And Osun Fell!

Gboyega Oyetola and Ademola Adeleke

Sunday News Analysis

As the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal looking into the last September’s governorship election declared the candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Gboyega Oyetola, not being properly elected and declaring the PDP candidate, Ademola Adeleke, as the duly election governor, Samuel Ajayi writes on the election, especially the unprecedented violence and brigandage that characterised the controversial rerun and why this was enough ground to overturn Oyetola’s victory.

Hopes of the Living Dead…
Governor Gboyega Oyetola, the embattled helmsman at Osun State, never had any doubt that he actually won the governorship election proper held on September 22, 2018 across the state and the controversial supplementary election that held five days later on Thursday September 27, 2018. However, on Friday March 22, 2019, which was exactly six months after the original election, the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja thought otherwise. Its verdict? Oyetola should not have been declared as the winner of the election but the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke.

Reading the judgment on behalf of other members of the Tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo held that the returning officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, should not have ordered for a rerun by cancelling elections in seven polling units on September 22, 2018. The Tribunal just deducted votes scored by Oyetola and Adeleke at the supplementary election and held to the original votes scored by the two candidates at the original election which Adeleke had won before the electoral body declared the election inconclusive. The rerun election was conducted in parts of Oshogbo, Ife North, Ife South and Orolu Local Government areas of the state.

Between ‘Revellers’ and Teeth ‘Gnashers’…
The Presidential candidate of the PDP in the February 23 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, said the Judiciary has proved it was the last hope of the common man. His word: “Truly, the Judiciary is the last hope of the common and the defender of our democracy. Congratulations to Senator Ademola Adeleke.

In his own words, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, congratulated Adeleke for “recovering his stolen mandate”. He had this to say: “Little by little under the rule of law, we shall recover all. Atiku is the next in line. Osun people, congratulations.”

But the man at the centre of the storm and candidate of the APC, Oyetola, was defiant. He said the judgment could not stand as it could not stand any rigorous legal scrutiny. His words: “The verdict cannot stand superior legal scrutiny. Therefore, we will appeal against it.”

David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, hip-hop artiste and nephew of the PDP candidate said the victory of his uncle at the election was a “dawn of light in Osun State.”

Violence Like Never Before…
The verdict of the tribunal brought to a close, even if temporarily, weeks of anxiety and legal brickbats as counsels to both the APC and PDP candidates tried to outdo one another before the Tribunal. At the end of the day, it was the counsel of the PDP candidate that was able to convince the Tribunal on behalf of his client. And hence, the pendulum swung on the side of the PDP candidate.

Electoral Violence Like no Other…
Beyond the rhetoric of loss and the swag of victory, if there was any group of people who believed the victory of the APC in the Osun governorship election could stand, it must have been APC leaders themselves. To many observers, it was daylight robbery and the whole process made mess of democracy itself. While there was semblance of electoral sanity during the original election, all was let loose during the rerun five days later. The ruling APC threw caution into the winds and unleashed violence on real and perceived opponents.

A reporter with online newspaper, The Cable, who covered the rerun election, writing on his experience said it was like a scene from a horror movie as political thugs unleashed violence on suspected PDP members. He said he was temporarily disallowed from accessing the venue of the rerun election even despite the fact that he identified himself as a reporter. He also added that even election observers were not spared as they were turned back by heavily armed policemen who clearly told them they were not needed at the venue of the rerun election.

Reports of violence did not start and end with politicians being at the receiving end alone. Reporters were not spared. Cameras, laptops and other equipment were destroyed by thugs allegedly loyal to the ruling APC.

About four journalists working with the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation, OSBC, narrowly escaped being lynched by suspected APC thugs who caught the reporters recording their nefarious activities. Two vehicles belonging to the reporters were vandalised while none of the equipment they brought was taken back as they were lucky to have escaped with their lives.

“Ironically, when these acts of violence were being visited on reporters and opponents of the ruling APC, security agents were there and did nothing. From every indication, it was like the security agents were there to provide official cover for the thugs to unleash their reign of terror on real and perceived opponents,” an election observer told newsmen during the election.
The candidate of the Action People’s Party, APP, Dr. Ekundayo Ademola, was severely beaten in Unit 05 in Alekuwodo in Oshogbo on the day of the rerun election. Ademola had been tipped off by his loyalists that thugs were on the look-out for him and he had escaped. Or so he thought. But he was eventually caught up with at Olaiya junction where he was beaten to stupor. Ironically, he was granting interview to newsmen when thugs caught up with him and descended on him. Reporters who tried to film the beaten had their equipment seized and they too had a taste of the wrath of the thugs. It must be noted that Ademola was a former chieftain of the ruling APC before he decamped into the rival APP.

Where the thugs had a field day were Gbogo, Kajola and Idi Iya all in Orolu Local Government. In these communities, PDP supporters were prevented from assessing polling centres. Only APC supporters were allowed and they were identified through wrist arm bands and face caps which they had been allegedly issued by their party leaders.

Brazenness Like in a Horror Movie…
A Lagos-based lawyer Kabir Akingbolu, told THISDAY on Saturday that the Osun State case was too brazen to be allowed to stand by the Election Petition Tribunal. According to the lawyer who is an authority in litigation and has handled many election petition cases, said the high-handedness of the ruling party was too “brazen”.

“When politicians are doing whatever they like on the day of election, especially those who believe they have the backing of the ruling party, they must be aware that some things cannot stand when put into legal scrutiny. And it is unfortunate that we are still where we are in 2019,” Akingbolu lamented.

Question Marks over Inconclusive Elections…
One hallmark of election since President Mohammadu Buhari of the APC came to power was the regular occurrence of inconclusive elections. In Kogi State, the gubernatorial election of November 2015 was declared inconclusive after the then candidate of the APC, Abubakar Audu, died before the process of announcing results of the election could be concluded. While observers felt there was no reason to declare the election inconclusive, political watchers in the state believed the powers that be did not want Audu’s running mate, Abiodun Faleke, to “inherit” the mandate after his principal had died. However, legal experts believed INEC declared the election inconclusive because the law did not anticipate a situation whereby a governorship candidate would die before election was concluded.

Bayelsa State was to experience another inconclusive election on January 9, 2016. Though the PDP candidate eventually won the election, it was not until after the second time of asking.
On March 9th, 2019, the nation went to polls to election governors in 29 states of the federation and members of state Houses of Assembly. However, by the time dust would settle on the polls, INEC had declared the exercise inconclusive in at least five states. These states were Bauchi, Kano, Sokoto, Benue and Adamawa. Observers have been saying there was no need for these rerun elections as the process could have been concluded during the original exercise.

While the ruling APC would be preparing for its appeal against the judgment that threw its victory out of the window, perhaps, it is high time the party looked at its modus operandi. Perhaps, it could do well by subscribing to a little democratic culture and allow the will of the people to prevail. If not, many states will fall just like Osun. If not via election, then through the judiciary.