Opinion: Edo Tribunal: As Obaseki Abandoned Case, What Conclusion Can We Draw?


By Nosa Omorodion.

What can one say of the situation whereby the second respondent, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, in the ongoing Edo State Election Petition trial, abandoned the presentation of his witnesses midway?
According to his counsel Adetunji Oyeyepo, SAN, they needed to discontinue presenting witnesses who lacked focus. What that implies is that the presentation of evidence by their witnesses was not helping the respondent's argument. In plain language, the witnesses were not sounding credible.
Counsel to the second respondent seemed to have realized that their presentation of witnesses was a mistake. Even those suspected of being mercenary witnesses fell apart under expert interrogation. 

The evidence before them appeared impossible to controvert. Some attempts to do this led to graver errors. In frustration, the respondent counsel threw in the towel. They may have realized late that they should have adopted the INEC strategy of not presenting any witness instead of parading persons who made fools of themselves and the respondent. 

It is already as clear as daylight that INEC's compromise of the election is indefensible. The second respondent counsel thought they could do for INEC what INEC found impossible. They ended up in a funny situation when in a bid to act smart, their witnesses descended into scandalous incredulity.

As the fleeing second respondent counsel close their defence on the 6th of March, the Tribunal chairman, Justice Ahmed Badamosi has told the third respondent, APC to begin its 10-days defence the day after. Given that Godwin Obaseki and APC are two sides of a coin, it will be interesting to see what manner of defence the APC will put up. One obvious fact is that the APC witnesses are expected from the same pool from which the Godwin Obaseki drew. So what new performances are we expecting? Basically nothing new.

In that case, for the purpose of saving time, should the APC not  close its case immediately after it opens? We just have to wait and see.
So far, the petitioners have been able to prove that INEC violated the Electoral Act by indulging in or aiding acts capable of undermining the integrity of the 2016 Edo State Governorship Election and that the declaration of Mr. Godwin Obaseki of the APC was a deliberate error. If we were to go by precedents, the result of the election, as proven so far, is supposed to be cancelled. And if this were to be done, what remedy should be applied? 

The petitioners - Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and the PDP have laid before the honourable Tribunal, documented evidences which suggest that minus the discredited votes cast, Osagie Ize-Iyamu ought to be returned winner of the election in question. History supports the petitioners in this noble request. The case of Adams Oshiomhole and Oserheimen Osunbor in the 2007 election dispute is a veritable example. 

Ironically, Adams Oshiomhole who was the aggrieved and grand beneficiary of that electoral tussle, is accused of having led the assault this time against free and fair election, and even boasted that the court which gave him relief would not do it for his victim. 

However, as the drama in the Tribunal draws to a close, it is left to be seen what the judges have made of the conflicting submissions. I wish to state though that in the court of public opinion, there is no doubt what the verdict should be given the glare of evidence. 

In Benin, there is a saying that if there is too much waste particles in the soup, a blind man would see it.

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