…Verdict victory for democracy, rule of law – APC
…Adeleke, PDP reject judgement, vow to appeal
…INEC the greatest beneficiary, says Oyetola
…Timi Frank urges NJC, EFCC to probe tribunal judges
The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo on Friday ordered that the certificate of return given to Governor Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be withdrawn and issued to Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The Tribunal headed by Justice Tertsea Aorga Kume held that the witnesses called by both the petitioners and respondents admitted over-voting in the July 16, 2022, governorship election; hence the declaration of the 2nd respondent, Adeleke, by the 1st respondent, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), was not in compliance with the law.
According to the Tribunal, the fact established by the evidence and record is that the election conducted on July 16, 2022, was done in substantial non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and extant regulations.
It held that, “Similarly, the exhibit tendered by the respondents after exhibit BVR submitted by learned counsel to the petitioners was thought of after the declaration of the result on July 17, 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 reports, contrary to the declaration of the vote, to conduct free, fair, and credible elections based on one man or woman with one vote.
“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 290,266 votes for the second respondent.”
It continued, “The second respondent did not score a majority of lawful votes cast for the election. The declaration and return are hereby declared null and void, the second respondent can not ‘go low and buga won’ as duly elected governor of Osun state in the election conducted on July 16, 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.”
In a dissenting judgement, Justice Benedict Ogbuli held that exhibit BVR is a product of inadequacies and can not be the best evidence for the determination of the accurate number of accredited voters on the July16, 2022 election.
He noted that the petitioners rushed to obtain the BVR on July 27, adding that “the petitioner should have brought in the voter register to prove their case and the failure made their petitions weak.”
Meanwhile, Governor Ademola Adeleke has rejected the judgement and vowed to challenge it at the appeal court.
In a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, Adeleke described the judgement a “miscarriage of justice,” saying “it is an unfair interpretation against the will of the majority of the voters.”
He called on party supporters to remain calm, assuring that he would do everything possible to retain his “widely acclaimed mandate.”
In a reaction to the verdict by the tribunal, former governor Adegboyega Oyetola lauded the judgement, saying that “INEC is the beneficiary of the judgement.”
Addressing journalists at his hometown in Iragbiji, Oyetola said, “There is no victor, no vanquished. It is a collective victory for our state and our nation’s democracy. I am happy that the judge resolved the controversy of the July 16, 2022 governorship election.
“INEC is the greatest beneficiary of the judgement, it will allow them to look at all the anomalies and make necessary to prevent such mistakes again now that the general election is coming.
“I thank the people of the state and supporters for standing by us for their courage and loyalty. I want to assure them that we are ready to continue to serve them,” he said.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) protested the judgement and barricaded the popular Olaiya junction for some minutes.
They carried placards with inscriptions such as “Tribunals, Panels are not fair on Today’s Judgement,” “Imole Has Come to Stay,” “Osun Citizens Reject Oyetola,” “Injustice to Ademola Adeleke,” “On Imole Mandate We Stand.”
The party in a statement by its caretaker chairman, Dr. Akindele Adekunle, advised the people to remain calm and to go about their lawful duties.
It assured that the July 16 governorship election mandate bestowed on Governor Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke by the people would be defended and secured.
“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 statement read in part.
In its reaction, the All Progressives Congress (APC) congratulated former Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, its supporters and the people of Osun state on the victory.
The ruling party stated that the verdict in its favour “represents victory for democracy and the rule of law.”
A statement released Friday in Abuja by the party’s national publicity secretary, Felix Morka, noted that 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 efficient technologies implemented by the APC-administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The statement read in part, “The Tribunal’s verdict represents victory for democracy and the rule of law. It is a categorical affirmation of the will of the Osun electorate as expressed at the polls.
“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.
“Again, congratulations to the triumphant people of Osun state.”
‘Probe tribunal judges’
Meanwhile, a former deputy national publicity secretary of the APC, Comrade Timi Frank, has described the majority judgement by the Tribunal as “highly compromised.”
Frank, in a statement in a reaction to the judgement, said the verdict fell short of expectations and “does not reflect the will of the majority of the people of Osun who freely elected Senator Adeleke as governor.”
He called on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to urgently cause a probe of the verdict with a view to restoring Adeleke’s mandate as well as penalizing any of the tribunal members found to have compromised on integrity.
He also called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to urgently investigate the judges who wrote the majority judgement and prosecute those found to have based their decision on other considerations rather than the true facts canvassed during the hearing of the case.
He similarly called on the United States of America to place a visa ban on the Osun tribunal judges found to have used their highly exalted position as arbiters to derail and frustrate the growth of democracy in the country.
He, however, urged the people of Osun to remain calm and law-abiding with the certainty that the mandate they freely gave to Adeleke would be retrieved at the appellate court.