also played a video in which Owodunni said, “As far as this local government is concerned, PDP does not have a candidate in Ikenne Local Government. I still remain the bonafide PDP candidate and I willingly withdraw my mandate that I no longer have any dealings with them.”
With these crucial pieces of evidence, the Tribunal rejected Owodunni’s claim of duress and held that Owodunni truly withdrew from the race.
However, the tribunal refused to void Owodunni’s return by INEC on the grounds that Owodunni withdrew less than 90 days before the election and that such a withdrawal was invalid.
In the appeal, APC and Sobukanla argued that a withdrawal can be made at any time and that a withdrawal is complete once it is made in writing and delivered to the political party in question, irrespective of whether the political party informs INEC or not.
APC and Sobukanla argued that the 90 days stipulated in the Electoral Act is just the deadline for a political party to replace a withdrawn candidate, but that there is no provision of the Act or legal principle that prevents a candidate from withdrawing less than 90 days before an election because withdrawal is complete the moment it is communicated to the party, stressing that the party has no role to play.
They referred the Court of Appeal to the decisions of the Supreme Court in PDP v. INEC and the Presidential Election Petition Court in APM v. INEC, both of which were decided this year on the alleged double nomination of Vice President Kashim Shettima.
The Court of Appeal, in a panel comprising of Hon Justice Theresa Ngolika Orji-Abadua, Hon. Justice Mohammed Baba Idris and Hon. Justice Hadiza Rabiu Shagari saw merit in these strong legal arguments and upheld them.
Consequently, the withdrawal of Owodunni was upheld by the appellate court while his declaration and return by INEC were set aside.
APC To Yahaya Bello: Stop Confusing The Party, No Vacancy For National Chairman
The leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has told the immediate-past governor of Kogi state, Yahaya Bello that there is no vacancy in the office of the national chairman of the party.
The national publicity secretary of the party, Felix Morka warned the former Kogi governor to stop confusing the party, saying the position of the national chairman is currently occupied.
Morka handed down the warning while addressing newsmen at the national secretariat of the party.
The posters of the former governor were seen on major streets in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), especially around the federal secretariat and on walls and fences of structures around the APC national secretariat along Blantyre Street, Wuse 2, Abuja.
The bold picture of the former Kogi state governor is adorned with the inscription, “APC Next Level. Alhaji Yahaya Bello as APC National Chairman. Leading the Change, Building a Stronger APC.”
Edo 2024: Labour Party, Apapa Factions Clash Over Governorship Primaries
The Edo State chapter of the Labour Party has disclaimed purported guidelines and timetable for the Edo governorship primaries of the party issued by one Dr Abayomi Arabambi which is being circulated by a section of the media.
The Publicity Secretary of Edo State Labour Party, Comrade Sam Uroupa, in a statement noted that the said Dr Abayomi Arabambi is neither a member of Labour Party nor an official of the party and therefore lacks the locus standi to issue any statement on behalf of the party.
“The attention of the Edo State chapter of Labour Party has been drawn to the release of a purported time table of activities for Edo State governorship primaries which was signed by one Dr Abayomi Arabambi ahead the 2024 gubernatorial election.
“The Edo State chapter of Labour Party wish to state as follows: “That the national secretariat of the Labour Party has not released guidelines for the nomination of the party’s candidate for the Edo State 2024 governorship election.
“The said Dr Abayomi Arabambi who issued the purported guidelines and timetable for the Labour Party in respect of the Edo State Labour Party gubernatorial primaries is not a member of Labour Party and therefore lacks the locus to formulate guidelines for the Edo State Labour Party gubernatorial primaries and issue same to the public.
“The Edo State chapter of Labour Party has a communication channel with the national secretariat of the party and this imposter – Dr Abayomi Arabambi – is not in any way connect with chain of communication.
While appealing to the party’s governorship aspirants for the Edo governorship election, its members and the general public to disregard the purported guidelines, the statement assured that the public will be duly informed of the activities lined up for the Edo governorship primaries when the party national secretariat issues the guidelines and timetable.
“The general public will be duly informed through the appropriate Labour Party communication channel the guidelines and timetable for the party’s governorship primaries for the Edo State 2024 gubernatorial election when it is issued by the national secretariat of Labour Party.
“We appeal to all the Labour Party governorship aspirants in Edo State, all party members, our teeming supporters in Edo State and the general public to disregard the guidelines and timetable for the Edo State governorship election as issued by Dr Abayomi Arabambi as he’s not a member of Labour Party.”