Governorship candidates of five political parties have so far filed different documents at the Ondo State Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the result of the Oct 20 Ondo State election, which was won by Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party.
The candidates of the Accord Party; the Peoples Democratic Party; Congress for Progressive Change; the Peoples Democratic Change; and the Action Congress of Nigeria submitted their petitions to the secretary of the state Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, Mr. Yusuf Musa, last week.
The petitioners: Messrs Olawale Ojo (AP), Chief Olusola Oke (PDP), Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (ACN), Olusoji Ehinlanwo (CPC), and Victor Adetusin (PDC), claimed in their various petitions that the poll was allegedly rigged for the LP candidate by the Independent National Electoral Commission in collaboration with security agencies.
For instance, the AP candidate, Ojo, alleged that the INEC ‘unlawfully’ excluded the name and logo of his party from the ballot papers used for the election, contrary to the provisions of the 2010 Electoral Act.
He alleged that INEC sent three of its officials to monitor its party’s primary poll held on Aug. 1, 2012, but still excluded his name from the list of contestants.
Ojo therefore prayed the tribunal to order INEC to conduct a fresh governorship poll that would allow him to participate.
Akeredolu, on his part, filed a 403-page petition made up of 190 paragraphs before the tribunal, demanding the nullification of the poll based on glaring irregularities.
He argued that the governor was not duly re-elected by a majority of lawful votes, which made the election to be invalid “by reason of corrupt practices and or non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act.”
Akeredolu’s petition was filed by 20 lawyers including Chief Akin Olujimi; Mr. Lasun Sanusi; Mr. Wole Aina; Mr. Edward Odugbesan; Mr. Kola Olawoye; Mr. Charles Titiloye; Mr. Victor Olatoyegun and Mr. Michael Lana, among others.
The ACN candidate alleged that the voter register used for the poll was falsified by INEC to ensure victory for Mimiko.
He alleged that some named political office holders in the state “connived with security agents and INEC staff to rig the poll in favour of LP.”
The petition alleged that there were serious cases of ballot hijacking, ballot box stuffing, massive multiple thumb-printing of ballot papers by the LP agents on the Election Day.
Akeredolu alleged that “the election was marred with irregularities, non- compliance with the electoral act, glaring violence, malpractices and allocation of votes for LP.”
He also alleged that INEC created secret polling units and collation centres where the electoral fraud was allegedly perpetrated.
He alleged that “the LP deployed cash and materials to induce voters throughout the state.”
The petitioner further pleaded all video clips, reports of local and international observers, media, fingerprint experts, medical reports and election materials used in the conduct of the poll.
Akeredolu listed 117 witnesses from across the state except Owo Local Government, which was won by the ACN.
Also, Oke, the PDP candidate, in his own petition filed by Mr. Kayode Olatoke, alleged irregularities, manipulation of votes and outright falsification of results in some areas of the state.
He prayed the tribunal to nullify the election and conduct a fresh one or declare him as the winner.
On his part, Ehinlanwo, the CPC candidate, in a petition filed on his behalf by Mr. Segun Ogodo, claimed that his party possessed substantial proofs to plead massive violation of the Electoral Act and irregularities in respect of the election which would not make them to accept its outcome.
The CPC candidate prayed the tribunal to correct the anomaly and declared the poll result as null and void in view of the obvious flaws in the process.
All the petitioners had as respondents, Mimiko; the Labour Party; INEC the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr. Akin Orebiyi; and the Returning Officer of the poll, Prof. Biyi Daramola.
They are also praying the tribunal to declare the governorship election as null and void, having been allegedly marred and vitiated by massive rigging, widespread substantial non-compliance and corrupt practices.
They equally sought an order nullifying the election while the tribunal should direct the INEC to conduct a fresh poll in the state within a period determined by the tribunal.
But reacting to the various petitions against its candidate, the LP in the state argued that Mimiko won the election with 73 per cent of total votes cast.
The party described its victory as “an emphatic demonstration of the confidence of the people in its candidate’s numerous developmental projects which had transformed the State into a cynosure of all eyes in the last three and a half years.”
The party through its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Femi Okunjemiruwa, in Akure, therefore berated “those trying to undermine Mimiko’s victory by filing petitions at the tribunal.”
It described them as “bad losers who are out to employ lies and propaganda which failed them before and during the election to rubbish a victory already hailed as superlative.”
The party reiterated that Mimiko contested and won the poll on the platform of the LP with 260,199, while the PDP polled 155,961 and the Action Congress of Nigeria scored143,512 votes.
It added that 624,659 voters cast their votes in the election and therefore expressed dismay “over series of insinuations being made by the opposition parties in the state to explain away their dismal performance at the poll.”
The election, says the LP, “had been hailed from far and wide as one of the best in the annals of election in Nigeria and regretted that some people now take turn to lampoon the election because they lost woefully.”
The LP said, “Some failed candidates are making wild allegations all in a bid to explain away their loss at the election and undermine the renewal of Mimiko’s mandate by the people based on his sterling performance in the last three-and-a-half years.”
The statement read in part, “It is worrisome that in the last few days, the opposition had resorted into fabrication of a false allegation to undermine the victory of Mimiko.
“Because the result did not favour them, they have resorted to media stunts to discredit an election that had been adjudged as one of the best in Nigeria.”
The LP argued that none of the opposition parties scored the mandatory 25 percent of the votes cast in the Central Senatorial District comprising Akure South, Akure North, Ifedore, Ondo East, Ondo West and Idanre,
“Mimiko got 73 per cent of the total votes cast in the election scoring 25 percent and above in 17 out of the 18 Local Governments Councils in the State.
“He also came first in 13 out of the 18 councils as against five local government councils won by the ACN and PDP.
“Thus, from the foregoing, while both the ACN and PDP got 25 percent and above in 15 Local Government Councils, Olusegun Mimiko of LP got 25 per cent and above in 17 Local Government Councils.
“This is the reason why they are all out to create a wrong perception for those who are unaware of the true position of things in the state by using a section of the media loyal to their clandestine cause which will fail,” it added.
The party alleged that the losers employed the court option as a ploy to engage their supporters pending the conduct of subsequent elections in the state. It wondered for instance, why the AP candidate was in court when the national leadership of his party had said they did not have anybody contesting the poll on its ticket.
It noted that “it had equally been adjudged as free and fair by foreign and local observers, the United States of America, the Presidency, and other interest groups, including the security and the media who monitored the election.”
Also, the state office of INEC, while reacting to allegations by the PDP candidate that it connived with the security agencies to rig the poll for LP, cautioned the party against making baseless and unsubstantiated claims on pages of newspapers.
INEC, through a statement by its Director of Legal Services, Mr. Oluwole Uzzi, in Akure, wondered why Oke failed to express his opinion “in a responsible, civil, and decorous manner, bereft of provocative and uncouth language, outright falsehood and wild, fanciful but unfounded assertions.”
The agency alleged that Oke, in his “vain and fruitless attempt to denigrate, discredit and belittle the nation’s progress and achievements in its path to free, fair and credible elections and a robust, enduring democracy, cast wild, baseless allegations against INEC without particulars.”
INEC said it was generally satisfied with the conduct of the election, the result of which it added, had been accepted and adjudged as credible and reflecting the wishes of the people of the state, by the electorate, the media and observers among others.
INEC said, “No amount of blackmail or lies can discredit this because even prominent and respected Nigerians including the PDP have been gracious enough to congratulate the winner and commended INEC and the electorate.”
Keen watchers of the political developments in the state since are however, of the view that since the general belief of the local and foreign observers and the media which covered the poll was that it was generally peaceful and credible, the losers should have congratulated the winner instead of filing petitions at the tribunal to cause distraction.