The verdict of the Supreme Court has brought the legal battle on the July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State to a conclusive end as the Apex Court affirmed Governor Ademola Adeleke as the validly elected governor of the state. Daily Trust on Sunday reviews the long battle and the daunting task ahead of Governor Adeleke.
Ademola Adeleke contested on the platform of People’s Democratic Party (PDP’) at a time the party’s structure in the state was battling serious internal crisis occasioned by a leadership tussle. He fought seriously within the party to get the PDP ticket. In the end, two candidates emerged from separate PDP primary elections in the state.
While Adeleke was declared the winner of the primary conducted at the Osogbo City Stadium, Prince Dotun Babayemi was also announced as the winner of a parallel primary at an event centre in Osogbo by a PDP faction comprising some major leaders and stakeholders in the party.
The National Secretariat of the party and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recognised Adeleke as the authentic PDP candidate for the election.
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Not satisfied, Babayemi ran to court and pursued the case up to the Supreme Court where the apex Court confirmed Adeleke as the recognised candidate of the party for the election.
Adeleke campaigned vigorously despite court cases from within and outside his party. The election was held on July 16 and he was declared winner on July 17.
He polled 403,371 votes to beat the then-governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress Adegboyega Oyetola who got 375,027 votes.
However, Oyetola rejected the result and filed his petition at the Election Petition Tribunal in Osogbo, the state capital, challenging the outcome of the election on the grounds that there was overvoting.
He equally challenged Adeleke’s eligibility on the premise that he submitted forged documents to INEC.
The decision of the election tribunal favoured Oyetola to some extent as Justice Tertsea Kume in a majority judgement declared Oyetola as the winner of the majority valid votes and directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return from Adeleke and issue another certificate to Oyetola.
But one of the judges, Justice P. Ogbuli disagreed with the majority judgment, saying that there were inconsistencies in the BVAS reports tendered by parties and that such cannot be used to determine overvoting.
Adeleke faulted the decision of the tribunal judgement and headed to the Appeal Court, Akure Division which sat in Abuja. INEC and PDP also joined in the appeal while Oyetola and APC also filed cross-appeal. The decision of the appellate court was in favour of Adeleke.
Thereafter, Oyetola proceeded to the Supreme Court which is the final stage.
The five members of the panel include Justice John Iyang Okoro, Chairman and Justices M. Lawal Garba, Tijjani Abubakar, Adamu Ojauro and Akomaye Agim as members.
Chief Lateef Fagbemi SAN represented Oyetola and APC, while Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN represented Adeleke and Alex Iziyon SAN represented the PDP. INEC was represented by Paul Ananaba SAN.
Ikpeazu contended that a voters’ register was a requirement to prove over-voting but Fagbemi insisted that the Appeal court relied heavily on the old Electoral Act, specifically that of 2010 to draw its conclusion that a voter register was needed to prove over-voting.
Making reference to section 51 of the 2022 electoral Act, which was used to conduct the Osun governorship election, Fagbemi noted that one does not need a voter register to establish over-voting.
Fagbemi also quoted Section 51 (2) of the Act which stipulates that “Where the number of votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceeds the number of accredited voters in that polling unit, the presiding officer shall cancel the result of the election in that polling unit.”
He equally made reference to Section 47 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, which stipulates that “To vote, the presiding officer shall use a smart card reader or any other technological device that may be prescribed by the Commission, for the accreditation of voters, to verify, confirm or authenticate the particulars of the intending voter in the manner prescribed by the Commission.”
Fagbemi told the court that the voter register had no role to play in establishing over-voting and urged the court to so hold.
According him, “we are now in a new electoral dispensation that is expected to be upheld not only by INEC but also by the court as far as issue of over-voting is concerned. It is also important to state that in any election, you must not only win but you must win in a manner prescribed by the law. I therefore, urge your Lordships to allow the appeal.”
However, the Supreme court dismissed the appeal and upheld Adeleke’s victory as the validly elected Governor of Osun State. Adeleke and his supporters celebrated the victory and reaffirmed their trust in the judiciary. The governor’s country home in Ede was filled with supporters and loyalists who came to rejoice with him. PDP chieftains – Dr Peter Babalola, Prince Diran Odeyemi, Dr Bayo Faforiji and Alhaji Teslim Igbalaye, said the governor would now have full concentration to work and deliver dividends of democracy to the people of Osun State.
Reacting to the judgement, Adeleke said he dedicated the victory to God. He said “today is the day our God ordained to stamp his authority as the owner and giver of power; today is that moment when the will of the people ordained by God survives the anti-masses plot of powerful forces; we therefore celebrate God almighty, the author and finisher of our faith; we dedicate today’s victory to him as we finally assume the governorship of this great state of the living spring.”
“Our victory is a testimony that the people’s will backed by divine will can withstand and survive plots of anti-democratic elements.
“I must therefore express my heartfelt appreciation to the great people of Osun State for your deep support.
“On behalf of my family and party, I say thank you; to the judiciary, Osun has emerged as a moral compass, affirming the integrity of my lord justices; your affirmation for truth and people’s will consolidates and strengthens our democracy.
“On behalf of Osun people, we appreciate you and we adore your love for justice and equity. To all stakeholders in the Osun project, be assured that the revalidation of our mandate is a challenge, a call to duty, a fresh demand for more dividends of democracy; I commit myself to an even more expanded delivery of good governance; in me, you will find a truly pro-people governor; I seek support and cooperation of all Osun residents and citizens irrespective of party affiliations. This is our state and we must join hands to develop it,” he said.
Oyetola in his reaction to the Supreme Court verdict congratulated Adeleke, saying it was a win-win for Osun APC.
Oyetola in a statement he personally signed, said although the verdict of the Apex Court was against the wish of his party members and supporters, he accepted it in the interest of peace and development of the state.
The former governor urged members of his political party, the APC, his supporters and those who voted him during the July 16 2022 governorship election, to accept the judgement as the will of God and move on.
“We strongly believe we presented a good case before the Supreme Court but the Court thought otherwise and has given its verdict. While the outcome is against our wish and that of our party members and supporters, we are all bound to accept it as law-abiding citizens.
“To our members and supporters across the state, I urge you all to accept the verdict and move on. The present situation is a win-win for us. It’s both a loss and victory rolled into one.
“While we lost Osun technically, we gained Nigeria,” he said.
Oyetola, who asked the APC members and supporters not to feel sad and depressed over the decision of the Court, encouraged them to brace up for the tasks ahead of the party. He also appreciated the leadership of the party in the state and at the national level for their commitment and support throughout the period of the legal tussle.
“I remain committed to the growth and development of Osun. I will therefore continue to work with well-meaning citizens of Osun, associations and institutions to facilitate development to our dear state.”
The Osun State chapter of APC while reacting said it received Adeleke’s victory with “equanimity and placidity bearing in mind that in a contest, someone must emerge the winner.”
The state acting Chairman of the party Tajudeen Lawal said the APC is not oblivious of the fact that Supreme Court decisions are final which cannot be challenged in any other court of the land.
Lawal said as a democratic political body that solely believes in the rule of law, there is no way that the party can fault the judgement of the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the land even though members of the party were not happy with the judicial decision.
According to him, “While we are congratulating the beneficiary of the judgement, 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. The 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 times.
“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.”
Political observers say now that the coast is clear, Adeleke must stay focused and work hard to justify the mandate of the people of Osun State.
As one analyst sums up: “The expectation is so high that no excuse would be acceptable. His performance will determine whether the people of Osun State would keep supporting him, especially as the race for the next governorship election in the state might just begin very soon.”