By Ebere Agozie, Ismaila Chafe (Abuja); Victor Adeoti (Osogbo)
Abuja, July 5, 2019
The Supreme Court on Friday validated the election of Adegboyega Oyetola as the governor of Osun State of Nigeria.
In swift reactions, President Muhammadu Buhari, the All Progressives Congress, APC and Gov. Oyetola hailed the verdict of the apex Court while the Senator Ademola Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate in the election and the Osun state chapter of his party, the PDP, said they had reached the end of the road, legally, and had no option but to accept the Court’s position. Senator Adeleke also congratulated Oyetola and wished him well.
In a judgment delivered by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, the Apex Court declared the proceedings and judgment of trial tribunal a nullity on the grounds that Justice Peter Obiora, the judge who had read the majority judgement at the tribunal, was evidently absent on Feb. 6, following the documents before the court.
Five out of the Seven-man panel of Justices including the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad declared Oyetola as winner of the September 2018 election while two had a dissenting opinion.
Rhodes-Vivour held that the failure of Justice Obiora to be present on that day meant that the tribunal lacked the authority to have given any judgment on the matter.
He held that when the rightly constituted panel of a court does not seat, the activities carried out by that panel is a nullity.
Meanwhile, Justices Kumai Akaah and Paul Galinje with dissenting voices declared the PDP as the winner of the election.
They held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be an unbiased umpire in an election.
They said INEC erred in law by relying on it’s manual to cancel some aspects of the election and declare it inconclusive.
They also held that the appellant still met the constitutional requirements of having the highest votes cast and the spread: but the election umpire went ahead to cancel the election and carried out a rerun showing that INEC had a plan up its sleeves.
NAN reports that the People’s Democratic Party and its candidate, Sen. Ademola Adeleke, had challenged the victory of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its candidate, Governor Gboyega Oyetola at the 2018 Osun Governorship Election Tribunal.
NAN also reports that on May 9, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has nullified the judgment of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which had declared Adeleke, as the winner of the September 2018 poll.
In a dissenting judgment of four-to-one, the five-man Court of Appeal panel led by Justice Jummai Sankey, upheld the appeal filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State challenging the verdict of the tribunal and affirmed him as duly elected
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 his PDP.
The Court of Appeal’s majority judgment was primarily anchored on the alleged absence of a member of the tribunal, Justice Obiora, 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.
Three other members of the panel, Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju, and Bitrus Sanga, agreed with Justice Sankey.
But a member of the panel, Justice George Mbaba, dissented from the majority judgment, holding that the alleged absence of Justice Obiorah from the Feb. 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal was mere speculation.
INEC had declared Oyetola and the APC the winner of the Osun State governorship election on the basis of the cumulative results of the September 22, 2018, main election and the Sept. 27, 2018, supplementary poll.
Dissatisfied with the result declared by INEC, the PDP and Adeleke had filed their petition before the three-man Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, contending that they were the true winner of the election as they had already won after the Sept. 22, 2018 poll and that there was no need for the supplementary election held on September 27, 2018.
The tribunal, in its March 22, split judgment of two-to-one, nullified Oyetola’s victory and declared Adeleke and the PDP the winner of the election.
The tribunal’s chairman, Justice Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment, dissented from the majority judgment credited to Justices Obiora and Adegboye Gbolagunte.
President Buhari, in his reaction, congratulated Oyetola and commended the government and people of Osun for allowing the rule of law to run its entire course.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in Abuja on Friday, the president also urged the people of the state as well as security agencies to sustain the peace in the state.
According to President Buhari, the decision of the apex court lays to rest the tussle over the governorship of Osun State and removes all encumbrances on the path of the governor from fully delivering dividends of democracy to the good people of the State.
He called on the governor and the ruling APC to be magnanimous in victory and make concrete moves towards inclusive governance as may be necessary.
He also expressed the Federal Government’s continued willingness to partner with the state government for the betterment of the people.
Meanwhile, Sen. Adeleke, on Friday congratulated Gov. Oyetola on his victory at the Supreme Court.
Adeleke, in a congratulatory message issued in Osogbo by his spokesperson, Olawale Rasheed, said his ambition was never a do-or-die affair, stressing that since the Supreme Court was the apex court in the land, its decision, regardless of his disagreement and disappointment with it, remains final.
“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,” Adeleke said.
He expressed immense gratitude and appreciation to his supporters as well as leaders and members of the party for their massive support throughout the duration of the case.
“In all circumstances, we must thank God Almighty. We gallantly fought a good fight in pursuance of a democratic cause. The ideals we fought for live on.
“Our ambition was never a do-or die-affair.
” We aspired to serve and deliver democratic dividends to the people of Osun State.
“Our ambition was altruistic. We wish Governor Oyetola the best in governance of the state,” Adeleke said.
Reacting to the verdict, the Osun APC on Friday, described the judgment as “historic’’.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr Kunle Oyatomi in Osogbo, the Osun State APC said that “Our fears for the calamity that might have befallen the state of Osun, if the PDP had been declared winner, have now been assuaged.
“Those who had wished for a different outcome have a lesson to learn here; that there is a natural limit to which you can stretch evil.
“It was this limit the PDP got in their attempt to stage a miraculous upset at last September’s election,” he said.
Oyatomi said that subsequent efforts to spin the law at the tribunal, unraveled at the Court of Appeal, finally died at the Supreme Court.
“The details are now history. This is not simply a victory for the party alone; it is a victory for the good people of the state of Osun.
Meanwhile, Oyetola has described his victory at the apex court as a victory for democracy.
The governor, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Adeshina Adeniyi, in an interview with NAN, said he was happy with the judgment.
The governor said he was ready to serve the people of the state faithfully and diligently.
The PDP in Osun said it has accepted the judgment since the Supreme court was the apex court in the land, stressing that, legally speaking, there was nowhere else the party could appeal to.
Mr Soji Adagunodo, the State PDP Chairman, in a telephone interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Osogbo said that the minority judgment dealt with the constitutional issue of the matter, which according to him, was the most important while the majority judgment dealt with the technical issues.
“Since the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, we don’t have anything to say than to accept the verdict.
“The judgment is a split judgment.
“The majority judgment dealt with technical matter and we expected the judges to have called for the file of the lower court.
“Meanwhile, the minority judgment dealt with the constitutional matter which is important to our democracy.
“The court has ruled and we don’t have anything to say than to accept the verdict since there is nowhere else to go,’’ Adagunodo said.
He, however, appealed to party members to be calm and peaceful.