OSUN: AC'S ROAD TO OBLIVION

By NBF News
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What remains of the Action Congress (AC) in Osun state might be wiped off after the 2011 gubernatorial polls going by the manner the party is refusing to let go the ghost of the hotly disputed 2007 gubernatorial election elections in the state.

Eleven months after its inauguration, the Justice Garba Ali-led governorship election petition retrial tribunal again on Friday validated the election of incumbent Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It will be the second time a governorship election tribunal will be declaring the Okuku prince as the elected governor of the state of the 'Living Spring'. Justice Thomas Naron had earlier pronounced Oyinlola winner but his verdict was tainted and the Court of Appeal ordered a retrial alleging bias.

However, moments after suffering a legal defeat at the retrial tribunal, Gbenga Fayemiwo, Aregbesola's spokes person declared that the former Lagos state Works Commissioner is 'heading for the court of Appeal insisting 'we believe we won the election and we wont give up on it till the last moment.'

Justice Garba Ali, while delivering judgment on the 1004—page petition filed by AC candidate, Engr. Rauf Aregbesola, against Oyinlola, had dismissed all the grounds of the petition, describing it as frivolous. Asked if the party is not worried that the appellate court verdict might come too close to the commencement of the 201 polls, the party spokesman noted, 'we will explore all the options and I can assure you that it is better than allowing people to take the law into their own hands and start rioting all over the state.'

But the road to justice in the Osun governorship election petition has been strewn with delay, apathy, blackmail, intimidation and anxiety. The legal firefight has lasted almost the entire lifespan of the position under dispute.

Indeed, it is doubtful if Aregbesola, while filing the petition in 2007, would have envisaged that he is about to enlist in a long drawn battle. In his petition, he had contended that INEC and the police colluded with the PDP to rig the election in favour of Oyinlola and vigorously contested election results in 10 local governments of the state were rigged. The first governorship election tribunal led by Justice Thomas Naron had initially thrown out the petition for lack of evidence.

Dissatisfied, Aregebesola headed for the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan. The appellate court headed by Justice Victor Omagie slammed the verdict of the Naron tribunal describing it as 'perverse.' Consequently, it ordered a retrial of the case with an order a new tribunal must admit all evidences rejected by the Naron tribunal.

Part of the evidence the Omagie panel ordered the new tribunal to re-admit was the controversial police report and the forensic report that were submitted by Aregbesola with his petition. The report however later became a subject of dispute, as the police disowned the report and arrested the AC candidate wanted for forgery. Curiously, when the new tribunal was constituted, the AC withheld the police report sparking fresh exchange of brickbats from the Oyinlola and Aregbesola camps. Oyinlola, on many occasions, had challenged Aregbesola to present the police report before the tribunal if it is sure it is not fake. He threatened that the authors of the police report would be jailed for forgery.

Commissioner for Justice in the state, Niyi Owolade, in fact alleged that the refusal of the AC to table the police report before the new tribunal was an admission of guilt in the fraud. But AC's director of Research and Strategy, Sunday Akere, explained that his party did not present the police report before the Justice Ali-led tribunal because it has already 'detailed atrocities of killings, violence and rigging in more than 10 local government councils, which we are contesting in our petition.

If we present it, the tribunal might be tempted to order for a rerun of the election. We only contested results of elections in 10 local government councils and not all the councils, which the police report encapsulates…. .' But the drama surrounding the case was not only about the police report. The nose of the judiciary was also badly bloodied during the case. The integrity of the Justice Naron tribunal came under intense attack shortly before it gave a unanimous victory to Oyinlola. A Lagos-based magazine, accused the tribunal of hobnobbing with a counsel to the governor, Kunle Kalejaiye (SAN).

Unfortunately, political analysts fear that the refusal of the AC to 'bury the death' of 2007 might eventually hurt her fortunes in the impending election. 'I think the AC is staying too long at the tribunal and I don't know how they will do it that it wont hurt their electoral fortune in 2011.'But analysts insists that the correct thing for the AC would have been to go back home and strategize to see how it can it can profit from the impending implosion that would happen within the state PDP over who succeeds Oyinlola in 2011.

A political scientist at the Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Tunde Olaifa, also was unhappy over the fresh legal challenge.,'Yes, they reserve the right to appeal a suit they think they have been robbed, but the area I am not comfortable with is if you fight till the next election, when are you going to prepare for the new election?' But Fayemiwo thinks otherwise insisting that the appeal notwithstanding; the party will still post a strong showing in 2011. 'Oyinlola's military tactics wont work in 2011 and I can say we are ready for a new election even tomorrow. Our people are ever-ready.'