By Adeola Oladele, Ibadan
As the Federal Court of Appeal sitting in Ibadan on Thursday dismissed the appeal filed by Senator Rashidi Ladoja of Accord challenging the victory of Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the April 11 governorship election, counsel to Ladoja has said his client would consider heading for the Supreme Court after proper study of the Appeal Court judgement.
Prince Aderemi Olatubora, while reacting to the judgment, said the outcome was not what they bargained for, stating that the judgement was similar to that of Rivers State where the election of Governor Nyesom Wike was nullified, promising that they were ready to prove their case at the Supreme Court.
The five-man panel of judges was unanimous in its decision to dismiss the appeal filed by the Accord party gubernatorial candidate, Ladoja, stating that it lacked merit and that the evidence of the principal witness in the appeal, Bimbo Adepoju, tagged as PW1, was inadmissible.
His lead counsel, Chief Robert Clark, in a suit number CA/IB/EPT/GOV/31/2015, had prayed the court to dismiss the judgment of the lower tribunal against his client on the grounds that it excluded the evidence of his client’s principal witness.
The Accord lead counsel in CA/IB/EPT/GOV/31A/2015 in another application, prayed the court to declare Senator Ladoja as the winner of April 11 governorship election in the state.
The judges were led by Justices H.M. Ogunjimiju, Haruna Simeon Tsammanani, Uchechukwu Oyemenam, J. Olubunmi Oyewole and M.L. Shuaibu.
The Appeal Court Judges in their ruling, affirmed the victory of Governor Ajimobi and dismissed Ladoja and Accord’s appeal, stating that the “the totality of evidence presented by PW1 is an opinion” and could not be considered because it lacked merit.
The judges further held that the principal witness is an interested party and such evidence could not be relied upon.
While citing Section 68 (1) of the Evidence Act, with reference to pages 192,201,203 and 214 of the lower court judgment, the court submitted that PW1 evidence “does not contain statement of fact” because he is not competent to give such report.
Consequent upon that, all the Panel of Judges agreed on the dismissal of Ladoja’s appeal and affirmed Ajimobi’ victory.
In their separate deliveries, it was unanimously agreed that PW1 who was the main witness in the case because is a card-carrying member of Accord, and an interested person, querying why he should render an opinion when he is not an expert.
They maintained that only an expert could make an opinion in such cases which would stand according to the constitution.
The judges equally made references to inconsistency in his evidences which could not be explained under cross-examination that lasted five days at the lower tribunal.
The court further emphasized that the PW1 discredited himself during cross-examination as he admitted to “wrong” at a point in time, adding that the claim of violence and manipulation in areas mentioned by the witness could not be established.
However, in the second appeal – CA/IB/EPT/GOV/31A/2015, which was also dismissed, the judges further corroborated tribunal’s position.
“Tribunal was right to state that the document of PW1 was inadmissible” and that his evidence was a mere opinion.
The Leading Judge, H.M. Ogunjimiju, further added that there was no proof that non-compliance to the guideline of election affected the outcome of election.
She also posited that the appellant “put all their eggs in one basket and the basket is a leaking one.”
Reacting after the ruling, counsel to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Wole Aina, said the team was not surprised about the outcome of the Appeal Court ruling, saying they actually saw it coming.
On October 27, 2015, a three-man Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Ibadan affirmed the electoral victory of Gov. Ajimobi, following which Senator Ladoja proceeded to the Court of Appeal to appeal the judgment.