GOVERNOR Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, yesterday, opened his defence before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Benin City, as the witnesses, who testified in favour of the governor, insisted that the election in which he emerged victorious was free, fair and credible. The witnesses produced by Obaseki before the tribunal elicited fierce arguments as counsel to Obaseki, Olatunji Oyeyipo, SAN, that of All Progressives Congress, APC, Kayode Olatoke, SAN and counsel to Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Onyinye Anumoye, engaged the lead counsel to Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Yusuf Ali, SAN, during the cross examination of the witnesses.
The legal fire works commenced after the first witness, Osagiede Justice, from unit 24, Ward four, Oredo, told the tribunal that the election in his unit was free and fair and that INEC did a wonderful job of ensuring that the election was credible. However, tension rose when counsel to Obaseki, Oyeyipo SAN, asked the witness to tender his party agent’s card so as to ascertain that he was the authentic agent of Obaseki at the election. But counsel to Ize-Iyamu, Yusuf Ali, SAN, objected, saying that the card was not tendered before the tribunal. “It was not pleaded, not listed and not frontloaded. Therefore, it is not relevant in the case,” he argued. But counsel to APC, Olatoke, countered, saying, “The agent card is admissible. You don’t plead evidence, you only plead documents and facts. This party agent’s card is already listed as item 14 in the second respondent’s list of documents. So, it is not as if it is a new document, therefore it is relevant to be handed over as an evidence in this case.” Counsel to INEC, Anumoye, agreed with Olatoke, urging the tribunal to admit the witness’s agent card as an exhibit. Ruling on the matter, Justice Ahmed Badamasi, agreed with counsel to Obaseki, saying, “The agent card was listed in the 2nd respondent’s deposition, therefore, it is relevant to this tribunal and it is admitted.” Another heated argument was when counsel to Ize-Iyamu filed an application asking that the tribunal grants the petitioner’s counsel 10 minutes rather than the four minutes agreed earlier. But Olatoke, Anumoye and Oyeyipo, counsel to APC, INEC and Obaseki respectively, objected to the application accusing the petitioners of trying to “change the goal post at the middle of the game.”