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Jubilation, protest in Osun as Tribunal unseats Adeleke

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief), Adamu Abuh (Abuja), Timothy Agbor, Tunji Omofoye (Osogbo) and Adewale Momoh (Akure) 
28 January 2023   |   4:28 am
It was a moment of jubilation and anger in Osun State yesterday, as the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo declared former governor Adegboyega Oyetola as the winner of the July 16, 2022, governorship election.

Former Osun State Governor, Gboyega Oyetola, jubilating with All Progressive Congress (APC) members and members of the public as Election Petition Tribunal declared him winner of the July 16 governorship election, at Iragbiji,

• Orders INEC To Issue Certificate Of Return To Oyetola
• Adeleke Rejects Verdict, Heads To Appeal Court
• APC, Oyetola, Supporters Rejoice As PDP Protest In Osogbo
• Tinubu, Akeredolu, Fayemi, Folarin Send Congratulatory Messages

It was a moment of jubilation and anger in Osun State yesterday, as the State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo declared former governor Adegboyega Oyetola as the winner of the July 16, 2022, governorship election.

Delivering the majority judgment at the premises of the State High Court in Osogbo, under heavy security, the chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tertsea Kume said over-voting marred the election.

He thereby deducted the number of over-voting argued by Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress (APC) and declared that Oyetola scored 314,931 while Ademola gathered 290,266.

According to the tribunal, the grounds of the petition before it were three. They were that Adeleke was not qualified to contest based on his academic qualifications; that Adeleke was not elected by majority of the electorate and that the election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission was not in compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended.

Justice Kume said the petitioners challenged the result of the election in 10 local councils, comprising Ede North, Ede South, Egbedore, Ejigbo, Ila, Ilesa West, Irepodun, Obokun, Olorunda and Osogbo wherein 744 polling units recorded over-voting.

Adeleke, in his response on August 23, 2022, denied the allegations levelled against him by the APC and Oyetola, adding that the petitioners pointed the attention of the tribunal to his secondary school certificate, which carries 1981, while Osun State was not in existence then.

Ruling on the forgery, the court said Adeleke’s other qualifications have qualified him to contest for the post of governor.

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, saying that the defence by the respondents on the over-voting were unreliable, blaming INEC for producing contradictory results.

He stated that it put question mark on the readiness of the Commission to conduct credible election.

Kume said, “The defences of the respondent are clear with fundamental flaws, highly irreconcilable or unreliable. I am capable of defeating the credible evidence tendered by the petitioner in respect of the 744 polling units where over voting has been established.”

The tribunal ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Adeleke and give it to Oyetola.

The tribunal’s judgment read in part: “The defences of the respondents are taint with fundamental flaws, irreconcilable and unreliable, incapable of defeating the credible evidence tendered by the petitioners in respect of the 744 polling units where over voting has been established.

“The inference we hereby draw from the fact established by the evidence and record is that the election conducted on the 16th day of July, 2022, was done in substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and extant regulations.

“Moreover, exhibit BVR has not been withdrawn by the first respondent who made and issued it. The petitioners relied on exhibit BVR in maintaining this petition.

“Similarly, the exhibit tendered by the respondents after exhibit BVR submitted by learned counsel to the petitioners were thought of after the declaration of result on the 17th day of July, 2022.

“The said conduct of the respondents, especially, the first respondent amounts to tampering with official records. The conduct of the first respondent in the said election under consideration has produced multiple accusation report, contrary to votes declaration, to conduct of free, fair and credible elections on the basis of one man or woman with one vote.

“Consequently, to forestall a manipulation of BIVAS machines in the conduct of elections in Nigeria by the first respondent, the presiding officers at the polling units and other key officers of the first respondent should act on the vest won by them.

“During the conduct of elections, an electronic device embedded in a safe vest, which would have helped you to collect data and information transmittable to a server domiciled either to the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force, NIGCOMSAT, the National Secretary Adviser, independent of the first respondent.

“The data store at the server in any of the said offices will be a resource material for investigation and possible prosecution of any infraction that may occur in the use of the BIVAS in the polling units during the conduct of elections.

“We find as a fact that the voting occurred in the election conducted on the 16th day of July, 2022, in the manner stated in the table in paragraph 6.19 of the petitioner’s final written address already reproduced in this judgment. The duty of this tribunal is to deduct the said invalid votes from the lawful votes of the first petitioner and the first respondent to determine who have the majority of lawful votes at the said election.

“The table produced on page 30 paragraph 7.01 of the petitioner final written address in response to the first respondent final written address on page 17 paragraph 6.21 on the petitioner’s final address shows a graphic demonstration of the lawful votes after the deduction of the said invalid votes cast.
“For the sake of emphasis, the total lawful vote cast for each of the candidates after the said deduction of invalid votes is 314,931 for the first petitioner and 219,666 votes for the second respondent.

“The second respondent did not score a majority of lawful votes cast for the election. The declaration and return is hereby declared as null and void; the second respondent cannot “go low low and buga won” as duly elected governor of Osun state in the election conducted on July 16th 2022, see Kiss Daniel song, Buga.

“Rather, we hereby hold that the first petitioner scored the majority of lawful votes in the said election and is hereby returned as such. The first respondent is hereby directed to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to the second respondent and give the first petitioner Certificate of Return as the duly elected governor.”

However, in his minority judgment, one of the judges, P. Ogbuli, disagreed with the majority judgment, saying that there were two BVAS reports and since there were inconsistencies in the two reports presented by both petitioners and respondents, the majority judgment should have considered the results of physical extraction from BVAS, because it is the primary source of data of which the petitioners did not oppose.

Ogbuli therefore dismissed Oyetola’s petition and upheld the victory of Adeleke.

The minority judgment read in part: “It is remarkable to note that the petitioners did not controvert the exhibit RBVR series and the report of physical inspection, that exhibit RWC, they stand unchallenged and I so hold.

“Exhibit RWC is a document made from the time resources which are the machines used on the Election Day. The exhibits on RWC are in existence and were there on the machine on the date of election. Section 64 sub 4,5 and 6 of the Electoral Act recognised BVAS machines itself as a key material to be used in collation of result and in resolution of any dispute arising therefrom.

“The petitioners are not saying that the entries on exhibit RBVM series, which is the machine itself, are not same as the entries in exhibit RWC; their grouse is that since exhibit RWC came from the same first respondent, it will be not be allowed to stand in view of the discrepancies of figures in them via-a-vis the entries.

“In view of the following, I hold that exhibit BVR is a product of inadequacies and cannot be the best evidence for the determination of the accurate number of accredited voters on 16th July 2022 election. The same is true of exhibit RBVR. The best evidence to that regard is RBVL, 1-119 down to RBVL 1-59 used in the polling units under contest and I so hold. Voters register can’t be ruled out.”

In his reaction to the judgment, Adeleke described it as “a miscarriage of justice”, vowing to challenge it at the Court of Appeal.

Speaking from his country home, Ede, through a statement signed by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, 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, Adeleke vowed to appeal the judgment, insisting that he remains the rightful winner of the July 16, 2022, election.

“I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgment 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,” Adeleke declared.

In his reaction, former governor Oyetola declared that “there is no victor nor vanquish” in the outcome of the tribunal judgment, saying, “it’s a collective victory for our state and our nation’s democracy.”

Oyetola, while addressing journalists in Iragbiji, his hometown, said: “I am happy the judgment has resolved the controversy of the July 16 governorship election. INEC is the greatest beneficiary of the judgment. It will afford INEC the opportunity to look at all the anomalies and make necessary amendment to prevent such mistakes again now that the general election is coming.

“I thank the people of the state. I thank my supporters for standing by us for the courage and loyalty. I want to assure them that we are ready to continue serving them. I thank the media and party members, no matter the level of provocation we encounter, what is important is that judgment has been given to us,” Oyetola said.

However, some members and supporters of the PDP in Osogbo protested the judgment of the tribunal.

The protesters marched from Jaleyemi area and converged at Orita Olaiya, under the flyover to express their displeasure over the tribunal’s ruling.

They carried placards with varying inscriptions such as “Tribunal Panels is not Fair in their Judgment’, ‘Imole has Come to Stay’, ‘Osun Citizens Reject Oyetola’, ‘This is Injustice to Ademola Adeleke’, ‘In Imole’s Mandate we Stand’, among others.

On the contrary, members of the APC and their supporters went into wild jubilation immediately the judgment was delivered.

In Iragbiji, the hometown of Oyetola, APC members sang and danced as they applauded the tribunal for the judgment.

In an official statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, the party described the ruling of the tribunal as victory for democracy and the rule of law.

It noted that the verdict remains a categorical affirmation of the will of the Osun electorate as expressed at the polls.

The party noted: “The peaceful conduct of the Osun governorship election and effective recourse procedures are eloquent testament to our party’s commitment to bequeathing a legacy of credible elections, and independent and fair dispensation of electoral justice.

“The tribunal’s findings and verdict on the pivotal question of over-voting yet again underscores the massive significance of the programme of electoral reform, and new and efficient technologies implemented by the APC-administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”

The All Progressives Congress Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has sent hearty congratulations and a goodwill message to the immediate-past governor of Osun State, Alhaji Isiaka Adegboyega Oyetola, on his victory at the Osun Election Petition Tribunal.

In a congratulatory message to Oyetola, Tinubu said the victory of Oyetola was deserving, describing it 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 said in the statement signed by his Media Aide, Mr. Tunde Rahman: “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.

“The forces of darkness plotted to extinguish the able leadership and progressive good governance that improved the quality of life of our people under your leadership. But today, the Tribunal delivered justice and restored the mandate freely given to you and our great party.

“I am confident that the good work you championed that was momentarily paused will soon resume and Osun people will be happy again. And together we can renew their hope of a shared prosperity.”

Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, in his reaction, hailed the judgment, saying it reflects the will of the people of the state who voted for the APC and Oyetola during the governorship election in the state.

In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde, the governor said the judgment has again restored the hope of a common man and reinforced confidence in the judiciary.

He said: “We received with delight, the news of the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal, which declared Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola as the winner of the July 16 governorship election in the state.

“This is indeed a victory for democracy. No doubt, the judgment will further consolidate and deepen our country’s democratic values and Election Petitions jurisprudence.

“It will also sustain the faith of the people in our democratic process. The will of the people has prevailed.

“I congratulate my dearest brother, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola (Ileri-Oluwa). I also rejoice with the good people of Osun State and the entire APC family. This is a victory for all.

“While we relish the victory of the moment, I like to assure my dearest brother, Gboyega that we will be with him all the way to the Supreme Court. We shall hold hands together and march on this path of shared conviction. At the end, this victory shall be permanent.”

“Evidently, this ruling has put paid to issues surrounding the election. We are confident that this mandate restored will provide a new lease of life for Osun State.

“We urge our party members to savour this victory with joy while also seeing it as a great booster ahead of the forthcoming elections.”

The immediate past governor of Ekiti State and President of the Forum of Regions of Africa (FORAF) Dr. Kayode Fayemi also congratulated Oyetola on his “hard-fought” victory at the tribunal.

Fayemi in a statement issued on his behalf by the head of the Fayemi Media Office in Abuja, signed by Mallam Ahmad Sajoh, said: “I am happy with the tribunal’s decision and sure that it reflected the will and preference of the majority of the people of Osun State. I commend Governor Oyetola for using peaceful, legal means to reclaim his mandate,” he stated.

The governorship candidate of the APC in Oyo State, Senator Teslim Folarin, on his part, said: “The judgment is a triumph of truth and justice. Expectedly, the judiciary has lived up to expectation as the bastion of democracy and rule of law.

“God’s will and the mandate of the good people of Osun have finally been upheld by the Elections Tribunal. Therefore, I congratulate His Excellency Alhaji Isiaka Gboyega Oyetola, APC family and the good people of Osun over the ruling.”

The three-term lawmaker also called on all Osun APC members, supporters, and indeed the people of Osun State, to remain peaceful and not to react in the face of any provocation.