Intense contentions had welcomed the judgment of Osun Election
Petition Tribunal which was conveyed on Friday March 22nd 2019 in regard of the appeal filed by Senator Ademola Adeleke and governorship candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) against the triumph of Governor Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The judgment of the court which sat in Federal Capital Territory Abuja was not consistent but rather splitted. The council by the judgment sacked Governor Oyetola from office and proclaimed Senator Ademola Adeleke speaking for Osun West Senatorial District of the state as the victor of the September 22nd Governorship decision in the state.
The judgment further directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to present certificate of return to Adeleke.
The judgment no doubt shocked the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as leadership of the party had expressed confidence that it will favoured its candidate of the party, Gboyega Oyetola. The party did not expect that the judgment will go the way it was delivered.
While APC was expecting favourable judgment from the tribunal, the PDP was also hopeful of getting justice despite its poor performance at the just concluded Presidential and National Assembly election in the state.
The APC defeated PDP both at the Presidential and National Assembly Election in the state, while APC won two of the three senatorial seats in the state leaving one for PDP, it also won six out of nine seat in the Federal House of Representatives.
Besides, APC won 23 out of 26 members state House of Assembly seats leaving three for PDP. The judgment no doubt rekindled the hope and resuscitate PDP in the state based on the performance in the 2019 general election. It also put to halt the planned celebration of APC as dominant party in the state.
Though, Oyetola and his party, APC had filed notice of appeal against the judgment asking the appeal court to upturn the lower tribunal judgment. Supporting his appeal with 39 ground notice, Oyetola through his lawyers led by Wole Olanipekun (SAN) faulted the majority judgment, given by Justices Peter Obiora and Anyinla Gbolagunte, on the grounds that it was perverse, replete with contradictions and not supported by evidence led by the petitioners.
The governor said his complaint, in the appeal, was against the entire majority judgment, except where the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside INEC Guidelines; that the allegation of over voting was not proved; that the petitioners did not prove voided votes and other parts of the judgment where the tribunal agreed with their arguments.
Oyetola also frowned and sought justice that the entire of the majority judgment is a nullity because it was written and delivered by Justice PC Obiora “who he said did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal and who was not present when all the witnesses gave evidences.”
He noted that Justice Obiora was absent on February 6 when the respondents witnesses (RWs) 12 and 13 – Ayoola Soji and Oladejo Kazeem – testified and tendered exhibits, which the tribunal admitted in evidence.
The appellant argued that, having not attended the tribunal’s siting on February 6, 2019, Justice Obiora could not see the two witnesses and was unable to examine their demeanour, as required, and therefore, unlawful for the judge to have authored a judgment in which he reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses.
Oyetola also argued the tribunal, in its majority judgment, erred in law and acted without jurisdiction when it accepted the petitioners’ complained of non-compliance with the provisions of Electoral Act in relation to the September 22, 2018 governorship election in Osun State and on that basis proceeded to nullify the victory of Oyetola and APC.
Since the judgment was delivered, it has generated series of controversies especially from stakeholders both within and outside the state.
It also attracted protest by some concern youths drawn from across the state, though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that the protest was sponsored and protesters were brought from outside the state.
The ruling party and the main opposition had engaged one another in hot arguments over the judgment. While APC declared that the judgment cannot stand the test of time and that it will not go beyond appeal, the PDP said that the judgement was divine intervention of God in the matter.
The PDP Deputy National Publicity Secretary , Prince Diran Odeyemi thereafter admonished the ruling APC to accept faith and shun appealing against the judgment and waste of resources adding that Governor Oyetola will be towing the path of honour if he chose not to appeal the judgment.
By accepting the option of not appealing the judgement, the PDP said Oyetola would be seen as a hero, the development that may offer him even bigger political opportunity in the future.
Odeyemi said further,“We are aware that the sacked governor of Osun, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, professes Islam which like other religions teaches fairness, equality, peace and truthfulness he should search his conscience and ask this pertinent question “did I truly win the governorship election”?
“Sentiment apart, Alhaji Oyetola is a refined gentleman, very religious but whose gubernatorial election was favourably manipulated by APC and INEC to discredit his person and personal belief and we believe he will not want his integrity to be dragged into the mud”.
Going by the view of the immediate past Governor of the State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, the election which nullified election of Oyetola was strange and unknown to law.
Aregbesola, in a statement by his Media Adviser, Sola Fasure, said the report of the split judgment came to every watcher of political events in the state as a rude shock.
In the piece entitled: “This Judgment cannot Stand,” the former Governor said the people of the state and the government have the highest regards for the judiciary and will continue to have high regards for the revered institution but regretted to state that the decision of the majority judgment is strange to law and common sense.
He said the majority judgment, as delivered by their Lordship, did not support the cause of electoral justice and may constitute the death knell for properly conducted elections.
Aregbesola said the people rejected the majority judgment and believe that it will not stand scrutiny at the appellate court.
The statement noted also that the majority judgment which held that the rerun election conducted in seven polling units on the 27th of September 2018 was illegal, null and void was equally shocking and amounts to a travesty.
But Oyetola has continued to preach peace pending the outcome of Appeal Court and eventual Supreme Court ruling on the matter.
However, Senator Ademola Adeleke in his response held that he is qualify to contest and occupy the office of governorship or any other office because the tribunal held that the respondent, APC did not prove its allegations that he is not qualify to run for the office which validated two other previous court judgments which affirm that educationally he, Adeleke is qualified to the governor.
Adeleke, through his legal team led by Eze Anaba (SAN) said that the tribunal established mutilations of CTC of EC8As forms by INEC and expressed surprise that INEC offered no defence for the alleged tampering with results. It was further argued and established that the State Returning officer has no power to cancel results of election from the seven polling units or any other one which was the basis for the September 27th rerun election. Tribunal held that only the presiding officers from polling units has the power to cancel votes and the cancellation of votes from those seven polling units were therefore declared null and void and of no effect.
The tribunal also held that the subsequent rerun election of September 27th 2018 was illegal and null and void.
However, leadership of both APC and PDP are keeping their fingers crossed awaiting the outcome of Appeal and eventual supreme courts on the matter to determine who is the true winner of the September 22nd and 27th rerun governorship election in the state.