The judicial hammer fell yesterday on a member of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Musa Arogundade, as a Federal High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti nullified his election.
It ordered that he be replaced by his challenger, Toyin Obayemi, as the lawmaker representing Ado Constituency 1.
The court, in the judgment delivered by Justice Taiwo Taiwo, withdrew Arogundade’s Certificate of Return and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue Obayemi a fresh Certificate of Return.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Kola Oluwawole, was also ordered to immediately swear in Obayemi as the lawmaker representing Ado Constituency 1.
The judge also ordered Arogundade to refund all salaries, allowances and constituency allowances collected by him since he was inaugurated as an Assembly member on June 8, 2015.
Defendants in the suit are INEC (1st), Odunayo Talabi (2nd), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) (3rd) and Arogundade.
Obayemi, who came second at the primary held on November 29, 2014, claimed in his originating summons that a judgment was “fraudulently procured” at a Federal High Court in Abuja, which substituted the name of the winner of the shadow poll, Talabi with that of Arogundade.
The court agreed with the plaintiff that Arogundade, who served as an agent to Talabi at the primary, cannot stand as a candidate for the April 11, 2015 House of Assembly election organised by INEC.
The court, which resolved all the 10 issues for determination in favour of Obayemi, agreed with the plaintiff that the Ekiti PDP, its chieftains and some lawyers connived together to deceive the court to obtain the judgment in the suit delivered by the late Justice Evoh Chukwu on September 21, 2014.
The court agreed with the plaintiff that Talabi did not deny the allegation that he presented a fake West African Examinations Council (WAEC) result and fake Ordinary National Diploma (OND) certificate of Yaba College of Technology for the purpose of seeking election as House of Assembly member.
Justice Taiwo had harsh words for the PDP, which it lambasted for arbitrariness and infringement on the provisions of Sections 31 and 36 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) and reduced such a serious matter bordering on the rights of an aspirant to a mere party affair.
He held that Arogundade having wrongly been used as a substitute lacks the locus standi to obtain an order compelling INEC to use him as a replacement and the court set aside the order on this premise.
Justice Taiwo ruled: “Since the 4th defendant (Arogundade) was not an aspirant in the primary election, he lacks the locus standi to file the case at the Federal High Court, Abuja. I hereby set aside the said judgment having been procured by fraud.”
According to him, evidence before the court showed that Arogundade’s name was not on Form CF001, an INEC document displaying the names of the candidate as the document bore Talabi’s name
Justice Taiwo also condemned INEC for “playing the ostrich and bury its head in the sand while all these were going on”.
The judge held: “I register my displeasure with the attitude of the 1st defendant (INEC) who filed no paper although they are not obliged.
“I am of the view that as a public agency, the attitude of INEC is more worrisome and not helpful to our nascent democracy. It should not bury its head in sound.”
Justice Taiwo ruled: “I will be shirking in my responsibility if I fail to express disappointment with the attitude of the 2nd respondent (PDP). Its action was very worrisome and issue like this goes beyond the internal affairs of a political party, because it can bring about arbitrariness and imposition of candidate.
“The party has no reason to have substituted the 2nd respondent (Talabi) with the 4th respondent (Arogundade) because he did not participate in the primaries. And it is trite law that any allegation not denied is deemed admitted going by the verdict of the Supreme Court.
“The 2nd respondent did not deny the allegation that he presented a fake WAEC and Ordinary National Diploma Results got from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos. Having not denied these, it means the averments were true and the plaintiff ought to have been presented as replacement, having come second in the primaries”.
Citing the Supreme Court’s judgment in Amaechi Vs INEC and Alhassan Vs Ishyaku, the judge said: “It is my humble opinion that the PDP wrongly submitted the name of the 4th respondent as candidate. INEC has no reason to have issued the certificate of return to him. He was a product of illegality.
“Since INEC due to inexplicable circumstance disqualified the 2nd respondent, then the plaintiff became the sole candidate of the PDP. I order the INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from the 4th respondent and issues same to him.
“While the speaker of the State House of Assembly is directed to swear him in as the lawmaker representing Ado Constituency 1”.
Speaking with reporters after the judgment, Obayemi said the judgment has sent a signal that the era of impunity has ended.
He added that he had never seen a situation in which an agent at a primary suddenly became a candidate.
Describing the “fraudulent substitution” as very dangerous to democracy, Obayemi said the victory would give him an opportunity to give a better representation to Ado Constituency 1.
He explained that he still remained a PDP member and would head for INEC to receive his Certificate of Return, which would be presented to the Speaker for swearing-in.