The Friday judgement of the Court of Appeal, sitting in Abuja, which affirmed the victory of Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, in the July 16, 2022 governorship poll, to some followers of political events in the state, was not just another judicial pronouncement, but a pointer to an impending repeat of history.
After taking over reign of the state as its sixth democratically elected governor, Adeleke and his supporters must have felt fulfilled, but they were not unaware of how slender the joy on their hands was, because of a case filed before an election petition tribunal, challenging his victory.
By the time Adeleke was settling down in office as governor, the trial of the petition instituted by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress at the poll, Adegboyega Oyetola, threatening to cut short the tenure of the new governor, was already in full swing.
But amidst fear and expectations among supporters of the two men, who have emerged as the two most valuable brands on the Osun political scene since 2018, Adeleke went ahead administering the state.
While just getting acquainted with his new status, Adeleke was told by Justice Tertsea Kume-led tribunal, to vacate office for Oyetola, who was said to have won the governorship poll.
In the January 27, 2023 judgement, Justice Kume, in the majority opinion of the panel, considered the plea of the petitioners, that over-voting occurred in 749 units, spread across 10 local government areas, during the poll.
After deducting votes recorded at the units where over-voting occurred, votes scored by the candidates reduced, as Oyetola’s votes came down to 314, 921, while Adeleke’s score shrank to 290, 266.
Kume subsequently declared Oyetola the winner of the poll, having scored the majority of the lawful votes, to the chagrin of supporters Adeleke, who took to the streets to protest the decision of the panel.
There was however a minority judgement by Justice B. Ogbuli, which dismissed Oyetola’s petition and affirmed Adeleke’s election.
Days preceding Friday when the Court of Appeal gave its verdict, Adeleke and Oyetola’s supporters engaged in a fierce exchange of words on social media, and the two camps expressed hope of a good outing, pointing to the strength in their respective positions taken before the court.
Besides reinforcing its position that over-voting occurred during the governorship election that brought Adeleke to office, the APC legal team, also filed a cross-appeal, challenging the decision of the tribunal panel, that resolved the issue of alleged forgery of testimonial in favour of Adeleke.
But the PDP legal team raised the issue of bias against Adeleke by the Kume-led panel, noting the reference to Buga, a song by Kiss Daniel in the majority judgement, as an indication of dislike for Adeleke by the judges.
The team also insisted that over-voting which was held onto by the tribunal to give Oyetola victory was not established by the witnesses called, insisting that data on Bimolda Voters Accreditation System machines and the voter register, as well, as Form ECA8, should have been relied upon by the lower court, and not BVAS report of the INEC’s backend server.
Delivering its judgment, Justice Mohammed Lawal, who led the Appeal panel, overruled the judgment of the tribunal that nullified the outcome of governorship poll and upheld Adeleke’s election.
Oyetola has since indicated resolve to pursue the matter to the Supreme Court.
Following the judgement of the Appeal Court on the matter, many supporters of Adeleke were already making historical references, comparing how the tussle over the 2018 Osun governorship poll, which incidentally involved Oyetola and Adeleke, ended.
This particular group was of the view that though the situation in 2018 and 2022 may not be the same, they were however convinced that court pronouncements on the current governorship dispute, bore striking semblance to the battle fought in 2018 before the Supreme Court cemented Oyetola’s grip on power.
Speaking further on why they felt, with Adeleke’s victory at the Court Appeal, the governor was not far off from safety, even though the hurdle of the Supreme Court had yet to be surmounted, a chieftain of the PDP in Osogbo local government, Asimiyu Olaiya, and Thomas Oladipo, who preferred to be identified as Adeleke’s supporter, as well as, Foluso Orimadegun, a member of the ruling party in the Ifelodun Local Government, all posited that Osun governor would survive the last lap of the race, banking on favourable history.
They thought that issues around politics in Osun had a way of recurring and quickly pointed to how ex-governor Rauf Aregbesola won all elective positions for his then party, Action Congress of Nigeria in the state in the year 2011, a few months after becoming governor, saying the same scenario simply reoccurred, with the manner, the influence of the incumbent governor, Adeleke, won all elective posts, except one for his party, the PDP, in the last general elections.
One of the party members, Orimadegun said, “You should also try to look at the issues. Nothing new is happening in Osun politics, other than history simply repeating itself. Firstly, consider how Aregbesola came in November 2010 and won all elective positions for his party less than 6 months into his tenure in the 2011 general elections.
“You can also check out how the 2018 political battle between Oyetola and Adeleke started and ended. If you do diligent analysis, you will see that thunder will surely strike twice at the same spot with the turn the current court case between the two men is taking.
“In 2018, after the run-off, INEC returned Oyetola elected and Adeleke went to the tribunal and he won before the panel. Oyetola appealed the judgement and he won the appeal. The Supreme Court also ruled in his favour. I am seeing the same scenario playing out in the ongoing court case.
“In 2022, INEC returned Adeleke, Oyetola went to tribunal, he got a favourable verdict and Adeleke went on appeal which he just won. Many people may not believe it, but I see the same thing that happened to the 2018 case repeating itself in this 2022 governorship tussle.”
But many supporters of Oyetola and members of APC dismissed this position, insisting that the Apex Court would uphold the decision of the lower Tribunal and return Oyetola to office.
Funso Fagbongbe, ex-Senior Special Assistant to Osun State Governor on Political Affairs, Rasaq Olaoye, a chieftain of APC in the Ila Local Government Area and Titilayo Ogunremi, a member of APC in the Odo Otin Local Government Area said those chasing a repeat of history were only expressing their wishes, which may not come to reality.
Fagbongbe while insisting that the Supreme Court decision on the issue would go Oyetola’s way further stressed “those referring to history and saying what happened to the 2018 case would happen this time around were only expressing their wishes.
“But, tell them the two cases are not the same. We have put Court of Appeal decision behind us. Our attention is now on the Supreme Court and we know Oyetola will get a favourable judgement at the Apex Court. We believe that is going to happen.”
Contributing scholarly view to the debate, a professor of Anthropology of Development, University of Ibadan, Aderemi Ajala, admitted history had its cause, he was quick to add that, “every history is circumstantial. Though history usually has its cause, the circumstances will not be too distant from each other for a repeat of history to occur.
“In application to the context we have, (Adeleke, Oyetola court case), we may have circumstances that are related, but that does not suggest that history must repeat itself. It may, or may not.
“It is not cast in iron. Nobody can precisely say that the cause of history in 2018 to the litigation between Oyetola and Adeleke will repeat itself. It may be, and it may not be, except if people who are directly involved (the two actors) know they have cause to let that history repeat itself. If they have not taken any cause to make such history repeat itself, there won’t be any circumstance for that history to repeat itself.
“For instance, if Oyetola knows that he has taken certain actions which may make him not triumph at the Supreme Court, history will repeat itself. Invariably, if Adeleke knows he has taken certain actions which may make him lose at the Supreme Court, history will not repeat itself. But if neither of the two has taken any action that will make history repeat itself, history will not repeat itself.”
Dr Misbau Alamu, a Senior Law Lecturer University of Hull, United Kingdom, said those hoping that history would repeat itself in the matter, “may be right but, that’s mere conjectures.”
In their separate submissions, spokespersons for the and the PDP in the state said the parties in the matter, would be relying on the merit of their cases, rather than banking on history.
Mr Kola Olabisi, the spokesperson for the APC, during a chat, said, “We have very good grounds of appeal at the Supreme Court. It’s not unusual for a case not to fly at an Appeal Court but makes it to victory at the highest court of the land. History is replete with similar cases in the past. If history should repeat itself at the Supreme Court, the heavens would not fall.”
Similarly, Oladele Olabamiji, the spokesperson for the PDP in the state, also towed the same line, saying the party was not operating in the realm of superstition, positing that “from our end, we are not operating on such superstition. We premix our confidence on the balance and weight of evidence we have before the court.”