By a split decision of 2 to 1, the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja yesterday declared Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party as the duly elected governor of the state and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately issue him with Certificate of Return.
The Tribunal has earlier nullified the election of the Governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola and directed INEC to immediately withdraw the Certificate of Return earlier issued to him as winner of the September 2018 governorship election.
INEC had on September 28 declared Oyetola, the winner of the election.
Oyetola was returned as governor-elect at the end of a supplementary election, which held in seven polling units across four local governments.
According to the electoral body, the APC candidate had scored a total of 255,505 votes as against the 255,023 scored by his closest rival, candidate of the PDP, Adeleke.
Dissatisfied with the decision of INEC, Adeleke and the PDP then approached the tribunal to nullify the victory of Oyetola and declare him winner of the election.
In its Judgment yesterday, the tribunal declared Adeleke as the duly elected governor of the state.
In the majority Judgment delivered by Justice Peter Obiora, the tribunal set aside the rerun election conducted on September 27, 2018 for being unlawful.
Justice Obiora held that the poll conducted in the seven units “is unknown to law because INEC has no power to conduct it in the first place.”
According to the Judgment, the PDP and Adeleke proved beyond reasonable doubt that INEC did not comply substantially with the Electoral Act in 17 polling units.
Consequently, over 2,000 votes credited to the APC and Governor Oyetola were deducted from the total votes credited to them by INEC, while over 1,000 votes said to have been scored by the PDP and its candidate were also removed from their total votes.
The majority Judgment also held that the returning officer who cancelled the result in the affected units after the announcement had no power to have done so.
Earlier, in a ruling on an objection filed against the petition by APC, Oyetola and INEC, the tribunal held that the objection was misconceived and that the tribunal has jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The objection was consequently dismissed by the tribunal.
The minority Judgment, delivered by Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, Chairman of the tribunal, however held that the petitioners, failed to prove how the non-compliance of non-recording in the columns of accredited votes and account of ballots in the result sheets substantially affected the final results.
Justice Sirajo further stated that even when non-substantial compliance affects the outcome of the election, the tribunal, by virtue of section 140(2) of the Electoral Act, does not have the power to subtract the votes affected by the non-compliance from the scores of the candidates and announce a winner.
According to him, the tribunal only has the power to nullify the results of the polling units affected by the non-compliance and order a supplementary poll.
He concluded that even if the non-compliance was substantial, it was not proved by the petitioners.
The Osun State Government has urged the people of the state to remain calm and go about their lawful activities following the tribunal judgment nullifying the election of Oyetola.
The statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Wole Oyebamiji, said an appeal had been filed against the judgement.
Ekweremadu: Verdict is Victory for Democracy
In his reaction, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, described the verdict of Osun gubernatorial election tribunal as victory for democracy.
Ekweremadu, who reacted to the Tribunal’s verdict on his social media handle @Iamekweremadu, noted that the verdict was victory “for the sanctity of the ballot box, victory for the rule of law, and indeed victory for democracy”.
PDP, Atiku, Seondus Commend Judiciary for Resilience
The Presidential candidate of the PDP in the 2019 election, Atiku Abubakar, has commended the judiciary for its resilience, and as a defender of Nigeria’s democracy.
Atiku in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Mr. Paul Ibe, while responding to the verdict upholding the election of Adeleke, commended the courage of the judiciary and its resilience “even in the face of strenuous efforts by the APC- led government to undermine and intimidate it.”
According to him, “The decision of the judiciary on the Osun governorship election is phenomenal in view of the culture of inconclusive elections by INEC in this season.
“The judgment has rekindled hope and confidence that those whose mandate had been tampered with or denied can look forward to justice being done to them.”
Also, the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus congratulated Adeleke for his victory at the election tribunal.
Secondus in a statement yesterday by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, said that the Judiciary should be hailed for standing up for the truth in the face of harassment and intimidation.
He also noted that the tribunal by this landmark ruling had helped to restore hope to Nigerians that all stolen mandates shall be recovered from the electoral robbers and retuned intact to their rightful winners.
Also, a statement issued by the National Publicity Secreratry of the PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, said that the judgment was a clear indicator that those who set out to destroy the country’s democracy can never triumph and that “no matter how evil and injustice appear to thrive, the truth must always prevail at the end of the day.”
He said that the spontaneous jubilation that greeted the judgment was therefore a direct indication that it is in consonant with the wishes and aspiration of Nigerians across the board.
Ologbondiyan said: “For those who have been desperate to destroy our democracy, this judgment has proven to them that their shenanigans will always come to no avail.”
TAGS alertJubilation in Osun as Tribunal Declares Adeleke Governor-elect