Oyetola: My S’Court Victory, a Call to Greater Service

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•  PDP expresses shock, says decision based on technicalities 
By Chuks Okocha and Alex Enumah in Abuja, and Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo

Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, has described the reaffirmation of his election victory by the Supreme Court as a call to work harder and deliver on his promises of greater services to the people.
The Supreme Court by a split decision, yesterday, dismissed the appeal filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2018 Osun governorship election, Ademola Adeleke against the election of Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The apex court, in a majority judgment of five to two, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, Abuja which nullified the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal on the grounds that the tribunal was not properly constituted in regards of numbers.
The majority decision, which was delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, agreed with the lower court that the absence of Justice Peter Obiorah, who delivered the lead judgment, from the proceedings of February 6, was fatal to the case of the appellants.
Adeleke and the PDP had asked the Supreme Court to set aside the split judgment of the Court of Appeal which upheld the election of Oyetola on the same grounds.
The apex court in the majority decision agreed with the argument by Oyetola’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun (SAN) that the entire majority judgment was a nullity, because it was written and delivered by Justice Obiorah, who was said not to have participated in the February 6 proceedings of the tribunal where vital documents relating to the election were tendered and when vital witnesses gave evidence.
Justice Obiorah, according to the Court’s record, they said, was absent on February 6, 2019 when the respondents witnesses (RWs) 12 and 13 – Ayoola Soji and Oladejo Kazeem – testified and tendered exhibits, which the tribunal admitted in evidence.
The Supreme Court held that, having not attended the tribunal’s siting on February 6, 2019, Justice Obiorah did not see the two witnesses and was unable to examine their demeanour, as required, and therefore, it was unlawful for the judge to have authored a judgment in which he reviewed the evidence given by the witnesses.
“The writing of and or the participation of the Honourable Justice P. C. Obiorah in the writing of the judgment of the lower tribunal of 22nd March 2019 and delivery of same, vitiates the entire judgment,” Justice Rhodes-Vivour held.
The Supreme Court said that, in arriving at its decison, the main issue for consideration was whether Justice Obiorah participated in the February 6 proceedings, adding that it was clear from both parties that Obiorah did not sit on that day.
“Failure to sit rendered the proceedings a nullity and the Judgment suffers a fundamental error and irredeemably affected the competence of the Judgment of the tribunal.”
The court also agreed with Olanipekun that the decision of Obiorah to write judgment in a proceeding he did not participate was irregular and inconsistent with the law and made the judgment to run contrary to the provisions of the law.
Apart from Bode Rhodes-Vivour, others who supported the majority judgment are Justices Tanko Mohammad, Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Amir Sanusi and Uwani Aba-Aji.
However, the minority judgment delivered by Justice Kummai Akaahs and supported by Justice Paul Galinje, disagreed with the findings in the majority judgment that Obiorah was absent on February 6, adding that even if the issue was to be legally resolved, the respondents ought to file affidavit to challenge the record of proceedings of February 6.
They further said that the findings of the majority judgment was based on conjecture and a well-articulated speculation by relying on certified true copy of the tribunal’s proceedings instead of the original record.
The minority judgment also held that cancelation of election in seven polling units of four local government area of Osun by a returning officer of INEC was illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional, adding that by section 179 of the 1999 constitution, Adeleke who scored highest votes in the main election and fulfilled the section ought to have been declared winner of the election.
“INEC is supposed to be an unbiased umpire, cancelling election by a returning officer is not allowed by law, just like using manual to cancel election is also illegal.
The minority judgment further accused INEC of using inconclusiveness in election to perpetrate fraud and to do what it wants to do even when it is illegal.
They therefore set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal and declare Adeleke as winner of the election of September 22, 2018 Governorship election.
In its reaction yesterday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said that it was shocked at the ruling of the Supreme Court on the Osun State Governorship election.
The party, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbkndiyan said, “The fact that the Supreme Court had a split judgment also speaks volumes on its verdict in this matter.
“Our study of the judgment however shows that the Supreme Court did not negate the position of the PDP and millions of Nigerians that our candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke won the election, but based its verdict on reservations over issues of technicalities arising at the election petition tribunal.
“Nevertheless, our party stands with overwhelming majority of Nigerians on that undeniable fact that the people of Osun State, by the votes cast at the poll, preferred Senator Adeleke as their governor.
“The PDP, as a law-abiding party, however, urges the people of Osun state to remain united, calm and not lose hope in our democratic process and the quest for a government that truly represents their wishes and aspirations.”
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission had declared candidate of the APC, Oyetola winner of the Osun poll after the September 27 rerun.
The electoral umpire through its returning officer, citing hijacking of ballot boxes, malfunctioning of card reader machines and violence amongst others, cancelled election in seven polling units in four local government areas of Osun state and accordingly conducted a rerun wherein Oyetola emerged winner of the Governorship election.
Dissatisfied, Adeleke then approached the election petition tribunal, which also in a split decision of 2 to 1 declared him winner of the election.
However, Oyetola, APC and INEC then approached the appellate court to reverse the decision of the majority judgment of the tribunal on grounds of miscarriage of justice.
After the Supreme Court ruling yesterday, Adeleke congratulated Governor Oyetola, according to a statement by his publicist, Olawale Rasheed, saying he never had a die-hard stance about being governor of Osun state.
Adeleke said, “As a democrat and law-abiding citizen, I accept the ruling no matter my misgivings. I wish Governor Oyetola well in the governance of Osun State. In all circumstances, we must thank God Almighty. We gallantly fought a good fight in pursuance of a democratic cause.
Meanwhile, governor Oyetola has dedicated the victory to “the glory of God” and “the good people of the State of Osun, who joined us in navigating the twists and turns of the road to justice.”
A statement by Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Adeniyi Adesina, quoted the governor as saying “this victory is a call to duty. It is indeed a challenge to us all to muster the courage and strength to do more.
“We will work even harder to deliver on our campaign promises to you and to take the   State of Osun to the Next Level.”