If there was any way of using firearms to stop the Tribunal judges from admitting Segun Showumni’s tapes, let alone watching any in court, the tag team of all three Respondents would have used them without hesitation.
Showumni was one of the star witnesses called by the Petitioners, who stepped into the witness box on July 15, 2019. Immediately after he was affirmed and ready to tender video CDs, the respective lead counsels of the three Respondents in Yunus Usman (INEC), Wole Olanipekun(Buhari) and Chief Lateef Fagbemi (APC) went for the jugular.
Despite the Tribunal chairman reminding them of pre-hearing agreement of allowing evidences to be tendered even while objecting and then stating reasons for the objection during presentation of final address, the three senior advocates were very tenaciously vehement while quoting all sources.
Usman even went as far as telling the judges that they would be prejudiced during judgement once they viewed the videos.
That was undoubtedly the hottest day in court as the panel were forced into taking a break to rule on whether the video evidences would be admitted.
After an hour’s break, proceedings resumed with the judges ruling that the tapes would not only be admitted but also played in court while all Respondents should state their reasons for objecting during presentation of their final addresses.
The three tapes played showed the INEC boss, Prof Mahmoud Yakubu, in an interview with Channels Television, not only indicated there was a server but also assured results would be transmitted into it. And so did the senior technical officer, who explained in details in tape two of another Channels TV interview how electronic transmission would be made during the election. And, of course, the third tape was a national television news of the Nigerian Army saying they were never in possession of President Muhammadu Buhari’s contentious certificate.
The contents of the tapes gave a clue as per why the three lead counsels were ready to shed blood than allow the viewing in court. If cases were judged strictly on merit, the three tapes of two minutes each damaged their defense to a very embarrassing level.
But that wasn’t the only deep evidential damage the defending team encountered. On the final day being Day 10 of their moments in court, the Petitioners presented four witnesses, three of which were very significant witnesses.
An ICT expert from Kenya, a database analyst and star witness, the PDP national collation agent during the election all appeared to breathe life into many vital documents already tendered and admitted as exhibits in court.
The Kenyan, David Njoga explained how the website www.factsdontlie.com was able to extract the information it disseminated via a whistle-blower. Attempts to dislodge the ICT guru’s witness via cross-examination seemed to have damaged more, rather than mended, dark spots for the Respondents. Njoga told the court in emphatic words that all he needed to get to the contents of the server and prove it was INEC’s was an authorisation from the INEC chairman.
At this juncture, keen observers noticed a sharp change in questioning style. Obviously sensing a subpoena could surmon the INEC chairman to give that authorisation, the APC lead counsel started probing with questions that tended to question the authenticity of the information in the server by asking the expert if one could use his methods to alter the information in the server.
Whether technical issues could distort equitable justice or not, in the area of proving whether INEC had a server, the Petitioners scored an A. A fact further proved by INEC by not calling any witness.
Beyond the Kenyan’s straight testimonies from the box, he also breathed life into his earlier deposition that did enough to nail INEC’s lie of not ever having a server to the mast.
But more damages would come from the star witness in name of Chief Osita Chidoka. Most of the materials evidences tendered by the Petitioners were made through Chidoka’s depositions. The fact that the three Respondents objected to his ever getting into the box as a witness and vehemently objected to admisability of all the material documents tendered through his depositions and affirmed through him spoke volumes about the damages to the defending team.
He stood unshakably to very fierce cross-examination, re-affirming his earlier statements on oath covering all five grounds of this mother of all election petitions.
When asked if he watched and heard Buhari address the nation in English Language when he became head-of-state in 1983, the star witness returned Olanipekun’s question with, “do you mean the statement he made after overthrowing a democratically elected government?”
That response drew huge laughter in court but the message was deep.
Attempts by the cross-examining army to render his evidences of election malpractice as hearsay seemed to have hit a brick wall as he defined and re-defined his functions as a national collation agent and head of the PDP situation room, who received all reports coming through during the election. He had no reason to leave his position, where he monitored all actions via agents he was in direct contacts from all over the country during the contentious election.
There was equally the database analyst, who said during cross-examination that he analysed all form EC8As from the 11 states in contention and submitted his report which was tendered and admitted as exhibits in court. This analysis covered every element of mutilation, alteration, cancellation, over voting and all other elements of discrepancies that didn’t add up in results returned during the election.
Clearly, there was no element of the five grounds of the petition the Petitioners didn’t bring up sufficient evidence to convince keen followers of veracity of their strong allegations.
It is left to the technical rules of the game and uprightness of the judges to look justice in the face and deliver it appropriately without fear or favour.
Next we look at how well or otherwise the Respondents defended their cases.
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Tai Emeka Obasi is a trained engineer turned movie scriptwriter. He is a political and sports analyst. He is the author of The Senator. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.