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Lagos: Elections Tribunal Ousts Labour Party Candidate, Hands Victory to APC Challenger

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LAGOS, Nigeria — A political upset rippled through Nigeria’s bustling commercial capital on Friday, August 25, 2023, as the National Assembly Elections Petition Tribunal unseated Seyi Sowunmi, the Labour Party’s elected representative for Ojo Federal Constituency in Lagos State.

The tribunal declared Lanre Ogunyemi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, as the bona fide winner of the February 25 election, adding another twist to Nigeria’s often unpredictable electoral landscape.

The three-man panel, led by Justice Abdullahi Ozegya and flanked by Justice Ashu Ewah and Justice Muhammad Sambo, ruled that Sowunmi was not “duly sponsored and qualified” under the Labour Party’s candidacy rules.

This led them to declare his votes “wasted” and to announce Ogunyemi as the winner.

“We find the petitioner’s argument compelling and grounded in law. The Labour Party’s candidate was, unfortunately, not qualified to vie for this election, and hence, his votes are null and void,” Justice Ozegya stated during the announcement of the judgment.

Ogunyemi, a seasoned politician with two terms as a state lawmaker and a stint as the secretary of the APC in Lagos, had contested the initial results. He argued that Sowunmi’s victory was flawed due to a failure to meet candidacy requirements set by the Labour Party.

“Justice has been served,” Ogunyemi said after the ruling. “This shows that the integrity of the electoral process still holds some weight in our democratic system.”

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had originally declared Sowunmi the winner.

INEC is yet to issue a formal statement on the tribunal’s verdict, but this judgment is likely to cast a shadow over the commission’s future role in certifying candidates and declaring winners.

Sowunmi and the Labour Party face a bruising setback that may reshape the political arena in Lagos and possibly across the country.

“This is a shocking development. We are considering our legal options and are committed to ensuring that this does not deter our mission to serve the people,” Seyi Sowunmi said, visibly disconcerted by the turn of events.

Political pundits believe the outcome could serve as a precedent in future electoral disputes and possibly open a Pandora’s box of legal challenges against sitting lawmakers.

“What happened today could be a game-changer,” opined Amina Yusuf, a political analyst based in Lagos. “It raises serious questions about the nomination process and highlights flaws that political parties must urgently address.”

As the ruling reverberates through the country’s political corridors, many wonder whether it will lead to reforms in how candidates are vetted and what this means for Nigeria’s fragile electoral process.

With this verdict, not only has the seat for Ojo Federal Constituency changed hands, but the stakes for electoral integrity and political candidacy in Nigeria may have been irrevocably raised.

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