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OPINION: Between Natasha’s Tribunal Victory and Ohere’s Quest for Justice

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The unanimous judgment delivered by the three-man panel of the Kogi State Election Petitions Tribunal led by Justice K. A. Orjiako on Wednesday unravels the criminality that greeted the Kogi Central Senatorial election held in February.

Recall that the INEC returning officer, Rotimi Ajayi, a professor, had declared Abubakar Sadiku-Ohere of the All Progressives Congress winner of the February 25 poll after polling a total of 52,132 votes against Barr Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan’s 51,763 votes—a development that stirred mixed reactions among the two leading political parties in the state.

Displeased by the outcome of the election, Natasha filed a lawsuit against Ohere, APC, and INEC before the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal in Kogi, challenging the declaration of the APC candidate as the winner by the electoral umpire.

In her petition, Natasha said Ohere (1st respondent) was not duly elected as claimed by INEC, adding that the latter should declare her winner and also issue her certificate of return since she scored the majority of lawful votes in the said election.

The issue in contention is hinged on the sole ground that Ohere was not duly elected by the majority of lawful votes cast at the election. According to the tribunal, the outcome of the election had to do with errors of calculation, miscalculations, or the exclusion of lawful votes to the disadvantage of the petitioners. This, however, did not sit well with the respondents (Ohere, APC, and INEC), who in their counter affidavit urged the tribunal to dismiss the case over what they described as noncompliance with the electoral act.

In its wisdom, the tribunal dismissed the motion by the respondent’s senior counsel for lacking merit. In the said judgment, the tribunal held: “There is no complaint bothering on the ground of non-compliance with the Act with respect to the said election as pleaded. The motion is clearly misconceived. It hereby fails and is accordingly dismissed”.

It is also worthy of note that the omission of election results from the polling units 037, 038, 045, 047, 050, 051, 052, 053, and 054, all in Ganaja Township Ward 14 of Ajaokuta LGA, was deliberately and unlawfully done to reduce the votes of the petitioner, who garnered massive support from the affected polling units. Despite attesting to the same results whose party agents signed, the respondent could not prove his claim that the said results were not collated at the ward level, thereby shooting himself in the leg. Based on its findings, the report presented during the hearing to discredit the polling units in contention was, in its view, an “afterthought, self-serving, and lacking in probative value”. The said document, under the provisions of Section 83(3) of the Evidence Act, is clearly inadmissible, having been made after the institution of Natasha’s petition.

Without mincing words, Ohere must come out with clean hands in this case by proving how he emerged as the candidate with the majority of lawful votes in the said election as claimed instead of giving false hope to gullible followers who might be swayed by emotions. The law is not ambiguous on this matter; it is clear and visible to the blind. The clean hands doctrine is based on the maxim of equity, which states that one “who comes into equity must come with clean hands”. This doctrine requires the court to deny equitable relief to a party who has violated good faith with respect to the subject of the claim; hence, relief cannot be granted if not sought for. On this note, getting justice in this case for Ohere is like a camel going through the eye of a needle, as the law is supreme and respects no man.

Arogbonlo Israel writes from Abuja.

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