By Jane Osamor
The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Friday, 24 March, has set aside the January 27, 2023 judgment of the Osun Governorship Election Tribunal, which voided the victory of Ademola Adeleke at the election held on July 16, 2022.
In a judgment a moment ago, a three-member panel of the Appellate Court, presided over by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu, held that Gboyega Oyetola and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) – listed as the first and second respondents – failed to prove their allegation of over voting before the election tribunal.
The judgment was on the appeal filed by Adeleke, marked: CA/AK/EPT/GOV/01/2023. The court is delivering judgment in the cross-appeal filed by Oyetola and the APC.
There are other two appeals in respect of which the court will still deliver judgment. They are the appeals by the PDP and INEC.
The Court had on March 14 reserved judgments in three appeals and a cross-appeal filed on the dispute over the governorship election.
The substantive appeals, filed by Osun State Governor Ademola Adeleke, his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), are against the January 27 judgement of the Osun State Governorship Election Tribunal, which voided Adeleke’s victory at the July 16, 2022 election.
The cross-appeal, jointly filed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the election, Adegboyega Oyetola, is against a portion of the tribunal’s judgement.
Thegazellenews.com reports that the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal had sacked Governor Adeleke on the ground that he did not score the majority of lawful votes cast during the July 16 governorship election in the state.
Two out of the three-member panel of the tribunal held that Oyetola could prove that there was indeed over-voting in some of the polling units.
The three-man panel, in a split judgement of two-to-one formed three issues for resolution which include whether the second respondent, Adeleke, was qualified to contest the position of governor, whether there was substantial non compliance and whether there was over voting.
The majority judgment read by Justice Tertse Kume, panel Chairman, resolved the issue of qualification in favour of Adeleke and held that “as at the time of the election, he is duly qualified to contest”.
On second and third issues, the tribunal held that the conduct of the election was not in substantial compliance with the Electoral Act as amended.
According to the tribunal, “the defences of the respondents are tainted with fundamental flaws, irreconcilable and unreliable, incapable of defeating the credible evidence tendered by the petitioners in respect of the 744 polling units where over voting has been established.
Consequently, the majority judgment of the tribunal ordered Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the Certificate of Return issued to Adeleke and issue a fresh one to Oyetola as the duly elected governor of Osun.
However, Adeleke had immediately condemned the judgement, vowing to challenge it at the Appellate Court.
His immediate reaction then was that the judgement: “is an unfair interpretation against the will of the majority of voters. I call on our people to remain calm. We will appeal the judgement and we are sure justice will be done. Let our people be reassured that we will do everything possible to retain this widely acclaimed mandate.”
However, Adeleke went to Appellate Court, praying it upturn the earlier judgement. He insisted that he won the majority of votes cast during the guber polls.
On his own part, Oyetota had remained upbeat of victory and possible return to the governorship seat.
In the cross appeal he filed, Oyetola is challenging the Tribunal’s verdict which cleared Adeleke of certificate forgery.
The cross-appeal by Oyetola and the APC is being defended by Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and Akin Olujimi, SAN.
They are arguing that the Tribunal misdirected itself when it held that the certificate from Atlanta Metropolitan College and a diploma certificate from Penn Foster High School are genuine.
“It is in evidence before the Tribunal that Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice of the Atlanta Metropolitan College is a four-year full time course, in which fact, the Cross-Appellants pleaded in their petition and was admitted by the 2nd Cross-Respondent.
“It is the law that facts admitted need no further proof and it is a presumption which only the 2nd Cross-Respondent could rebut as regards the factual impossibility of obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree within 24 days of obtaining a School Certificate equivalent, thereby casting the onus of proof on him,” Oyetola’s counsel noted.