An Ondo State High Court sitting in Akure has declared Mr James Ololade-Gbegudu as the winner of the All Progressives Congress (APC) House of Assembly primary election for Okitipupa Constituency ll.
Ololade-Gbegudu had approached the court to seek an order to compel the APC and INEC to recognise him as the authentic APC candidate for the constituency and not the lawmaker-elect, Mr Sina Akinwunmi, whose name was forwarded to the electoral body by the party.
The claimant said that he won the direct primary election of the constituency held on Oct. 5, 2018 with 4,000 votes to beat five other aspirants, including Akinwunmi, who polled zero vote.
Justice Olabode Adegbehingbe, in his judgment, held that all evidence laid before the court by officials of the APC, documentary evidence, including the primary election result sheet adduced by counsel to the plaintiff, Mr Femi Emodamori, showed that Ololade-Gbegudu actually won the APC assembly ticket.
“Evidence before me shows that the total number of accredited voters was 7,000 while 6,500 was total valid votes and claimant scored total number of 4,000 votes which was signed by the representative of APC and INEC.
“So, the claimant is the winner of the primary election of Ondo State House of Assembly for Okitipupa constituency ll held on Oct 5,2018.
“Although,section 87 (4) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) does not mandate the party to forward names of Direct Primary election winners to INEC but party might choose to or not to forward such names as candidate.
“I can not apply Section 87(3) of the Act which only deals with Indirect primary, because there is no authority to be cited on the aspect of winners of party’s direct primary whose names was not sent to INEC,” Adegbehingbe said.
He also dismissed objection of the defendants that the claimant’s case was filed out of time and statute-barred, saying that the suit was brought within 14 days allowed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
Adegbehingbe, however, declined to grant other reliefs of the claimant that certificate of return earlier issued to Akinwunmi be withdrawn and issued to him.
He said that the court could not force the APC to recognise the claimant as its authentic candidate for the March 9, 2019 State Assembly polls.
Commenting on the verdict, counsel to the claimant, Mr Femi Emodamori, said his client would approach the appellate court to order to compel INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Akinwunmi and re-issue it to Ololade-Gbegudu.
“Since the High Court had affirmed Ololade-Gbegudu as the authentic APC candidate and winner of the primary election held on October 5, 2018 witnessed by INEC officials, we will approach the appellate court for necessary action,” he said.
Counsel to both the INEC and APC, Messrs Bukola Durojaye and Tajudeen Oyerinde respectively expressed satisfaction with the judgement.