Otti Survives PDP, APC Scare as Tribunal Affirms His Mandate
Trubunal Dismisses Petitions from Main Opposition Parties
Abia State governor, Mr. Alex Otti yesterday emerged victorious from the stiff challenge of his mandate by the two main opposition parties that filed petitions at against him at the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
The three-man Tribunal headed by Justice H.T.D Gwadah dismissed the two petitions for lacking merit and affirmed Otti as the duly elected governor of Abia on the platform of Labour Party.
Both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate, High Chief Ikechi Emenike, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Chief Ambrose Ahiwe had in their respective petitions challenged the outcome of the March 18, 2023 governorship poll.
In their judgments that cumulatively lasted 7hrs 41minutes, the panel members unanimously agreed that the petitioners failed to prove their cases beyond reasonable doubt.
Ahiwe, who came second in the poll had claimed in his petition that Otti did not score the highest lawful votes cast and that the poll was characterised by malpractices, alleging that votes of Obingwa local government was taken to Abuja “doctored and brought back”.
He asked the Tribunal to declare him the rightful winner of the March 18 poll and order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) issued to Otti.
On his part, Emenike joined LP, PDP, Young Progressives Party(YPP) and their respective candidates as well INEC, contended that none of the rival candidates was duly nominated and therefore unqualified to have participated in the poll.
He also alleged that his votes were “maliciously excluded” by the electorate umpire at the final collation, citing many local governments where he was shortchanged, including Bende where he said he won in all the wards.
The APC governorship flag bearer contended that he should be declared the duly elected governor of Abia by virtue of the fact that none of the candidates that were placed before him qualified to contest the poll.
Otti had through his legal team strived to kill off the two petitions at the preliminary stage with barrage of motions and applications but the petitions survived to reach trial stage after the Tribunal rulings.
In the first judgment read by Justice Gwadah, the the Tribunal held that Ahiwe did not adduce any evidence to prove his case beyond reasonable doubt.
The tribunal chairman held that “pleadings will not constitute proof of proof of facts”, adding that the evidences were merely dumped on the Tribunal by the petitioner.
Justice Omolara Adeyemi, who read the second judgment held that Emenike had no business challenging the qualifications of candidates fielded by parties other than his own party, if he participated in the primary election.
According to the judge, it has already been settled through the provisions of the Electoral Act and judicial decisions that the issue of party membership and qualifications of candidates are pre-election matters and purely internal affairs of political parties.
“It is a cast iron. The law has since changed. The issues canvassed by the petitioner do not represent the present state of the law,” Justice Adeyemi said.
Before the verdicts were pronounced the panel members, including Justice Boniface Mgyon had taken turns to discharge all the applications and motions filed by the parties.
The two main opposition parties had waged a relentless legal battle to oust Governor Otti but his legal team withstood the onslaught making it possible for the governor to emerge from the Tribunal with his mandate intact.