The Ogun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Isabo, Abeokuta, the State capital, Monday, started on a dramatic note as Labour Party, whose petition was before the panel, disowned and attacked a Counsel, Kehinde Ayanwale, for announcing appearance for it.
Ayanwale had announced his appearance along with others, in the petition number EPT/OG/GOV/02/2019 before the tribunal and attempted moving a motion ex parte when Justice Chinwe Onyeabor, chairman of the three-man panel, observed that four persons were in court for a matter with two petitioners.
Upon inquiry, another counsel, Hassan Balogun, also announced his appearance for Labour Party for the same matters, alleging that Ayanwale and his clients were paid by some unnamed politicians to scuttle the petition.
At this point, the tribunal allowed both the party’s chairman, Abayomi Oluwafemi, and the governorship candidate in the 2019 election, Dupe Sayanolu, to address the tribunal.
Sanyaolu told the tribunal that she had never met Ayanwale and never briefed him to handle the matter on her behalf and the party.
Sanyaolu further alleged that the lawyer and his clients had been collecting money from politicians on her behalf because of the case.
Ayanwale’s plea to strike out the name of the governorship candidate from the petition was also met with anger as Abayomi and the party’s legal adviser, Monday Mawah, descended on the counsel.
Abayomi informed the court that he was shocked when he learnt that a lawyer had filed a case before the tribunal without brief from the party’s chairman and candidate.
While disowning the lawyer, Abayomi, said he had never met the lawyer and had never briefed him to file any petition before the tribunal.
Abayomi said he conducted the primary, which produced the governorship candidate and that he had a letter of authority from the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).
Mawah, who was visibly angry with his colleague, Ayanwale, said he was ashamed that men of the legal profession could engage and indulge in criminality and illegality.
Justice Onyeabor expressed sadness at the conduct of the counsel, saying representation before the court is a constitutional matter and that it is the person going to court that has the right to choose a lawyer.
She said: “While the tribunal will not be dreaming into any intra-party issue, the case before us is a case of illegal representation. The choice of counsel is a constitutional matter. It is strange if the people you claimed to be representing are saying you don’t have their brief. It is the person going to court that has the right to choose lawyer, I feel very sad.
“Unless Labour Party has two candidates, we have to go with the petitioner, except there’s another candidate, who must have passed through the primaries and election.”
The chairman further said the tribunal would not go on with the case because of non-compliance of conditions precedent.