Tribunal affirms Ododo’s election as Kogi governor

The Kogi State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abuja, has affirmed Usman Ododo of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the duly elected governor of the state.

The tribunal dismissed the petition filed by the governorship candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alhaji Muritala Ajaka and his party on the ground that they failed of prove the allegations contained in their joint petition.

The three-member panel of justices, led by Justice Ado Birnin-Kudu, held in the unanimous judgment that Ajaka and his party failed to present credible evidence to prove their case in accordance with the law.

The tribunal held that contrary to Section 135 of the Electoral Act, the petitioners failed to demonstrate that the alleged irregularities during the November 11 governorship election in Kogi state were significant enough to affect the general outcome of the election.

On the allegations of document forgery, the tribunal held that the SDP and its governorship candidate did not prove that the purportedly forged documents were submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) by Ododo.

The tribunal held that the petitioners failed to call relevant witnesses to authenticate these documents, thereby diminishing their probative value.

The tribunal also faulted the petitioners for merely submitting video evidence and other documents without establishing their relevance to their case.

Kogi State held its off-cycle election on November 11, 2023, in which Ododo of the APC emerged victorious, beating his closest rival, Ajaka of the SDP.

Dissatisfied, Ajaka and his party had filed a petition before the state governorship election tribunal, challenging Ododo’s victory.

Reacting to the ruling, Ajaka said his loss at the tribunal to Ododo was a temporary setback as he said he is set to pursue the case to the highest court in the land.

Ajaka said “A long walk to freedom has just begun.”

According to him, “Today, I come before you with a heavy heart but also with a fire of optimism burning in my soul. We have just received the news that our election petition has been unsuccessful at the tribunal.

“It is a setback, a moment of disappointment, and it is natural for us to feel disheartened. But let me tell you this, my fellow Kogites, this is not the end of our journey. This is just a chapter in our fight for justice, truth, the rights of our people and freedom.

“Despite the outcome at the tribunal, I am proud to say that we had a team of brilliant lawyers who did an outstanding job in proving the case of overvoting during the election.

“Their dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment to upholding the principles of democracy have left an indelible mark on our case as we push further.

“Throughout the entire process, our lawyers exhibited the highest level of professionalism and tenacity. They meticulously gathered evidence, scrutinized data, and presented a compelling case to the tribunal, but the tribunal despite agreeing to over-voting struck our case out.

“These lawyers did not fail us. We are very optimistic that they will be vindicated by the end of the petition. I can assure you that this judgment will not stand the test of time.

“Yes, we may have lost the battle at the tribunal, but the war is far from over. Our stolen mandate, our voice, our power, will not be silenced. We will rise from the ashes of this defeat, stronger and more determined than ever before.

“Today, we must encourage each other to be hopeful, to be relentless in our pursuit of justice, and to keep our faith unwavering.”

“It is in times like these that our resilience is tested. We must remember why we embarked on this political journey in the first place. Our dreams, our hopes for a better future for Kogi, for a fairer society, for the upliftment of the marginalized, for the protection of our people, and for the progress of our state – these dreams are not dependent on a single election outcome.

“We must remind ourselves that our fight is not just about winning an election; it is about standing up for what is right, for what is just, and for what we believe in.

“Our opponents may have won this first round, the battle, but they have not won the war. We will take this fight to the very end, where justice will prevail. We will reclaim our stolen mandate and restore the faith of our people in the democratic process.

“Let us not lose sight of the bigger picture. We have been given an opportunity, a platform to make a difference. Losing at the tribunal does not make us losers; it makes us fighters, warriors who will not back down in the face of adversity.

“The violence, aggression and intimidation we faced during the election did not stop us. We will not be deterred by temporary setbacks, because our spirit is unbreakable.

“I call upon every one of you, my fellow Kogites to stay united, to stand strong, and to continue the fight. Our journey may be long and challenging, but together, we can overcome any obstacles that come our way. Let us not lose hope, let us not lose faith, and let us not lose sight of the ultimate goal.

“Remember, my fellow Kogites, that history is filled with stories of triumph against all odds. We are the authors of our own destiny, and we have the power to shape the future. Let our determination be our guiding light, and let our relentless pursuit of justice be the fuel that propels us forward.

“In conclusion, I want to remind you all that we are not alone in this fight. The people who believe in us, who have placed their trust in us, are counting on us to fulfil our promise. Let us not disappoint them. Let us rise above this setback, and together, let us reclaim our stolen mandate”.

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Tribune Online