By Kolapo Alimi
Some opinions are being bandied around by those trying to confuse the public on the true position of things regarding the Osun State governorship election petition since the Court of Appeal reaffirmed the election of Governor Adegboyega Oyetola.
Some of these hack writers are twisting facts to achieve their objectives of confusing and misinforming the public.
The Court of Appeal rightly reversed the Tribunal judgment which nullified the election of Governor Oyetola
Facts in this matter are sacred as will be shown in this piece.
The fact of the case is as follows. After the first ballot of the September 22, 2018 election, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Ademola Adeleke, was slightly ahead the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Mr. Oyetola, with 353 votes whereas election in seven polling units could not hold due to disruption and malfunctioning of the card reader across four Local Government areas of Orolu, Ife North and Ife South and Osogbo.
Based on the report submitted to the State Returning Officer, the total register of voters in the affected polling units is 3,498 (three thousand, four hundred and ninety-eight) which is greater than the 353 votes which is the margin of lead and which separates the two leading candidates.
In line with the manual for the election and the guidelines issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the State Returning Officer declared the election inconclusive and fixed a re-run election in the seven polling units for September 27, 2018.
The APC candidate won the rerun and was declared the winner of the election.
It is not in dispute and it is a settled principle of law that when an election has been validly conducted in a polling unit and the result has been validly declared and filled in the form EC8A, no other person can cancel the election except the presiding officer for that unit and it must be for a valid reason.
However, that principle of law is not applicable to the current case in Osun where the election in the affected seven (7) polling units across four Local Government Areas could not hold due to various reasons ranging from disruption of election to malfunctioning of card reader, etc.
For the avoidance of doubt, the petitioners pleaded in paragraph 24 of the petition as follows:
“Your petitioners aver that the 1strespondent cancelled the result of the Election in Seven units, namely units 1 and 4 in Ward 8, Unit 3 in Ward 9 in Orolu Local Government Area; Unit 2 in Oyere 11 Ayapata Village, Ward 10 in Ife North Local Government Area; Unit 012 Adereti Ward 7, Unit 010 in Osi Ward 8 in Ife South Local Government Area and Unit 017 in Ward 5 Osogbo Local Government Area purportedly for the following reasons.
.Disruption in the aforementioned units in Orolu Local Government Area
.Malfunctioning of card reader in the aforementioned units in Ife South Local Government Area.
.Over-voting in the aforementioned unit in Ife North Local Government Area.
.No voting took place in the aforementioned unit in Osogbo Local Government Area”
From the above, it is clear that there was no election in Osogbo. If there was no election in the unit 17 ward 5, Osogbo Local Government Area, there can’t a result to cancel. With respect to the remaining six polling units in Ife North, Ife South and Orolu Local Governments, the questions begging for answers are: was there election in those polling units and was any result cancelled at all? If results were cancelled, at what point in the election process were the results cancelled? Who cancelled the results of the election? Are the cancelled results brought before the Tribunal? Were the results of the affected polling units declared by the respective Presiding Officers of the units before they were cancelled?
Finally, did the announcement by INEC that the election was inconclusive amount to cancellation of election if polls did not hold at all?
All the above questions point to one clear fact, that is, there were no results to be cancelled in the affected seven polling units. Therefore, whoever that is arguing that the State returning officer cancelled the results in the affected polling units is not only being mischievous but misinforming the general public.
The Court of Appeal in the judgment given in Oyetola vs Adeleke at page 69 paragraph 2 per Sankey JCA held as follows:
“Thus, it is the existence of the results that would ground an inquisition into the powers of the State Returning Officer to cancel the elections in the 7 polling units; but this remained unproved. Therefore, I agree with the Appellant that the finding of the Tribunal that the cancellation of the election, whose results were not placed before it, was improper. This is because the results must first have existed and proved to exist by the production of the results, before the Tribunal would be seized with jurisdiction to invalidate the cancellation.”
The writer in a further attempt to mislead the public also contends that the re-run was not an election but a violent electoral hijack. This is far from the truth and it is an attempt to cast aspersion on the re-run election.
The Tribunal’s lead judgment which the petitioners are relying on, clearly avers that the rerun election was credible. On page 218 the judgment read by Obiorah J and Gbolagunte J. The judges held as follows;
“In summary, there is no credible evidence before us to establish the allegation of corrupt practices and violence during the re-run election in Osun State on 27thSeptember, 2018. We so hold”.
From the above pronouncement of the Tribunal which the petitioners did not appeal against, shows clearly that there is a judicial authority to the effect that the rerun election of September 27th2018 was free and fair.
And so, whoever is saying anything to the contrary is only forming an opinion which runs contrary to the judgment of the Tribunal
The attempt by some armchairs commentators to twist the facts of this case to suit their purpose and their masters in a bid to arm twist the judiciary and to misinform the public is despicable.