By Uche Amunike
In a judgment delivered, May 9, 2023, a five man panel of the Supreme Court has confirmed that Governor Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) remains the winner of the gubernatorial election held in Osun state on July 16, 2022
The apex court upheld that enough evidence was not provided by the appellant, to prove his allegation of over voting in the governorship poll and according to the 5-member panel, the appeal lacked merit.
Recall that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) already declared Adeleke the winner of the election, saying that he scored 403,371 votes to topple the incumbent Governor, Oyetola with 375,027 votes.
Oyetola and his party however, challenged Adeleke’s win at the tribunal, alleging irregularities and on January 27, 2023, luck smiled on them as Justice Terste Kume who gave the majority judgment, upturned Adeleke’s victory and declared Oyetola the winner of the election. He held that INEC did not conduct the polls in compliance with the Electoral Act, noting that the poll was marred by over-voting.
He held that Oyetola scored the majority lawful votes of 314,931 against Adeleke’s 290,266 votes. This led to the tribunal, directing that Oyetola be returned as Osun State governor.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Adeleke and the PDP headed to the Court of Appeal, which eventually nullified the judgment of the tribunal on March 24 and returned Adeleke as the winner.
Shortly after this, Oyetola and the PDP headed to the Supreme Court, apparently aggrieved with the verdict of the appellate court.
The five-man panel led by John Okoro unanimously upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which earlier affirmed Adeleke’s victory on March 24.
On Tuesday, the apex court affirmed the election of Governor Ademola Adeleke of Osun State, putting a seal on his victory over his biggest rival, Adegboyega Oyetola and laying to rest, the lingering dispute over the outcome of the gubernatorial election, while ending Oyetola’s hopes of returning to office after his short lived victory at the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal in January.
According to the verdicts given by both the appellate court and the apex court, Oyetola and the APC did not provide enough evidence to prove their case against Adeleke and the PDP.
In March, the Court of Appeal submitted that the tribunal was wrong in concluding that the elections held in certain areas in the state suffered over voting, the major legal issue presented in Oyetola’s case.
It also held thus: ‘the burden of proving the allegations of over-voting lies squarely with the respondents (Mr Oyetola and the APC). It is inconceivable to assume that the testimonies of the respondents’ witnesses had any probative value.’
The court also held that Oyetola and his party failed to tender voters registers and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, which captured the data of eligible voters at the Osun governorship election.
Their submission: ‘Though the 1st and 2nd respondents (Oyetola and APC) relied on BVAS reports obtained from INEC to prove over-voting, they did not, nonetheless, call petitioner’s witness 1 to speak to the reports, that is, Exhibits BVR reports from INEC’s back-end server.’
‘In their pleadings,’ Mr Oyetola and APC ‘alleged that the results recorded and transmitted directly from the polling units were not taken into account and therefore accredited voters recorded in Form EC8A from the disputed polling units do not tally with the number of BVAS for the same polling units.”
‘Strangely, the tribunal, in its judgment, only relied on the table set out in an address of counsel to hold that over voting occurred in an election.’