A few minutes after Governor Ademola Adeleke’s victory at the July 16, 2022 Osun State gubernatorial poll was annulled by the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal on Friday, his supporters trooped to the streets of Osogbo, the state’s capital in protest.
Also, the sacked Governor Adeleke, in a swift response, vowed to challenge the ruling at the Court of Appeal.
But the immediate past governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the July 16 election, Adegboyega Oyetola, who was declared winner by the tribunal, and his supporters, began massive celebration immediately the verdict was announced.
The Tribunal, headed by Justice Tertsea Kume, ruled that the governorship election was marred by over-voting and deducted the number of over-voting presented by Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC from the votes of Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and subsequently declared former governor Oyetola as the winner of the election.
Adeleke described the judgement of the tribunal as “a miscarriage of justice.”
Reacting to the verdict of the tribunal from his country home in Ede, Adeleke faulted the resolution of the over-voting question in favour of Oyetola, calling it “an unfair interpretation against the will of majority of voters.”
While urging his supporters to remain calm, insisted he remained the rightful winner of the July 16 election.
“I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgement and we are sure justice will be done. Let our people be reassured that we will do everything possible to retain this widely acclaimed mandate,” the governor said in a statement yesterday, signed by his spokesman, Olawale Rasheed.
Adeleke’s supporters, while protesting, mounted a road block at a roundabout in Osogbo, thus hindering free movement of vehicles.
No fewer than three PDP branded vans were sighted amongst other vehicles including motorcycles as the Olaiya junction became crowded.
However, it was a peaceful demonstration as residents calmly continued the day’s activities.
The aggrieved PDP members accused the Election Tribunal of injustice and unfairness for pronouncing Oyetola the winner of the governorship election, insisting that Adeleke will remain in office.
Some of the protesters’ placards read, “Imole has come to stay”, “Osun citizens reject Oyetola”, “Tribunal panel are not fair”, “Olorunda Local Govt says no to tribunal”, “Injustice against Adeleke”, amongst others.
The Osun State Chapter of the PDP advised the people of the state to remain calm and go about their lawful duties in the face of the judgement sacking Adeleke.
The PDP assured that the election mandate bestowed on Adeleke by the good people of Osun State will be defended and secured.
Dr Akindele Adekunle, the State Caretaker Committee Chairman of the PDP said: “No Jupiter on earth will take the collective resolve of the people of Osun from them, no matter how highly placed or fraudulent. We want to assure our people that lawyers of the party have been mandated to appeal the judgement immediately.
“The judgement has not changed anything. Adeleke remains the governor of Osun State and will continue to take steps that will assuage the long suffering experienced in the hands of the defeated APC.”
Oyetola described his victory at the tribunal as one that was well deserved.
He also appealed to the members of the PDP not to resort to self-help, but instead allow the judicial process to run its full course.
Addressing journalists shortly after the Tribunal’s ruling, Oyetola said: “The Tribunal judgement today on our petition ushers in a new dawn of a renewed hope and recovery for Osun State.
“For me, I see it as a no victor and no vanquished situation for our party members, but rather a collective victory for the entire people of Osun State, and Nigeria’s democracy.
“I am happy that the Tribunal has been able to lay to rest the controversy over the real winner of the July 16 Osun Governorship election.
“NEC would no doubt be the greatest beneficiary of this ruling, as it would help it correct some of the anomalies that have been pointed out through the ruling, a thing that was our motivation in the first instance. Like I have always emphasised, our decision to approach the Tribunal was not to impugn on the integrity of INEC, but to help deepen our electoral system and our democracy.
“I salute millions of our party faithful and Osun Citizens who stood firm to weather the storm for their courage and loyalty. With this victory, we have become more energised to redouble our efforts towards ensuring victory for our presidential candidate and all our National Assembly candidates, including all the State House of Assembly candidates in the February and March elections respectively.
“Finally, I call on our party members and supporters across the State not to react to any form of provocation from any quarters. Let’s continue to remain calm, peaceful and law abiding.”
Justice Tetsea Kume, while delivering a majority decision, declared that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) did not comply substantially with the constitution and the provisions of the Electoral Act.
According to the tribunal, the grounds of the petition before it are three: That Adeleke was not qualified to contest based on his academic qualifications; that Adeleke was not elected by majority of the electorates and that the election conducted by INEC was not in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.
Justice Kume said the petitioners challenged results of election in 10 local government areas, which are Ede North, Ede South, Egbedore, Ejigbo, Ila, Ilesa west, Irepodun, Obokun, Olorunda and Osogbo.
Justice Kume added that the petitioners pointed the attention of the tribunal to the secondary school certificate of Adeleke which carries 1981 while Osun State was not in existence.
Ruling on the forgery, the court said Adeleke’s other qualifications have qualified him to contest for the post of governor.
Justice Kume said the election was marred by over-voting. The tribunal referred to the statement of admission of “seemingly over-voting” made by an INEC official who appeared before the tribunal as respondent’s witness.
He said the defence by the respondents on the over-voting was unreliable and blamed INEC for producing contradictory results, stating that it put a question mark on the readiness of the Commission to conduct credible elections.
Justice Kume said the petitioners had proven the allegations of over-voting beyond reasonable doubt and it was the duty of the court to deduct the invalid votes from the lawful votes cast at the election.
After deducting the unlawful votes, the tribunal declared that Oyetola of the APC scored 314,931 votes, while Adeleke scored 290,266 votes.
The panel directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Adeleke and subsequently issue another certificate of return to Oyetola as the validly elected Governor of the state.
The chairman said, the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) report issued to the petitioners clearly showed that there was over-voting in the result declared by the INEC.
According to the panel, none of the witnesses of the respondents disputed the evidence of the petitioners as regards over voting on the BVAS report, just as the INEC did not withdraw the BVAS report issued to the petitioners.
The panel further ruled that the arguments of the respondents that the BVAS reports issued to the petitioners was “unsynchronized and inchoate” was misconceived, as such claims were not shown on the report.
On the respondents’ argument that the petitioners did not call any oral evidence to prove the alleged over-voting, the tribunal held that fact admitted needed no proof, as the respondents’ witnesses have admitted over-voting in the result declared by the commission based on the purported syncronished BVAS report issued to the respondents.
He held that the evidence before the panel was that the election was held in substantial non-compliance with the provision of the law, through manipulation of BVAS.
According to him, the petitioners do not need to tender the voters register to prove accreditation, saying what Section 51(2) of the Electoral Act provides is that, for the purpose of accreditation only the BVAS machine would be used.
The Tribunal further noted that the electoral act provides that where there is over voting, the result for the said unit should be cancelled, adding that “it is the duty of the tribunal to deduct invalid votes from lawful votes.”
The chairman then recommended that to forestall manipulation of BVAS in the conduct of subsequent elections, the INEC server should be linked to the Nigeria Police server and linked with National Security Adviser for transparency, saying any of the reports emanating from these sources can be subjected to investigation.
In its decision on the qualification of Adeleke to contest the election over forgery of certificate, the panel ruled that though it was established that the Secondary School Certificate of Ede Muslim Grammar School was forged, it was not enough to disqualify him, as he had other certificates he presented.
Meanwhile, in a minority judgement, a member of the panel, Justice Benedict Amangbe Ogbuli, said the petitioners could not have proven over-voting by BVAS report alone, saying, the voters’ register is also required to prove over-voting for the affected units and as such should also have been tendered and put into consideration.
He said the petitioner failed to prove the allegation of over-voting and subsequently dismissed the petition.
While the judgement was being read, security personnel were visible on the streets of Osogbo, the state’s capital.
Tinubu Congratulates Oyetola
The Presidential Candidate of the APC, Bola Tinubu, has congratulated Oyetola on his victory at the Osun Election Petition Tribunal.
Tinubu, in a statement issued on Friday by his Media Office and signed by Tunde Rahman, said the victory of Oyetola was deserving.
He described the verdict as a “triumph of courage and perseverance, and light over the forces of darkness that sought to arrest the progressive good governance the APC administration delivered to the people of Osun State under the leadership of Oyetola.”
Tinubu noted that the forces of darkness plotted to extinguish the able leadership and progressive governance that improved the quality of life of the people under his leadership, but today the Tribunal delivered justice and restored the mandate freely given to him and the APC.
He said he was confident that the good work Oyetola championed that was momentarily paused would soon resume and Osun people would be happy again.
“I heartily rejoice with Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola on his much-deserved victory at the Election Tribunal today. It is the victory of light over darkness. A triumph of perseverance, courage and justice over electoral fraud and democratic perversion,” Tinubu said.
Atiku: This Light That Has Shone On Osun Shall Never Go Dim
In his own reaction, Atiku Abubakar, the Presidential candidate of the PDP said, “The light that has shone on Osun State with the election of Adeleke shall never go dim.”
Atiku said: “On today’s verdict of the Election Petition Tribunal in Osun State, I stand in solidarity with the good people of Osun State who overwhelmingly voted for the PDP and gave their mandate to His Excellency Governor Demola Adeleke.
“What has happened at the tribunal today is a phase in the struggle to liberate Osun State and I am sure that at the conclusion of the whole process, the people shall be victorious.
“I therefore call on the people of Osun to continue to have faith in their governor elected into office in the popular ballot.
PDP: Judgment Contrary to People’s Will
The PDP has said that the judgment sacking Adeleke was contrary to the will of the people of Osun State.
Its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba in a statement issued Friday said the July 16, 2022 election in Osun State was adjudged by local and international observers to be free, fair, transparent and clearly won by Adeleke in confirmation of the wishes and aspiration of the people.
According to him, “The will of the people of Osun State as expressed by electing Governor Adeleke must be respected. As a law-abiding Party, the PDP will explore all available legal means to restore the victory of our party.”
The PDP charged the people of Osun State to be calm, remain alert and continue to support Adeleke “as the party restates its confidence in the institution of the Judiciary to dispense justice on the matter at the Appellate Court.”
INEC had last year declared Adeleke, the winner of the July 16 2022 election.
The Returning Officer for the election and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, announced that Adeleke got a total of 403,371 votes, beating Oyetola, who garnered 375,027 votes in the keenly contested race.
In the election held across 3,763 polling units in the 30 local government areas, the PDP won 17 of the LGAs, while the APC recorded more votes in the remaining 13.
Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja