*Join hands with me to build state, dancing governor tells Oyetola
*Court grants Obi, Atiku permission to serve petitions on Tinubu through APC
Alex Enumah in Abuja, Yinka Kolawole in Osogbo
There was wild jubilation across Osun State yesterday following the ruling of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which nullified the judgement of the election tribunal that voided the election of Ademola Adeleke as governor.
On the same day, a three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja gave the go-ahead to three presidential candidates – Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Chichi Ojei – to serve their suit against the outcome of the February 25 election on the winner, Bola Tinubu, through his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A three-member panel of the appellate court led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu held that the tribunal erred in law in arriving that Adeleke was not lawfully elected as governor in the July 16, 2022 governorship election in Osun State.
Adeleke had on February 9, appealed the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Tribunal which nullified his election on grounds of alleged over-voting.
The tribunal in a two-to-one decision had in January held that the petitioners; immediate past Governor of Osun State, Adegboyega Oyetola, proved their case of non-compliance and over-voting in some polling units in favour of Adeleke and his party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tertsea Kume, who read the majority judgment had disclosed that the excess votes were deducted following which Oyetola won the election.
Specifically, Justice Kume, noted that after deducting the over-voting figure, Oyetola scored 314,921, while Adeleke polled 290,26Justice Kume subsequently ordered INEC to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Adeleke and issue a fresh one to Oyetola as the duly elected governor of Osun.
But Adeleke in his 31 grounds of appeal argued that the majority judgement erred in law in holding that Oyetola was the lawful governor-elect at the July 16, 2022 guber election and subsequently prayed the court for “an order setting aside the whole decision of the tribunal.”
Oyetola, APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) were 1st to 4th respondents respectively in the suit at the Appeal Court.
Delivering ruling in the appeal yesterday, the appellate court in a unanimous judgement held that the tribunal was wrong in holding that there was over-voting in some polling units when such allegations were not proved.
According to the panel, before a case of over-voting can be established, the person making the allegation must present the Voters Register, the Bi-modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS) – which contains the information of accredited voters, votes cast in each polling unit, results as entered into the forms EC8A, amongst others.
The panel further faulted Oyetola and the APC for hinging their allegation of over-voting on only information they obtained from a secondary source (INEC back-end server report).
Faulting further the tribunal’s decision on over-voting, the three justices in their separate judgments pointed out that the failure of Oyetola and APC to call witnesses, especially polling agents who witnessed the voting, was fatal to their case.
On the issue of jurisdiction raised by the appellant, Justice Shuaibu while observing that the law allows the tribunal to suspend decisions on Preliminary Objections until the end of the matter, faulted the tribunal for not showing in writing that it considered Adeleke’s preliminary objection in its merit.
Regarding Adeleke’s qualification to contest the July 16 2022 Guber election, the panel held that the tribunal was right in holding that Adeleke was qualified to contest the election, adding that allegations of supplying false and forged documents must be proved beyond reasonable doubt, which the 1st and 2nd respondents failed to prove.
Similarly, the appellate court added that since the Court of Appeal had since ruled that Adeleke was qualified, until a higher court rules otherwise, that is the position of the law.
However, the panel disagreed with Adeleke that the majority judgement was a nullity because the second judge on the panel, Justice Rabi Bashir, failed to write her opinion as required by Section 294(2) of the Constitution.
According to Justice Shuaibu, there is no law that mandates the judge to write a separate opinion, adding that the signature of the second judge appended in the face of the tribunal’s judgement document was enough evidence that she agreed with the lead judgement.
Similarly, the panel held that Adeleke failed to prove his allegation of bias against the tribunal.
Justice Shuaibu stated that although Justice Kume’s comments on Adeleke’s proclivity for dancing and particularly the Buga song, is “unwarranted and condemnable”, it does not in any way, prove bias against the appellant.
Having decided five of the eight issues raised in favour of Adeleke, the panel held that the “appeal on the whole is meritorious and is accordingly allowed.
“Judgement of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal is hereby set aside.”
The panel slammed a cost of N500,000 fine in favour of Adeleke.
Meanwhile, the appellate court in other judgements allowed the appeals filed separately by the PDP and INEC against the decision of the tribunal.
It however, dismissed the cross appeal filed by Oyetola and APC challenging the refusal of the tribunal to disqualify Adeleke on account of alleged provision of false and forged documents to INEC in aid of his qualification for the election.
The panel held that the issue surrounding Adeleke’s qualification was already resolved by the appellate court and was yet to be set aside by a higher court.
INEC had returned Adeleke as the winner of the poll.
INEC said Adeleke polled 403,371 votes, to defeat incumbent Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC, who got 375,027 votes.
But Oyetola and the APC rejected the result of the poll and headed for the tribunal.
In its January 27, 2023 majority verdict, the Justice Tertse Kume-led tribunal annulled Adeleke’s victory and declared Oyetola the winner of the poll.
However, a minority judgment by Justice B. Ogbuli affirmed Adeleke as the winner of the poll.
Displeased, Adeleke and the PDP headed for the Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal heard the appeal on March 13 and reserved its judgement.
Jubilation in Osun State
There was wild jubilation across Osun State yesterday after the Court of Appeal in Abuja, upheld Adeleke’s victory at the July 16, 2022 governorship election.
Many residents of Ede, hometown of the Osun State Governor, thronged his residence in jubilation.
Also in different parts of Ede town, residents trooped to streets to celebrate Adeleke’s victory.
The jubilant residents, who were also sighted around Oja Timi, Oke Gada and Total-all within Ede metropolis, were singing Adeleke’s praise.
In Osogbo, the state’s capital, it was also jubilation galore.
Join Hands with Me to Build State, Adeleke Tells Oyetola
Governor Adeleke has extended an olive branch to the immediate past governor, Oyetola, asking him to join hands with him in building the state.
Adeleke made the call after the Appeal Court reinstated him.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to extend sincere hands of fellowship to former Governor Oyetola and the APC. Let’s build the state together. Let us unite for the good of our people. The State needs leaders across party lines to join hands for robust and accelerated development of the state.
“As brothers and sisters, we are all requested to start the process of healing. Forget party politics as the election is over. All members of the political class in Osun state should join hands with me to take our state to greater heights.”
Adeleke added, “I thank God Almighty and our good people of Osun state. I dedicate this victory to God and my people. This judgement confirmed my earlier position that the judgement of the Tribunal is a miscarriage of Justice. The judiciary has right the wrongs of the lower Court. This has rekindled the confidence of the nation in the integrity of the judiciary as the stabiliser and the last hope of the common man.
“I am particularly glad that the Court of Appeal has ruled that the BVAS machine and voters register are the primary sources, not the report from the server. This has strengthened our democracy and removed a time bomb which the judgement of the Tribunal had planted for our democracy.
“I appreciate Osun people for standing by me and my party through repeated validation of my governorship mandate at the recent federal and state elections. My party won three straight elections from July 16th 2022 to March 18th ,2023. It was a resounding vote of confidence in my governorship by the people of Osun State. The judiciary has now confirmed the will of the people that I am the validly elected Governor of my state.
“My appreciation goes to the civil servants, artisans, market people, clerics, students, women and youth. Osun people defended the mandate from 2022 to date.
“I commend the judiciary for resisting all pressure. Rule of law is strengthened when judgement affirms the will of the people. On behalf of the Osun people and my party, the PDP, we appreciate the judiciary and the men of conscience on the bar and the bench.”
Remain Calm, Oyetola Tells Party Members
Meanwhile, Oyetola has appealed to members and supporters of the APC to remain calm and not to be discouraged by the Appeal Court’s ruling, saying his abiding faith in God to reclaim his mandate remains undoubted.
Reacting to the Appeal Court judgement which overturned the decision of the Tribunal, Oyetola in a statement by his media aide, Ismail Omipidan, noted that his belief in the judiciary also remained unshaken.
He further said: “We have heard the judgement of the Appeal Court, but we are yet to receive a copy of the judgement.
“However, from the snippets we are getting, we believe we have a potential ground to approach the Supreme Court. Our belief in the judiciary remains unshaken, just as my abiding faith in God’s promise regarding the reclaim of my mandate remains undoubted.
“I, therefore, appeal to our supporters and party members to remain calm as we take the next step.”
Court Grants Obi, Atiku Permission to Serve Petitions on Tinubu
A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, has given the go-ahead to three presidential candidates to serve their suit against the winner of the presidential election, Tinubu, through his party, the APC.
The panel, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, gave the permission yesterday, while ruling in three separate exparte applications brought by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Mr Peter obi and Princess Chichi Ojei of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and the Allied People’s Movement, respectively.
The applications which were predicated on alleged inability to serve their suits personally on Tinubu as required by law, were supported by affidavits of non-service.
While that of Atiku was filed and argued by Mr Etitayo Jegede, SAN, that of Obi and Ojei were filed and argued by Mr Ikechukwu Ezechukwu, SAN, and Mr O. Atoyebi, SAN, respectively.
In a short ruling, Justice Ikyegh granted their request as prayed by ordering that the suit challenging the election of Tinubu be served on him through his party, the APC.
Atiku, Obi, Ojei and candidate of the Action Alliance (AA), Solomon Okangbuan are challenging the declaration of Tinubu as winner of the February 25 presidential election.
Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, had on March 1 announced Tinubu as winner of the presidential poll and accordingly issued him with a Certificate of Return.
According to Yakubu, the APC’s presidential polled 8,794,726 votes to emerge victorious.
While Atiku who came second scored 6,984,520 votes, Obi scored 6,101,533 votes, to come third.
However, dissatisfied with the outcome, five political parties had subsequently dragged the electoral body, Tinubu and the APC to court.
The first was the Action Alliance (AA) and its presidential candidate, Solomon Okangbuan with suit number: CA/PEPC/01/2023; and while the second is unknown as at press time, the third is the Allied People’s Movement (APM) and its presidential candidate, Princess Chichi Ojei with suit number: CA/PEPC/03/2023.
While the fourth; that of the Labour Party and Peter Obi is marked: CA/PEPC/04/2023, that of Atiku is marked: /PEPC/05/2023.
The petitioners have anchored their individual cases on alleged non-compliance with the electoral laws, as well as with the guidelines of INEC.
The petitioners also alleged that the February 25 presidential election was characterised by huge irregularities and electoral malpractices following INEC’s failure to electronically upload results immediately from its polling units to the INEC Results Viewing Portal (IREV).
While some of the petitioners are asking the court to, on one hand, declare them as the authentic winner of the February 25 presidential election; on the other, they are asking for the cancellation of the entire poll and an order for fresh election.