The stage is set as the Supreme Court will tomorrow (Friday) give verdict on who becomes the Executive Governor of Osun State.
The verdict will put to an end the ten months legal tussle over who truly won the Osun State governorship election between the two gladiators- Mr. Gboyega Oyetola of All Progressives Congress (APC) and Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the election on the basis of results of the September 22, 2018 main election and the September 27, 2018 supplementary election.
Not satisfied with INEC’s verdict, the PDP and Adeleke approached the Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal for redress.
In March, two of the three-man panel declared Senator Adeleke as winner of the September 2018 election in the state.
The two justices are: Peter Obiorah and Adegboye Gbolagunte.
The tribunal also nullified the Certificate of Return issued to Oyetola and ordered INEC to issue a fresh one to Adeleke.
But the minority judgement, delivered by the tribunal’s Chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, upheld Oyetola’s election, insisting that he was validly elected.
Expectedly, Oyetola and APC appealed the judgement. Oyetola in his 39-ground notice of appeal, filed on March 26, 2019, by his lead counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the Court of Appeal to nullify the majority judgment, which he argued was “perverse” and “replete with contradictions and not supported by evidence led by the petitioners.”
He however asked the court to uphold parts of the majority judgment where the tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to set aside INEC guidelines; that the allegations of over-voting were not proved; that the petitioners did not prove voided votes and other parts of the judgment, where the tribunal agreed with the appellant’s arguments.
Dismissing the majority judgment’s nullification of the September 27, 2018 supplementary election, the appellant stated, “having rightly held that it lacked the jurisdiction to strike out and nullify the approved Guidelines and Regulations for the conduct of the Osun State Governorship Election 2018, made by INEC, the tribunal misdirected itself in law and came to a perverse decision by going ahead to nullify the rerun election.”
He also opined that the majority judgment was a nullity on the basis that it was written by Justice Obiorah “who did not participate in all the proceedings of the tribunal and who was not present when all the witnesses gave evidence.”
By April, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal in a four-to-one split decision of its five-man panel, led by Justice Jummai Sankey, nullified the judgment of Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal, which gave Adeleke victory.
The other three members of panel in support of the majority judgement are: Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju, and Bitrus Sanga.
But another member of the panel, Justice George Mbaba, disagreed with the other justices and instead upheld Adeleke’s victory.
The appeal court nullified Adeleke’s victory on three grounds; one of which was the absence of the author (Justice Obiorah) of the majority judgment of the tribunal at the February 6, 2019 proceedings of the tribunal.
The justices held that his absence made the entire proceedings of the tribunal and its judgment, null and void.
It also ruled that the absence of the records of usage of ballot papers and other details on Form EC8A, the result sheets in 17 polling units where the polls were cancelled by the tribunal was not an issue of non-compliance that should necessitate the deduction of votes garnered by both the APC and the PDP in the units from the parties’ total scores, insisting that nullifying the September 27, 2018 supplementary election, which was the basis upon which Oyetola was declared winner, is wrong.
“I find and resolve the issue in favour of the appellant and against the 1st and 2nd respondents (Adeleke and PDP).
“I declare the entire proceedings and the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal a nullity.
“The appeal of the appellant is allowed.
The appeal succeeds. Accordingly, I set aside the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in the petition EPT/OS/GOV/1/2018 delivered on March 22, 2019,” Justice Sankey said.
Also, in her lead judgment in the appeal filed by INEC, Justice Sankey held that the absence of the ballot accounting in the Forms EC8A in the 17 polling units was not “substantial non-compliance and did not substantially affect the results of the election.”
She added that the only appropriate order was for a rerun as provided in Section 140(2) of the Electoral Act and not to “re-compute the results of the election and to proceed to declare the 1st respondent or any other person the winner of the election.
“The tribunal was in patent error when it set aside the rerun election, especially when it found that the conduct of the rerun was not marred by malpractices and non-compliance with the Electoral Act, leading to the unwarranted disenfranchisement of voters in the seven polling units,” the justice said.
On his part, Justice Abubakar Yahaya, who rendered the lead judgment on the APC’s appeal, also resolved the issues in favour of the party against the PDP and Adeleke.