Godwin Tsa, Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja and Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal has restored the victory of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State, after nullifying the judgment of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal which had declared the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Ademola Adeleke, as winner of the September 2018 poll.
The appellate court, in a split judgment of four-to-one, led by Justice Jummai Sankey, upheld the appeal filed by the governor challenging the verdict of the tribunal and affirmed him winner of the election.
Governor Oyetola’s appeal which was filed and argued by his counsel, Wole Olanikpekun, faulted the findings and conclusions reached by the tribunal and urged the Court of Appeal to set it aside.
Other members of the panel, who agreed with the majority judgment are Justices Abubakar Yahaya, Isaiah Akeju and Bitrus Sanga.
However, a member of the panel, Justice George Mbaba, dissented, holding that the alleged absence of Justice Peter Obiora from the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal was mere speculation.
Justice Sankey said it was wrong for a member of the tribunal panel, Justice Obiora, who did not attend the entire proceedings of the tribunal, to deliver the majority judgment that sacked Oyetola from office.
The court held that absence of Obiorah during the February 6, 2018 proceedings of the tribunal, nullified the entire proceedings and the verdict of the tribunal.
Consequently, Sankey held that the petition filed by Adeleke at the tribunal was incompetent, including reliefs he sought therein.
The court further held that the first and second respondents, Adeleke and PDP, also failed to prove that the re-run election was conducted with substantial non-compliance to the Electoral Act.
It ruled that the failure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to produce the ballot papers and record of accreditation to disprove allegations in the petition, did not substantially affect result of the election.
Out of 12 issues Justice Sankey highlighted, she only resolved two in Adeleke’s favour.
INEC had at the end of an initial election it conducted on September 22, cancelled results from seven polling units in four local government areas in the state, and ordered a re-run poll.
Meanwhile, Osogbo, the capital of Osun State, was yesterday agog with celebration.
As soon as the news of the judgment broke, APC supporters trooped into the streets with various interest groups drumming and singing victory songs.
Oyetola also stormed the streets doing a victory sign in a motorcade.
General Secretary, Osun Concerned Citizens, Yaya Ademola, assured that Oyetola’s victory would spur the governor to redouble his efforts in delivering the dividends of democracy.
“If the PDP goes ahead to contest the Appeal Court verdict at the Supreme Court, it shall meet its Waterloo again and again as nothing can be built on nothing,” he said.
Adeleke, in a statement insisted that he would head for the Supreme Court to seek redress.
He assured the people that his party would take the battle further and retrieve the mandate at the apex court.
Also, National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said PDP is not shaken by the judgment.
The party said that it has confidence that justice and will of the people of Osun would prevail at the Supreme Court.
Osun PDP Chairman, Soji Adagunodo argued that the judgment was delivered based on technicalities, adding that the party would go to the Supreme Court to seek redress.
He noted that with the evidences presented at the Appeal Court, it had expected victory but the judgment was a function of democracy in action.
Also, PDP National Vice Chairman (South West), Dr. Eddy Olafeso, in a statement issued in Akure, Ondo State, described the judgment as unexpected.
“We are shocked at the premise upon which the said verdict is anchored. Therefore, we are certainly thinking and importantly, in conjunction with our candidate, Adeleke, to exploit the only available option to us by appealing against this decision to the Supreme Court,” he said.