On the 17th of this month ,the Plateau state governorship election petition tribunal sitting in Jos, from all indications, was reluctantly made to take a long adjournment by the respondent(s) as a result of lack of preparedness or witnesses to defend what Political pundits and legal minds described as indefensible petition filed by the APC governorship candidate Nentawe Yilwatda, against the result of the March 18th election.
That day expectedly, was for the first respondent INEC, to enter it’s defence having at the last sitting, unsuccessfully failed to convince the tribunal that its supposed witnesses were not available, as according to its lead Counsel Atuh SAN, they were on transfer across the country, after the conduct of governorship election in the state.
INEC in concert with its co -travellers, governor Caleb Mutfwang and the PDP, prior to 17th of this month, did all they could, for the tribunal to grant it seven days to be able to put up its defence but was stoutly objected to, by the APC.
The tribunal in refusing INEC’s request for the seven days adjournment, saw no merit in the application since from all indications it was determined to wind up its assignment within a record time without let or hindrance.
To be fair to INEC and the other respondents, it was least expected that the Petitioner would outsmart them by closing his case abruptly on that fateful day.
The manner in which the petitioner’s lead counsel for that day Yakubu Ruba SAN, smartly rounded up his case, put the respondents lawyers off guard, to the extent that governor Mutfwang ‘s lawyer,Pius Akubo SAN, openly described the legal brinkmanship and maneuver, as a pleasant surprise.
Probably looking at its life span and also the need to give all parties enough opportunity to present their cases,the tribunal decided to bend backwards by granting a long adjournment for the sake of fairness and equity.
Be that as it may, during the three week hearing, of the Petitioner’s case, the good; the bad; and the ugly on the conduct of the March 18th governorship election, were heard and presented before the tribunal.
The good aspect of it all, was that, the petitioner while presenting his case, never complained of lost of life during the governorship election in the state.
The crux of his petition, metaphorically was the bad and ugly aspects of the governorship election, whose seed of fraud, was mischievously sowed, engineered and planted by INEC but harvested and enjoyed by the PDP, in flagrant abuse of the electoral Act, 2022, as ammended.
The APC team of lawyers comprising, the masquerade Prince Lateef Fagbemi SAN and backed by legal giants such as Professor Kayode Olatoke SAN, Edward Pwajok SAN, Yakubu Ruba SAN, Mathew Kukarr SAN,and a renowned Jos based legal luminary Sunday Obende with a host of others, in a show of scholarship, dexterity and legal maneuver, comprehensively and eruditely presented the case of the petitioner, by bringing 49 witnesses with convincing certified true copies of documents to the tribunal.
Therefore, the fear, confusion and anxiety that gripped the PDP lawyers and their supporters, when the petitioner smartly closed his case, is understandable and grounded, if predicated on the incontrovertible facts and evidences presented before the tribunal by Nentawe.
As a matter of fact, what seems to be PDP’s nightmare and also worth highlighting during the trial, were the series of court orders and judgements obtained from the High courts, Court Appeal and the Supreme Court where various decisions were given on the PDP’s structure in the state.
In all the seven cases in respect of the PDP”s structure, right from the court of first instance up to the supreme court, PDP could not convince the courts that it validly constituted it’s state executive council on the 22nd September 2021 in Plateau State.
What seemed to be the last straw, was when a member of the former Care taker committee, headed by Senator Tunde Ogbeh that purportedly conducted the September 2021 State Congress Emmanuel Go’ar gave evidence as one of the Petitioner’s witnesses.
Probably because of the incalculable and devastating damage his testimony might cause it, the PDP tried all it could to frustrate Go’ar from appearing before the tribunal.
A case in point, was when the lead Counsel to governor Mutfwang raised an alarm, that Go’ar was seated in court while Emmanuel Macham also an albatross to PDP was testifying.
On hearing the lead counsel’s false alarm, the tribunal quickly stopped proceedings and requested that Go’ar should stand up only to find out that he was maliciously set up.
The tribunal then turned to the lead counsel and insisted that he should disclose who told him that Go’ar was in the court when Macham was testifying.
The lead counsel full of apologies, said he was informed by one of his juniors who instantly, was identified and rebuked by the tribunal for misleading his senior.
Not daunted and unshaken, Go’ar while in the witness box with some documents graphically explained how the Caretaker committee illegally operated and conducted the so-called state Congress of the PDP which was voided abinitio by a Jos high court.
Another thorny and disturbing evidence to the respondents, was the evidence of one of the PDP’s bigwigs Emmanuel Macham, who not only shredded but ridiculed it as a flock without a shepherd.
Macham, narrated with facts and documents, how the PDP just hand picked its so-called executive council members and also presented the court judgement nullifying the state Congress which showed that only five out of the seventeen local government areas participated in the fathom exercise.
The PDP has to further battle with the expert witness’s evidence where credible facts were shown by the petitioner, that BVAS and accreditation of voters did not take place in some polling units across the state.
Added to this,as enunciated by a computer Science guru,was the fact that in something registration areas, the results collated and entered in the formEC8A were more than the registered voters in those areas
Further more, the petitioner brought some APC ward returning agents who revealed the kind of atrocities and malpractices perpetrated by both INEC and PDP across the state, during the March 18th election.
All said and done,what is left to be seen, is how INEC,governor Mutfwang and PDP would wriggle out of what legal luminaries describe as ” air and water tight petition”.
One thing, that was not surprising but funny, was the combative posture adopted by the respondents lawyers in trying to rubbish all the documents and evidences put forward during the cross examinations of the Petitioner’s witnesses.
Though governor Mutfwang ‘s lead Counsel Pius Akubo SAN and that of PDP Emeka Etiaba SAN are legal luminaries of repute,and gurus in advocacy, they found the petitioner’s witnesses as hard nuts to crack.
Conscious of the fact that the respondents are yet to enter defence and their lawyers not push-overs, the entire scenario if placed on a balance of probability, it would be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for the PDP to remain in Government House, Little Rayfield, Jos.
I am only thinking aloud.