Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, has declared his intention to appeal the judgment of the Election Petitions Tribunal that nullified his victory in the July 16, 2022 governorship poll in the state.
The All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Adegboyega Oyetola, had dragged Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Independent National Electoral Commission before the tribunal to challenge the PDP candidate’s eligibility to contest the election.
The petitioners also said INEC did not conduct the poll in strict compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act and the constitution, and asked the panel to deduct excess votes discovered in 744 polling units spread across 10 local government areas of the state.
The Chairman of the three-man panel, Justice Tetsea Kume, in a majority judgment that lasted over three hours on Friday, resolved the question of over-voting against the respondents, saying the petitioners with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System report obtained from INEC’s backend server established over-voting in 744 units.
According to him, the petitioners relied on the document obtained from INEC and stated that the commission’s claim that synchronisation had not been completed when the BVAS report was issued to the petitioners was untenable as synchronisation, going by its definition, meant that it ‘must occur at the same time’.
He further held that the exhibits tendered by the respondents had not altered the position of regularity of exhibit BVR, being the BVAS report tendered by the petitioners and the other documents they laid before the panel.
Justice Kume said, “In other words, the defences of the respondents are taint with fundamental flaws; they are 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“Moreover, exhibit BVR has not been withdrawn by the first respondent, who made and issued it.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 reports, contrary to vote 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 BVAS 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 in the headquarters of the Nigeria Police Force, NIGCOMSAT, the National Secretary Adviser, independent of the first respondent.
“The data stored 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 BVAS in the polling units during the conduct of elections.”
The judge added, “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 had the majority of lawful votes at the said election.
“The table produced on page 30, paragraph 7.01 of the petitioner’s final written address in response to the first respondent’s 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 votes cast for each of the candidates after the said deduction of invalid votes are 314,931 for the first petitioner and 219,666 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 the duly elected governor of Osun State in the election conducted on July 16, 2022.
“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 the Certificate of Return as the duly elected governor.”
The judge also declared that the forgery allegation regarding the dates on the school testimonial obtained by Adeleke was proven, but stressed that the 2nd respondent had other certificates that qualified him for the post he contested and subsequently resolved the forgery allegation against the petitioners.
But in a minority decision, a member of the panel, Justice A. Ogbuli, dismissed Oyetola’s petition, saying the primary source of data on Election Day, which were the BVAS machines, should have been relied on by the panel instead of BVAS reports brought by the petitioners.
He also held that the report of physical inspection of the BVAS machines admitted by the panel was not challenged by the petitioners.
He also said the petitioners did not say that the entries on the BVAS machines were not the same as the entries in exhibit RWC, which was the report of the forensic inspection of the machines.
Justice Ogbuli stated, “Exhibit RWC is a document made from the time resources, which are the machines used on the Election Day.
“The exhibit on RWC is in existence and was there on the machine on the date of election. Section 64 subsections 4,5 and 6 of the Electoral Act recognised BVAS machines as a key material to be used in collation of result and in resolution of any dispute arising there from.
“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 for the July 16, 2022 election. The same is true of exhibit RBVR. The best evidence in that regard is RBVL 1-119 down to RBVL 1-59 used in the polling units under contest and I so hold.”
Adeleke plans appeal
While reacting to the judgment in a statement by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, the governor faulted the resolution of the over-voting question in favour of Oyetola, calling it “an unfair interpretation against the will of the majority of voters.”
While urging his supporters to remain calm, Adeleke vowed to appeal the judgment and insisted that he remained the winner of the July 16 election.
“I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgment and we are sure that justice will be done. Let our people be reassured that we will do everything possible to retain this widely acclaimed mandate,” Adeleke stated.
In an address to the people of the state, Adeleke said the discrepancies mentioned by the tribunal chairman were tantamount to a “miscarriage of justice.”
He also said the claim of over-voting was unfounded.
He stated, “My good people of Osun State, we have all heard the split judgment of the governorship election tribunal.
“Two members of the tribunal delivered two opposing judgments; the chairman and the member one. The member two did not deliver any judgment; she abstained.
“The chairman’s judgment affirmed the claim of over-voting, while member one’s judgment agreed with our position as captured by the BVAS machines, which are the primary source of accreditation data of true accreditation on the day of the election.
“The reality of my election as the governor of Osun State is captured in member one’s judgment. The claim of over-voting in the chairman’s judgment was unfounded. This was clearly a miscarriage of justice. Based on the above, there was no majority judgment.
“My good people of Osun State, I am still your governor. I have the right of appeal on the chairman’s judgment and I have instructed my lawyers accordingly.
“You gave me your mandate, our election remains valid and by the grace of God we will triumph at last. I call on you all to remain calm and go about your normal activities peacefully. Please remain law-abiding. We have strong faith in God and in our judiciary.
“My counsel has also written the electoral commission intimating it of the appeal and seeking non-implementation of the judgment until the determination of the appeal.”
Gov’s son boasts
The son of the Osun State governor, Adesina Adeleke, aka Sina Rambo, has boasted that his father will remain in office despite the tribunal’s verdict.
He said this via his Instagram story on Friday.
Reacting to the judgment, Sina Rambo said, “Two judgments issued today at the tribunal. One in favour of the PDP. Nothing changed. Sen. Ademola Adeleke remains the governor of Osun State. We move to the appeal court. Peace be still. The mandate of Osun will not be stolen. H.E. Ademola Adeleke remains the Governor of Osun State.”
PDP members protest
Scores of PDP members in Osogbo staged a peaceful protest against the tribunal’s decision on Friday.
Armed with placards with various inscriptions, the protesters demanded a probe of the panel and later converged on Olaiya junction in Osogbo, where their leaders addressed them.
Some of the inscriptions on the placards read, ‘Tribunal panel not fair in today’s judgment’, ‘Imole has come to stay’, ‘Osun citizens reject Oyetola’, ‘Injustice to Ademola Adeleke’, ‘On Imole mandate we stand’, among others.
One of the leaders of the protesters, Mr Taiwo Akinyele, said he was not happy with the tribunal’s judgment in spite of the fact that the evidence before it was clear that Adeleke won the election.
Akinyele decried the attitude of the tribunal chairman, Justice Tertsea Kume, who gave an unfavourable judgment in spite of the evidence against the petitioners.
He expressed optimism that the PDP would retrieve its mandate at the Court of Appeal in Akure in due course.
“It is just a matter of time. We have been deceived and denied our mandate. Osun people are tired of the APC for all their harsh policies. I know God will intervene,” he added.
Policemen and other security agents were seen patrolling major roads in the state capital to ensure that no one took the law into their own hands and caused mayhem.
The party expressed reservation over the ability of INEC to live up to the expectations of Nigerians and deliver credible and transparent elections this year.
The party stated this in its reaction to the nullification of Adeleke’s victory by the election petitions tribunal.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Ibrahim Abdullahi, noted that in spite of repeated assurances from the umpire, issues relating to over-voting were still coming up after the declaration of results.
Oyetola hails judgment
However, Oyetola, who spoke in his Iragbiji country home, described the verdict of the panel as victory for the state.
He 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 judgment resolved the controversy of the July 16, 2022 governorship election.
“INEC is the greatest beneficiary of the judgment. It will afford them the opportunity to look at all the anomalies and make necessary adjustments to prevent such mistakes again now that the general election is coming. I thank the people of the state and supporters for their courage and loyalty in standing by us; I want to assure them that we are ready to continue to serve them.”
He also appealed to the members of the PDP not to resort to self-help, but instead allow the judicial process to run its full course.
Oyetola added, “The tribunal’s judgment today on our petition ushers in a new dawn of renewed hope and recovery for Osun State.
“For me, I see it was a no victor and no vanquished situation for our party members, but rather a collective victory for the entire people of Osun State, the party and Nigeria’s democracy.
“I am happy that the tribunal has been able to put to rest the controversy over the real winner of the July 16 Osun governorship election.
“The Independent National Electoral Commission will no doubt be the greatest beneficiary of this ruling, as it will help it correct some of the anomalies that have been pointed out, a thing that was our motivation in the first instance.
“Like I have always emphasised, our decision to approach the tribunal was not to impugn on the integrity of INEC, but to help deepen our electoral system and our democracy.”
Sacked workers hopeful
Meanwhile, some workers recruited into the civil service at the twilight of the Oyetola administration were jubilant after the tribunal gave its verdict.
It will be recalled that about 1,500 teachers recruited by Oyetola after losing his re-election bid and whose appointments were reversed by Adeleke upon assumption of office, recently pleaded with the new administration to review their case and return them to their duty posts.
Also, some health workers also recruited by Oyetola but disengaged by Adeleke staged a protest at the governor’s campaign office in Osogbo.
Tinubu, govs rejoice
The APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, has congratulated Oyetola over his victory at the tribunal.
In a congratulatory message to Oyetola signed by his media aide, Tunde Rahman, Tinubu described the ruling as a “triumph of courage, 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.”
The statement read in part, “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.”
In his reaction, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mr Felix Morka, stated that the verdict was a victory for the rule of law.
He added that it was a categorical affirmation of the will of the Osun electorate as expressed at the poll.
Morka congratulated Oyetola, members of the APC and the good people of Osun State on the resounding victory at the tribunal.
He stated, “The peaceful conduct of the Osun election and effective recourse procedures are eloquent testaments 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 underscores the massive significance of the programme of electoral reform, and the new and efficient technologies implemented by the APC administration.”
The state chapter of the APC described the tribunal judgment as triumph of justice and truth over falsehood.
The acting state Chairman of the party, Sooko Tajudeen Lawal, said in a statement the fact that the tribunal gave victory to Oyetola was an indisputable indication that the APC was the dominant political party in the state.
Ondo State Governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, hailed the judgment and said it reflected the will of the people of the state, who voted massively for the APC.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Richard Olatunde, on Friday, the governor said the tribunal’s verdict had restored the hope of the common man and reinforced confidence in the judiciary.
The statement read, “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.”
His Lagos State counterpart, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, charged Oyetola to dust his economic blueprint, go back to work and complete the very good work that he started.
He told reporters at the Lagos House, Ikeja, “We need to commend and believe in the judicial success and judicial process of our country. I think the tribunal has taken its time and you can see the outcome. It was a majority decision and I want to thank and commend them for doing the right thing. I imagine they must have been under tremendous pressure, but I am sure that at the end of the day, they took the right outcome.
“My congratulations go to the APC family in Osun. This is a victory that has been delayed for such a long time. The judiciary has shown that it was delayed but not denied; so I want to congratulate my brother, Governor Adegboyega Oyetola.
“I want him to go and dust the economic blueprint that he has started with the people of Osun, dust all of his files and ensure that by the grace of God, he returns back to the Ileri Oluwa journey for dividends of all of his efforts in the last four years. He will go back to work and complete the good work that he has started with his people.
“I want to call on everybody in Osun that the APC continues to remain the party to beat, and continues to remain a party of relevance in Osun State and in Nigeria as a whole.”
The Director of Publicity, APC, Bala Ibrahim, said, “It is a victory for democracy in the country. We don’t have any fear of over-voting going into the February and March elections. We are confident in INEC, particularly with the use of the Bimodal Verification Accreditation System.”
members of the tribunal compared the old Electoral Act requiring voters’ register with the current one to hold that BVAS technology has replaced voters’ register in proving over-voting.
“The tribunal held that over-voting occurs when actual votes are more than the accredited voters. It threw away the argument of the respondents that the BVAS report collected from INEC in July immediately after the election was not correct because it had not been synchronised. It held that the Electoral Act does not permit synchronisation.”