By Lawal Ogienagbon
The last has not been heard about the March 9 governorship election in Oyo State. With Monday’s Appeal Court’s verdict setting aside the election tribunal’s decision on the poll dispute because it was “perverse”, the parties are getting set for another round of battle at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is the final arbiter on governorship election disputes. Until the amendment of the Electoral Act a few years ago, the Appeal Court was the “final destination” for such cases. The Appeal Court stirred the hornet’s nest with its verdict, which seemed to be neither here nor there because of its failure to make “consequential orders”.
Why did it fail to nullify the election of Governor Seyi Makinde having found that the election was not held in substantial compliance with the rules and guidelines of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)? Answering this question, the court held:
“The non-compliance is in respect of INEC regulations and guidelines for the conduct of the 2019 elections in Nigeria, not the Electoral Act itself. Whereas the position earlier held by this court when it was the final destination for gubernatorial appeals such as in Fayemi v Oni (2009) 7 NWLR (Pt. 1140) 223 at 285H – 286A is that non-compliance with INEC manuals amounts to non-compliance with the Electoral Act, the current position for now, is to the contrary”, citing the Supreme Court’s decisions in Nyesom Wike v Peterside and Ikpeazu v Otti to support its position.
Indeed, the judgment of the Supreme Court is binding on the Appeal Court so as its (Appeal Court) own verdict cannot be questioned by the High Court. Could the Appeal Court have held otherwise when it declared in the appeal by the Oyo State All Progressives Congress (APC) and its governorship candidate Adebayo Adelabu that “however in our further evaluation of the evidence led and the current position of the law, we cannot nullify the election?”
Will the Supreme Court reverse itself in the said Wike and Ikpeazu cases in order to do substantial justice when this matter comes before it?