After a bitterly fought political battle, in which Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan, finally made history to become the first female senator from Kogi State, Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, says he has accepted the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, affirming Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan as the duly elected candidate for the Kogi Central Senatorial Election held in February, this year.
But two other political foes of the governor, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the November 11 governorship election in the state, Senator Dino Melaye; and Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Mr. Murtala Ajaka, are gloating over what they see as Bello’s loss in been unable to deliver the Kogi Central Senatorial District to his All Progressives Congress (APC). Bello is from the same zone.
The Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, on Tuesday upheld the ruling of the election petition tribunal which removed Abubakar Ohere of APC, and declared Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan of the PDP as the legitimately elected Senator for the Kogi Central Senatorial District.
The Appeal Court gave the judgment on Tuesday while ruling on an Appeal case filed before it by Abubakar Ohere.
The court further dismissed the appeal filed by Abubakar Ohere of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for lacking in merit.
The election petition tribunal, had on September 6, affirmed Natasha as the duly elected Senator as it nullified Ohere’s victory citing inflated polling results in favour of Ohere in some units and deliberate undercounting against Akpoti-Uduaghan.
The Tribunal Chairman, Justice K. A. Orjiako delivered the unanimous judgment of the three-man panel, revealing that Ohere’s results were inflated in nine polling units in the Ajaokuta Local Government Area.
He added that the Independent National Electoral Commission reduced Natasha’s results in those areas and omitted the results of three other polling units meant for Natasha in the same LGA.
The Tribunal judgment led Ohere to seek redress. However, the Appeal Court further maintained that Akpoti-Uduagan won the election.
Speaking to State House Correspondents, Governor Bello congratulated Natasha, saying that this was the essence of democracy.
He added that both Akpoti-Uduaghan and Abubakar Ohere were his “siblings” from the same senatorial zone. Bello was known to have bitterly fought a political war of attrition against Natasha.
He called on the people of Kogi Central to embrace the court’s decision.
On his part, Muritala Yakubu Ajaka of the SDP described the declaration of Natasha Akpoti-Uduaghan as the legitimately elected Senator of state’s Central Senatorial District as a triumph of democracy over forces of anarchy.
Ajaka said once more the judiciary had rekindled hope that electoral victory procured through violence and manipulation can only be temporary.
In apparent reference to the governo’s alleged efforts to stop Natasha, Ajaka said, “The world watched as your clear victory was brazenly upturned by desperate forces of anarchy even when you won four out of five Local Government Areas in the Central Senatorial District believing that they can get away with the broad daylight heist.
“But thanks to your indefatigability and the resolve of the judiciary to do justice without fear of favor, you have ended the era of electoral impunity in Kogi State today.”
Ajaka said the feat achieved by Mrs Akpoti-Uduaghan has further emboldened him in his resolve to vanquish the same undemocratic forces who have reduced elections in Kogi State to bloodletting and manipulation.
He described her as an authentic lioness who hunted down and devoured a phantom predator calling himself the “White Lion”.
Now we know where to find a real lion, Ajaka said in an obvious broadside aimed at the State Governor, Mr Yahaya Bello, who is fondly called a white lion by his supporters in Kogi State.
Meanwhile, at the court premises, Dino Melaye told reporters: “What Nigerians should expect from the Kogi State election on the 11th of November is what the Court of Appeal has just done.
“It has shown that PDP is the dominant party in Kogi State and by the grace of God, the PDP will win that election.
“We will protect our election, we will protect our electorate and we call on Kogites not to be afraid because at the end of the day, every lie has an expiry date, just like the lies of APC in Kogi have expired today….”
“… I congratulate Barrister Akpoti-Uduagan, by the grace of God, Senator-elect of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“I also congratulate all justice seeking loving people of Kogi State.
“This is victory for democracy; this is victory for the people of Kogi Central and this is victory for the people of Kogi State;
“This is righting the wrongs in our society. And I want to assure you that the PDP is very happy with the judgment.
“The judgment of the trial court has been upheld by the Court of Appeal and this shows clearly that 2023 elections were manipulated, the figures were concocted and we are happy that this has been rewritten by the court and this has given total victory to PDP in the central.
“And we are also looking forward to getting same at the eastern flank of the state. Kogi is PDP and PDP is Kogi and this judgment has proven so.
“We also salute the tenacity, the brevity of Barrister Natasha Akpoti-Uduagan. We salute her sagacity and we pray and hope that she will have a very successful tenure in the Senate.
“And I can assure you that she is going to make a very wonderful senator of the Federal Republic.”