Today was arguably the Petitioners’ best day in court as Respondents were obviously taken unawares. Having adjourned yesterday to reconvene with presentation of witnesses in schedule, the Respondents’ counsels must have arrived court today, armed to the teeth with cross-examination iron bars, and hot iron bars for that matter.
But instead, the Petitioners successfully tendered essential documents from six contentious states in evidence.
Lining up at the Petitioners’ corner were HE Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of Labour Party, who stood in for himself and his party; the Kaduna State-born Senator Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, the vice presidential candidate of the party; Comrade Julius Abure, the National Chairman of the party and Prof Akin Oshuntokun, the Director General of the LP Campaign Council.
The Petitioners’ Counsels was led by Prof Awa Kalu, SAN.
First Respondent (INEC) counsel was led by Sam Ihero, SAN.
Second & Third Respondents’ Counsels (Tinubu & Shettima) were led by Wole Olanipekun, SAN.
Fourth Respondents’ Counsels (APC) was led by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN.
Kalu took over and introduced a member of his team, Emeka Okpoko, SAN to take over the course of rendering documents for the Petitioners.
Immediately Okpoko took over, Ihero, objected, saying that the Petitioners just served them papers to indicate rendering of documents this morning.
After the usual banter, the Haruna Tsammani-led panel allowed Okpoko to proceed.
However, there arose an issue regarding scheduling of documents filed and order of tendering, leading to the court to stand down in order for the Petitioners to put things in order.
Based on these normal issues in all courts, particularly tribunals, the propagandists went to town, saying things ranging from that the Petitioners were not ready, that they are confused to outrightly labelling Obi and LP counsels incompetent.
They attempted vainly to smear an otherwise very successful day for the Petitioners.
But after the ten-minute stepdown, the court resumed and tendering of forms EC8A and EC8B proceeded accordingly.
Rivers State (15 LGAs), Benue State (23 LGAs), Cross River State (18 LGAs), Niger State (21 LGAs), Osun State (20 LGAs) and Ekiti State (16 LGAs) were all tendered and admitted by the Tribunal in evidence.
Nonetheless, INEC and all other Respondents objected to the documents so tendered, informing the Tribunal that they would state reasons for objection in writing during presentation of final addresses. Strangely, INEC objected to documents they certified prior to tendering.
By 1.00 pm, Okpoko finished, and the Petitioners were done for the business of the day.
They asked for adjournment to continue tomorrow and without any objection from the Respondents, the Tribunal adjourned Obi vs Tinubu to June 2.
By all indices of election petitions, today was a very successful one for the Petitioners. Twelve more states to be rendered tomorrow.