…No victor, no vanquish – Adeleke
…Stresses it’s time to continue with good work…We’ve a potential to approach Supreme Court – Oyetola
The Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja on Friday re-affirmed the election of Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the governor of Osun state.
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Mohammed Shuaibu unanimously overturned the earlier decision of the election petition tribunal which nullified the governor’s victory earlier in January.
The immediate-past governor of the state, Adegboyega Oyetola, who came second in the July 16, 2022 election, had filed a petition challenging Adeleke’s victory.
The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal in Osogbo which upheld the allegation of over-voting in the areas won by Adeleke had declared Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) the winner of the poll after deducting “unlawful votes” from the PDP’s scores.
However, Adeleke headed to the Appeal Court to challenge the lower court’s decision, urging the appellate court to set it aside and re-affirm his victory.
Upholding Adeleke’s victory on Friday, the Court of Appeal held that the tribunal was “wrong to reach the conclusion that there was over-voting during the state governorship election held on 16 July 2022.”
Shuaibu, who prepared and read the lead decision, said “the burden of proving the allegations of over-voting lies squarely with the respondents (Oyetola and the APC).”
“It is inconceivable to assume that the testimonies of the respondents’ witnesses had any probative value,” the appellate court held.
It declared that Oyetola and the APC “did not tender the voters’ registers and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS machines,” which captured data of eligible voters at the Osun governorship election.
The court also held that the foundation of what transpired at the polling units would only be established by the evidence that is contained in the voter register and BVAS machines.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the governorship election held in Osun state on 16 July 2022.
The INEC Chief Returning Officer for the state, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who announced the result on the day after the election, said the PDP candidate scored 403,371 votes to emerge victorious.
Adeleke defeated his closest challenger, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 375,027 votes.
However, a three-member panel of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal headed by Terste Kume set aside Adeleke’s victory in its verdict delivered on January 27.
In a two-to-one split judgement, the majority decision of the tribunal declared Mr Oyetola the winner of the election.
It also ordered INEC to issue the certificate of return to Oyetola.
Kume, in the lead majority judgement, held that INEC failed to conduct the Osun governorship election in compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).
The Tribunal noted that the poll was marred by over-voting, stressing that after deducting the excessive votes that were cast, the figure Adeleke scored came down to 290,666, which was lower than the 314,921 garnered by Oyetola.
Consequently, the Tribunal ordered that Oyetola be returned as governor of Osun state.
However, in the minority decision, the second member of the Tribunal, P. A. Ogbuli, said the petitioners, Oyetola and the APC, failed to prove that there were cases of over-voting in the governorship election.
He said the petitioners’ witnesses in their testimony before the panel did not convince him that there was over-voting, adding that the petitioners should have brought the total registered voters to court to claim that over-voting occurred.
Adeleke had been declared the winner with a total of 403,371 votes, having won in 17 of the 30 local government areas of the state.
Oyetola had, in the petition at the tribunal, claimed that the election was characterised by over-voting in 749 polling stations, adding that Adeleke forged the academic credentials he submitted to the electoral umpire to contest the election.
Meanwhile, Governor Adeleke has described the outcome as a “no victory, no vanquish.”
Speaking shortly after the judgement at his Ede country home, he said Osun “belongs to all irrespective of political or religious affiliation.”
He urged members of the opposition party to cooperate with his administration to move the state to the next level.
He said, “I thank the people of Osun for standing by me throughout the trial period and even now, irrespective of the outcome of the verdict. The people have spoken and the judiciary has aligned with their voices.
“Osun belonged to all of us, irrespective of party affiliation. This is democracy and the beauty of it is healthy competition. So, the judgement for me is a no victor, no vanquish. We should all return to the table and continue the good work of moving Osun forward.
“I urged the good people of the state to continue to be law abiding. From me, I am assuring you that the good work is just starting; they should expect more dividends of democracy.
“I also commend the Judges of the Court of Appeal for standing on the side of truth. They should continue to stand on the side of the law. The court is the last hope of the common man and we commend the court for dispensing justice today.”
In his reaction, Oyetola, in a statement by his media aide, Ismail Omipidan, said his belief in the judiciary also remains unshaken.
“We have heard the judgement of the Appeal Court, but we are yet to receive a copy of the judgement.
“However, from the snippets we are getting, we believe we have a potential ground to approach the Supreme Court. Our belief in the judiciary remains unshaken, just as my abiding faith in God’s promise regarding the reclaim of my mandate remains undoubted.
“I, therefore, appeal to our supporters and party members to remain calm as we take the next step,” he said.