BVAS to the rescue as Supreme Court affirms Adeleke Osun governor
• Adeleke: My victory shows I’m for the people, I will govern with fear of God
• Buhari seeks support for Adeleke, Tinubu tasks governor to unite Osun
• BVAS has come to stay, says Atiku
• Osun APC: We receive verdict with equanimity, promise to keep govt on its toes
• Oyo PDP mum, as S’West, Lagos chapters hail verdict as triumph of justice over falsehood
Five years after narrowly missing out on becoming the governor of Osun State to a supplementary poll conducted in 2018, which he eventually clinched barely a year ago in the July 16, 2022 governorship poll, Governor Ademola Adeleke finally heaved a sigh of relief, yesterday, as the Supreme Court upheld his election victory, ending all disputes against him by Adegboyega Oyetola, his predecessor in office.
Barely settling into office after being sworn in on November 27, the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal had on January 27, 2023, sacked Adeleke as governor on the grounds of over-voting in 744 polling units in the state.
The tribunal, in a majority decision, also declared Oyetola as the winner. But the tribunal verdict was overturned by the Court of Appeal following applications filed by Adeleke’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN).
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja had on March 24, affirmed Adeleke as the actual winner of the Osun governorship election, citing evidence from the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machine and voters’ register. Ikpeazu had argued that Oyetola used incorrect polling unit results uploaded on the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) back-end server at the tribunal.
In its judgment yesterday, a five-man panel of the Supreme Court, led by Justice John Okoro, whose lead verdict was prepared by Justice Emmanuel Agim, held that while Oyetola argued that the presiding officers who conducted the elections in 774 polling units did not use the BVAS machine, they could not substantiate it.
It said since the BVAS was the sole foundation and focal point of the appellant’s case, it was imperative that they produced the content of the BVAS in those affected polling units.
According to the apex court, based on INEC regulations and guidelines, election results can only be collated if the results agree with the figures in the BVAS and the ones transmitted to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IReV). “It is glaring that the appellants could not prove over-voting,” the court held.
On the issue of certificate forgery, the apex court held the Court of Appeal in two decisions, settled it, adding that the judgment settled the educational status of Adeleke.
“The entire proceedings at the tribunal is a nullity. This appeal fails for lack of merit, it is accordingly dismissed. This judgment shall abide by all sister appeals,” the court held in a unanimous decision.
Having set aside the judgment of the tribunal, the court awarded N500,000 cost against the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, Oyetola.
Adeleke described his victory at the Supreme Court, as the manifestation of the survival of people’s will against an anti-masses plot of powerful forces. Reacting amid jubilation by supporters at his Ede country home, Adeleke said his victory would spur him for greater development of the state.
He said: “This is an historic landmark in the history of Osun politics. Today is the day our God ordained to stand his authority as the owner and giver of power.
“Today is that moment when the will of the people ordained by God survived an anti-masses plot of powerful forces. We, therefore, celebrate God almighty. We dedicate today’s victory to Him. Power is of God and he bestows it on whomever he wishes. I will remain God’s driven, divinely inspired; I will govern with the fear of God. Our governorship is an affirmation that we are for the people, by the people.”
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has urged Osun residents, particularly her notable sons and daughters, to give the government of Adeleke all the support it needs to ensure that programmes, policies, plans and aspirations fashioned to make individuals and businesses flourish succeed.
In a statement issued by Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari specifically noted the Supreme Court’s verdict on the July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun, as well as the role of the judiciary in deepening rule of law and democracy.
According to him, “elections should be seen as the path to an end, which is the progress of the people in a peaceful environment, rather than unending bickering. This is the time for inclusion and harmony in the state at the end of litigation.”
With the final decision by the court, the President reminded the political class and their supporters that the main task at hand is to make the people feel the impact of good governance, where a prosperous, peaceful and stable Osun is guaranteed.
Reacting, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, said the BVAS has come to stay as a legal instrument for accreditation and transmission of election results in Nigeria.
Atiku, who congratulated the people of Osun for the affirmation of their collective mandate given to Adeleke, said the introduction of technology in the conduct of elections in Nigeria is a progress that cannot be reversed.
“We are all witnesses to the copious references to the BVAS technology in coming up with this judgment. The law governing our elections has truly brought power to the people, and those power mongering politicians who believe that they can freely subvert the inherent power of democracy now have their hopes dashed.” he said.
President-elect, Bola Tinubu, has congratulated Adeleke over his victory at the Supreme Court, urging him to now move quickly to unite the state. The President-elect said with the final court in the land giving its verdict on the Osun governorship tussle, all must respect the judgment.
Tinubu also commended the immediate past governor of the state, Adegboyega Oyetola, for discharging himself creditably during his first term and for deepening democracy by pursuing his democratic rights peacefully to the end.
In a statement by his media aide, Tunde Rahman, the President-elect said: “The apex court in the land has spoken and all of us must obey its verdict. It is the right thing to do for democracy and rule of law to continue to thrive in the land.
“I must also commend Oyetola for exercising his democratic rights as the Constitution allows him to do. He discharged himself creditably in office. He lost the office but did not lose his integrity and reputation as the governor who brought efficiency, transparency and accountability to the business of governance.”
For the Osun chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), it said it has received the court verdict with equanimity and placidity bearing in mind that in a contest, someone must emerge winner.
According to the state acting chairman of APC, Sooko Tajudeen Lawal, in a statement issued by the party’s Director of Media and Information, Chief Kola Olabisi, in Abuja, the Supreme Court decisions are final, which cannot be challenged in any other court of the land.
His words: “While we are congratulating the beneficiary of the judgment, we make bold to state that we shall not be found wanting in playing our expected opposition roles in order to keep the government on its toes.
“Members and supporters of our party should refuse to be downcast with the current political situation in the state as the nature of politics is that one doesn’t win all the time.
“The prevailing condition of the winner(s) of today does not make him the perpetual winner as the political office, which was contested for is a tenured one for a period of four years after which we shall have the opportunity to slug it out with those who are rejoicing over today’s victory.
“It is, however, worthwhile to state that our party and candidate, former governor Oyetola, might have lost the election as it was pronounced by the apex court, but it is visible to the court of the public that they never lost the battle.”
The Southwest PDP has lauded the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, saying the judgment has clearly demystified the lies and falsehood of the APC.
In a congratulatory message, the PDP Southwest Zonal Publicity Secretary, Chief Sanya Atofarati, said: “The Supreme Court ruling has confirmed that Adeleke won the election fair and square. The good people of Osun should be commended for their steadfastness and unalloyed love for the PDP and their governor against open display of intimidation, harassment and violence as recorded in the last few months.
“PDP thus viewed the historic victory of Adeleke as a triumph of people’s mandate over falsehood perpetrated by the APC in 2018, leading to the installation of an impostor and unpopular governor. But the vulture is a patient bird, such that the table turned around four years after Adeleke’s stolen mandate was recovered.
“The Southwest PDP, hereby felicitates with Adeleke for his doggedness, tenacity and will power, praying that the light that he represents will illuminate in Osun and eliminate the dark alley of maladministration unleashed on the good people of Osun in the past 12 years.
“It is our sincere hope that the judiciary will in the like manner correct the illegality perpetrated by INEC in the presidential election at the ongoing Presidential Election Petition Court (PEPC).”
An APC chieftain, Liadi Tella, said the decision of the apex court was the wish of God. Tella said the development would further spur Osun APC to accelerate reconciliation. He said the Adeleke and Osun PDP victory is a temporary euphoria that will soon die down when the people come to terms with reality.
Tella also cautioned any APC member who rejoiced over Oyetola’s defeat to be careful, saying, “Such a member would soon regret their actions.”
According to him, “The immediate past governor did his best at least for not owing pension and civil servant salaries and the fact that he didn’t borrow money to run his government in four years is an achievement. We lost to PDP the same way the current ruling party lost to us when former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola lost to Rauf Aregbesola. There is nothing strange at all.”
Meanwhile efforts to get reaction from Oyo PDP failed as those contacted refused to comment, saying, “we would rather prefer such reaction comes directly from Governor Seyi Makinde.”
When prompted further the source said, “but you know the relationship between Adeleke and Makinde.”
Lagos State PDP has congratulated Adeleke, urging judiciary to be steadfast in dispensing justice. Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary, Hakeem Amode, said the chapter was elated when the Supreme Court reaffirmed the mandate given to Adeleke at the poll.
“The leadership of the Lagos PDP and our gubernatorial candidate, Dr Abdul-Azeez Adediran (JANDOR) and members of our party heartily rejoice with Adeleke on his victory at the Supreme Court.
“It is heartwarming and morale boosters for our party in the ongoing various cases at the election petition tribunals all over the country, including Lagos. We are looking forward to getting justice in all our court cases across the country.
“If our judiciary will look at various cases on its merit and be consistent in justice dispensation, hope will be rekindled and our democracy will be deepened.
“Justice should not be for sale, it should be for the highest bidders. All election cases must be considered on their merit and adjudicated without partially,” Amode said.