Chuks Okocha in Abuja and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
There is evident tension in Osun State and environs as the people await the Supreme Court judgment on the Osun State governorship election to be delivered on Friday, July 5, between Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
This is as a coalition of civil society organisation, Crusade for Greater Nigeria (CGN) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Tanko to walk their talks on ensuring that the judiciary is truly independent by not interfering in the court processes.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Oyetola and the APC winner of the Osun State governorship election based on the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018 main election and the September 27, 2018 supplementary poll.
Displeased with the results declared by INEC, the PDP and Adeleke filed a petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, where they contended that they won the election in the first ballot held on September 22, 2018 poll, adding that there was no need for the supplementary poll held on September 27, 2018.
Thus, in its March 22, 2019 split judgment of two-to-one, the tribunal nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP winner of the election.
But chairman of the tribunal, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment credited to Justices Peter Obiorah and Adegboye Gbolagunte, a development believed to have encouraged Oyetola to file an appeal.
The Appeal Court in its May 9 ruling, however, weighed in favour of Oyetola as winner of the election.
The five-man panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey upheld the appeal filed by Oyetola challenging the tribunal verdict.
While delivering the lead majority judgment of the four members of the panel, the court resolved 10 out of the 12 issues raised in favour of Oyetola and the two others in favour of Ademola and PDP.
The appellate court thus anchored its judgment on the alleged absence of a member of the tribunal, Justice Peter Obiorah, who read the lead majority verdict of the tribunal, during the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal.
Justice Sankey held that absence of Justice Obiorah on that date nullified the entire proceedings and the verdict of the tribunal, even as three other members of the panel: Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju, and Bitrus Sanga, also agreed with Justice Sankey.
But a member of the panel, Justice George Mbaba, dissented from the majority judgment and held that the alleged absence of Justice Obiorah from the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal was a mere speculation.
As Nigerians await the July 5 Supreme Court judgment, leader of the CGN, Ben Onyewuenyi said yesterday that the only way for President Buhari and Chief Justice Tanko to actually prove to Nigerians that the judicial process was independent was by not interfering with the process.
“The eyes of the world will be on the nation’s judiciary next week”, he said, insisting that Senator Adeleke did well to have been declared winner of the governorship election at the first ballot.
He maintained that the onus was on the Supreme Court to prove that the law was sacred at all times, adding, “This is the time for President Muhammadu Buhari to show statesmanship. He shouldn’t care which party takes the seat but should allow the learned justices to deliver their judgment without any form of inducement or harassment.
“Do not forget that recently the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mohammed Tanko stated that nobody living or dead can influence the decision of the apex court. He added that the court would not dance to the tunes of anybody. I do believe he will write his name in gold if he kept faith with these words.
“I believe that if a candidate wins an election with a clear margin of about 353, such a candidate should be declared the winner. Adeleke won in two-third of the local government areas in the state and constitutionally, he should have been declared winner of the election. Elections held in all the 30 LGAs and a candidate came out victorious.
“We believe that what Adeleke got at Ayedade was not reflected in the results as declared by the returning officer. We have confidence in the ability of the Supreme Court justices to do the needful.”
Also, Sam Segun-Progress, a PDP strategist in Osun, posited that the Supreme Court would restore the hope of the masses and restore the mandate the Osun people freely gave Senator Adeleke on the 22nd of September 2018
According to the broadcast journalist, the ruling of the tribunal that validated Adeleke’s election was welcomed with spontaneous joy that engulfed the state simultaneously without any form of inducement
He however added that the surprise appeal court ruling, which left the meat of the case to treat technicalities left the state in sorrow, while the organised but highly publicised rally of the APC in the state, led by Governor Oyetola was a sign of the people’s rejection.
But APC Director of Media and publicity in the state, Kunle Oyatomi, remarked that the APC and the people of Osun State were expecting good news from the Supreme Court on Friday, stressing that what the APC candidate laid before the Court were facts that could be verifiable.
He said the truth would be upheld at the end of the day and advised Nigerians and the people of the state to remain unshaken.
In his remarks, Chief Press secretary to Oyetola, Mr. Niyi Adesina contended that the people were confident that the judgment would favour the APC.
He said the facts were there and nothing could stop the APC from winning at the apex court, because the Court of Appeal ruling would be upheld and the people’s hope restored in the Judiciary.
Speaking too, Executive Director of the Advocacy for Advancement of peace and harmony in Africa Initiative, Comrade Olaniyi Ajibola, said the Court as the last resort and the habitat for finality through the Supreme Court should give verdict that would reflect the sanctity of electoral process.
Ajibola said in doing that, the process would guarantee sustainable solution and good governance.
Equally a social Crusader, Comrade Waheed Lawal urged the people of the state to allow the panel to decide the case without any interference, urging Osun to be calm and allow the Supreme Court to decide the case as it is.
Another Social crusader, Comrade Rufus Oyatoro, said his expectations were that what happened at the Appeal Court should be upheld.
Comrade Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman contended that Justice should be done to the case.
Speaking through his group, Civil Societies Coalition for the Emancipation of Osun State (CSCEOS), he pleaded with the Supreme Court to do justice to the petition before it, saying the hope of the people of the state were high ahead of the July 5thjudgment.