BOLA BAMIGBOLA chronicles the legal process that led to the ousting of Ademola Adeleke as the governor of Osun State by the state election tribunal
The second respondent did not score a majority of lawful votes cast for the election. The declaration and return is hereby declared as null and void, the second respondent cannot “go low low and buga won” as duly elected governor of Osun State in the election conducted on July 16 2022, see Kiss Daniel song, Buga,” -Justice Kume.
With these words, Justice Tetsea Kume, the Chairman of the three-member panel sacked Osun State Governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke, and declared Mr Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress as the winner of the July 16 governorship poll while delivering his judgement in the case in Osogbo on Friday.
Oyetola and the APC had approached the tribunal joining the Peoples Democratic Party, Adeleke and the Independent National Electoral Commission, asking the panel to declare the results of the poll null and void. The petitioners raised two issues of forgery and non-compliance with laws and guidelines by INEC in conducting the poll and asked the court to nullify Adeleke’s victory and declare Oyetola the duly elected governor of the state.
During the trial, the petitioners called two witnesses and laid before the panel many documents, while the respondents being INEC, Adeleke and the PDP, jointly called three witnesses and also filed many documents.
Documentary evidence that include; INEC Regulation and Guideline for the election, INEC Manual for Electoral Officials, Forms EC8As, which are election results for Osogbo, Ede North and Ede South Local Government Areas. Others filed include Form EC8As of 10 wards in Egbedore, 11 wards in Ejigbo, 10 wards in Ilesa West and 11 wards in Irepodun Local Government Area of the state. They (documents) were filed before the panel by the petitioners’ legal team led by Mr Lateef Fagbemi.
Testifying before the court, petitioners’ expert witness, Dr Isiaka Olanrewaju, told the tribunal that he established irregularities in the declaration of Adeleke as governor-elect by INEC after analysing the result forms for the election and compared it with the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System.
While being cross-examined by INEC, counsel, Prof. Paul Ananaba, SAN, the witness said he analysed the result of the election in 749 units across 10 local government areas.
The second petitioners’ witness, Mr Rasak Adeosun, while giving evidence, said Adeleke did not attend any university, hence he could not have obtained any certificate.
Adeosun, who also told the panel that he was an appointee of the ex governor, said he was the state collation officer for the APC during the poll, and that he received report of the happenings across polling units on the election day and from the reports he got, there was no compliance with INEC manual during the poll.
INEC through its counsel, Ananaba, who had earlier laid before the panel exhibits that included over 1000 BVAS machines, report of forensic audit of BVAS machines, and CTC of Form EC8 series, called a Deputy Director in the ICT department of the commission, Abimbola Oladunjoye, as witness.
Under cross-examination, Oladunjoye said there was seemingly over-voting in some polling units mentioned by the petitioners’ counsel, but under re-examination, Oladunjoye said over-voting could only be established when figures on Form ECA8 series were compared with the physical data extracted from BVAS machines. Oladunjoye also informed the panel that she signed and certified a BVAS report for the petitioners and the one presented by the commission.
Explaining reasons for the differences noticed in the two BVAS reports issued by the commission, Oladunjoye said synchronisation of data was completed after election result had been declared and first BVAS report issued to the petitioners.
Also appearing before the panel, the 2nd respondent witness, Samuel Oduntan, a forensic examiner, said he conducted physical inspection of BVAS machines used for the election and compared the data extracted with the figures on Form EC8 series.
According to him, after the exercise, he established over-voting in about six units, while other data he got on BVAS machines, matched information on Form ECA8 series he obtained.
Also in his evidence, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, a Personal Assistant to the governor, who also appeared before the tribunal, tendered Adeleke certificates. Jenyo, said as Personal Assistant to Adeleke, his duties include keeping his principal personal documents. He also told the panel that he attended Adeleke’s graduation in the United States of America.
But Justice Kume, in his judgement, described INEC’s handling of the exercise with many strong adjectives and insisted that the commission did not withdraw the first BVAS report dated July 27, 2022, it issued to the petitioners and went ahead to issue another report which it brought before the panel.
He described the commission’s action as an afterthought and stressed that the claim that synchronisation had not been completed when the first BVAS report was issued could not save it from a terribly bad situation, and backed his opinion with the dictionary explanation of the word ‘synchronisation.’
But a minority judgement by Justice A Ogbuli dismissed Oyetola’s petition, saying the two BVAS reports issued by INEC were product of controversies. Ogbuli held that physical data extracted from BVAS machines represent the actual figure generated from wards on the day the election was held.
The decision sacking Adeleke came at the time the new administration was still gathering momentum and settling down in office. The new governor became popular on the Osun State political scene when he was elected Senator in 2017, replacing his late brother, Senator Adetunji Adeleke to represent Osun West Senatorial District.
While in the Senate, he was known on the national political scene as the ‘dancing senator,’ most times, sharing media attention with Senator Dino Melaye from Kogi State often referred to as the ‘singing senator.’
In the course of campaign for the July 16 election, Adeleke enlivened PDP campaign grounds with his dance steps which would draw applause from the audience. The governor, simply turned barrage of insults hauled at him by, especially the opposition parties members, who would not mind referring to him as a ‘mere dancer,’ to positive use, gathering more ardent followers across the state.
After being sworn in, Adeleke made it clear he would not stopped dancing, even as governor, if time for such was available, and promised that efforts would be geared to transform the state within his first 100 days in office.
He had since rolled out programmes including, provision of 332 boreholes in all wards in the state, health, and infrastructural amenities interventions, amongst others.
Some APC members have welcomed the decision of the court, sacking the governor and saw it, as partly a fulfilment of Oyetola’s recent prediction that he would return as governor.
Taofik Olagunju, an APC member from Odo Otin Local Government Area, during an interview, said “from all indications, the prediction was gradually becoming a reality. We are energised and motivated.”
But many PDP members were quick to recall how Oyetola lost his case before the tribunal in 2019 and went on to win before the Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
A member of the PDP from Osogbo Local Government Area, Toba Daisi, going historical, said “It is a case of history repeating itself. In 2019, he (Oyetola) lost at the tribunal and went on to win before the Appeal panel and the Supreme Court.”
Fear of violence
However, many residents on Saturday stayed indoors in fear, as rampaging hoodlums stormed the streets against the verdict of the tribunal.
At Otaefun, Igbona and Ogo-Oluwa areas, hoodlums blocked the road to traffic and beat up many commercial motorcyclists picking passengers. Business activities were paralysed in many parts of the state and many markets shut as a result of unrest in town.
Reacting, the leadership of APC in the state condemned the act of brigandage allegedly exhibited by political hoodlums. Speaking through a statement on Saturday, the acting Chairman of the party, Tajudeen Lawal, further said, “It was learnt that some armed notorious thugs immediately after the delivery of the judgement that did not favour Adeleke went berserk in Osogbo, destroying the billboards and posters of the APC senatorial candidate for the Osun Central Senatorial District, Senator Ajibola Bashir.
“The PDP thugs were spotted going round the state capital, shooting indiscriminately, attacking some members of the APC and their supporters in a manner suggestive of the fact that they were above the law of the land.
“The sacked Governor Adeleke has an option to appeal the tribunal judgement instead of resorting to self-help from the hoodlums who lack the capacity to influence the tribunal judgement that has been delivered in favour of our candidate, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola.
“If the sacked Governor Adeleke truly has genuine interest in allowing peace to reign in Osun State, he should put on his thinking cap and beat a retreat from his love for violence as such could only lead to an irredeemable perdition.”
Adeleke urges calm
Adeleke, in a state-wide broadcast, restated his rejection of the tribunal judgement and affirming his appeal to a higher court.
He said, “My good people of Osun State, we have all heard the split judgement of the governorship election tribunal. Two members of the tribunal delivered two opposing judgements, the chairman and the member one. The member two did not deliver any judgment, she abstained.
“The reality of my election as the governor of Osun State is captured in the member one’s judgement. The claim of over-voting in the chairman’s judgement was unfounded. This was clearly a miscarriage of justice. Based on the above, there was no majority judgment. I call on you all to remain calm and go about your normal activities, peacefully. Please remain law abiding. We have strong faith in God and in our judiciary.”
Speaking, a former member of the Adegboyega Oyetola government stated that the All Progressives Congress leadership would urge the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to declare a state of emergency, over the spate of violence in Osun State.
Lamenting the spate of violence since the tribunal delivered its judgement, the ex-Osun State Commissioner for Works and Transportation, Mr Remi Omowaye, said if the PDP governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke, failed to rein in members of his party who were attacking APC members, the leadership of the party might call on President Buhari to do so.
Omowaye said reports available to the party leadership indicated that many APC members had been forced out of their homes by the rampaging hoodlums allegedly working for the PDP.
He further said, “Our office in Ilesa has been attacked again. They riddled it with gunshots. They’ve been attacking a lot of our people; their thugs are going about threatening to kill any APC member. We are calling on the security operatives to come to our rescue. We are peace-loving Nigerians. The court has given judgment.
“Senator Adeleke said he is going to appeal, he should go ahead and appeal. But if they continue like this, we will call on the President to declare a state of emergency. As of now, their thugs have been going around the state shooting indiscriminately As of now, I don’t have the figures for the casualties.
“Even the residents trying to jubilate had to run inside because of the fear of attack. The court has given judgement and there is room for the person in question to appeal, why attack people? Today, some of the thugs didn’t even allow motorists to work. As I speak to you, the Tinubu/Shettima campaign office in Ilesha had been attacked and riddled with bullets again. How long are we going to continue with that?”
But the Osun PDP acting chairman, Akindele Adekunle, in an interview with our correspondent, described Omowaye as an ‘alarmist and a daydreamer.’
He further accused the former commissioner of being the man in charge of the coordination of hoodlums on behalf of the administration where he served, insisting that PDP members were not anarchists but only out in a peaceful protest against any attempt to hijack the mandate that the Osun people gave Adeleke.
“During his days as commissioner, we all know he was the one that organised and managed thugs for the former governor, and we have repeated it that his failure to pay those he mobilised for their political warfare, was the reason for his security challenges now.
“Our members are not anarchists. They are only peacefully protesting and they are protesting against an attempt to hijack the mandate freely given by the people of Osun State to governor Ademola Adeleke. So, his allegations are unfounded and his reference to a state of emergency is equally a misinterpretation of what can call for a state of emergency.
“As of today in Osun, there is peace and tranquillity. The only thing is that people are exercising their fundamental right to protest against a paid judgement by a paid judge who actually left the law to dwell on personal issues as the basis for his legal action. Nobody will take Remi Omowaye seriously in Osun because he is a false alarmist,” the PDP boss noted.
Judgement unserious, illogical
Speaking further on the judgement, Adekunle noted that the ‘Buga’ song mentioned in the tribunal by Justice Kume, and referenced by the judge in a landmark judgement showed how ‘unserious and illogical the pronouncement’ was.
Akindele said, “there is nothing in the law that says, ‘if you dance’, you have violated this law and it is so shocking that the judge can make reference to that area.
“It shows that his judgement is not based on facts. It was based on personal hatred for another human being. It is fraudulent and there was no attempt to disguise the fact that this was a waybill judgement.
“To us, it is not the business of a judge to inquire whether somebody is dancing or not. The judge simply trivialised a serious state matter. We had expected the judge to focus on the following issues when he was treating his judgement; on the issue of over-voting, didn’t talk about comparing the BVAS machines, accreditation list and others.
“He was just busy talking about ‘Buga’ and later jumped to over-voting. He trivialised the whole thing and that is why we believe that judgement will not stand at the court of appeal. Dancing, jogging, and running, are private affairs. That shows how ridiculous the whole judgement is. I’m not here as a party chairman to tell you this will continue or that will continue.”