The Counsel to the gubernatorial candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Plateau State, Mike Ozekhome (SAN), has described Governor Simon Lalong as a pretender, who needs to vacate the seat for the rightful owner (Senator Jeremiah Useni) to take his place as governor of the state.
He also said because of the misrepresentation of his name as “Sule Simon”, and could not prove that in his affidavit, Lalong wasn’t qualified to contest the last governorship election in the State.
Ozekhome disclosed this to journalists after the Plateau State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, sitting in Jos reserved judgement on the petition filed by the Governorship Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen. Jeremiah Useni, in the March 2019 Governorship election in the state.
DAILY POST recalls that Useni, had filled a petition to challenge the reelection of Governor Simon Lalong of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), claiming that there were votes cancellation in the PDP dominated areas and that Lalong was not qualified to contest the election.
The tribunal adopted all written addresses from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ahead of the judgement.
“Our brief prayer at the end of the day is that the sitting Governor, Simon Lalong did not win any election, such as to enable him to continue to occupy government house.
According to him, “In my opening sentence, I described him as a pretender to the throne, and there can’t be two Obas, Emirs or Ezes to one palace; he has to vacate the palace for the rightful occupant, which is General Jeremiah Timbut Useni, who won the election square and right, whom the people of Plateau State voted for and who ought to have been declared the winner.
“We merely said as an alternative, that in the event that the court does not find a contention on the name, in the worst scenario is the deflate and inflate the votes that were cancelled, mutilated; then you will find that, the margin for winning is less than the margin of peoples votes that have been cancelled or mutilated, a rerun ought to be ordered.
“But the main issue has to do with who contested the election, form CF001, is a form of INEC which is proscribe under Section 183 of the electoral Act, which also gives the electoral umpire (INEC) to make guidelines, issue manuals, that form itself is a solemn oath.
He further explained that, “The Supreme Court in the latest case of Moddibo, described it as a certificate. So when you swear to it, you are swearing that everything you are saying is correct to the best of your knowledge.
“The only certificate, which is supposed to be a qualifying certificate owned by Governor Lalong, bears the name Sule Simon.
“Meanwhile, in his change of name, which he filled, he never referred to the name Sule Simon, or that he ever changed his name; when it came to that column, have you ever had any change of name, he said nil/dash, which means no. Which is a false declaration.
“And in his affidavit of change of name, changing from Sule Lalong Simon, to Sule Bako Lalong. So we have here a crisis of three names, which he ought to have come to the tribunal to explain by himself or call people from wide to say oh, its the Sule Simon that bears this name or swear to an Affidavit, but affidavit never referred to his name, Sule Simon, which is on his qualification.
“It means automatically he has no qualification to contest the election. Whether you have LLB, Masters, Doctorate you cannot build something upon nothing, that’s what the Supreme Court has said in many instances that once you have made a false declaration, it is not an issue that should be proved beyond reasonable doubt, it is simply that you have made a false declaration of a fundamental feature with has affected your qualification to contest that election.
“So ab initio, Governor Lalong was never qualified to contest the last governorship election, and if he was not qualified, then it follows as the night follows day; going by Supreme Court decisions, APC vs Kafi, the case of Kabiru Marafa against APC, among others which I even handled at the Supreme Court.
“It means that the next person who came second in that election, whether you call it consequential order, which blows directly from the case, or you call it immediate order altercate the position of that diadem, that crown, that person is General JT Useni.
He maintained that the tribunal had been “fair and firm” to all parties in the matter.
Also Speaking, Council to the ruling APC and Governor Lalong, Garba Pwul (SAN) said, “We are very comfortable that there has been no evidence petitioned to dislodge result declared by INEC.
“As we have demonstrated in Court, we are very confident that there is no material presented by the petitioner which the election declared by INEC can be overturned by the tribunal.
“We are also very confident that any evidence given was sufficiently countered and dislodged.
“So we are very confident that the tribunal will do justice in
this matter”, he stressed.
On the change of name issue raised by the petitioner, Pwul said, “Change of name by the second respondent is an old matter, the application document attached to the affidavit, to ensure that he did everything according to law.
“And do not forget that the electoral umpire (INEC) when through all that the second respondent (Lalong) submitted, and the witness from INEC which is known as PW71, during evidence that the umpire was sufficiently satisfy, that Governor Simon Lalong, has disclosed every material and necessary information that qualified him to contest the election.
He maintained that since INEC is the overall authority in election matters and if they are satisfied, and that no false information was disclosed.
“But it is okay for anybody to raised an observation, but proving is a different thing; INEC even testified on behalf of the petitioners”, he stressed.
Meantime, Chairman of the three member Tribunal, Justice Halima Salman adjourned sitting, and said the tribunal will resume when judgement is ready.