By IBRAHIM SARAFA
It was a long wait but justice was eventually served when the Osun governorsip election petition tribunal pronounced Senator Ademola Adeleke as the rightful winner of last year’s governorship elections held September 22, 2018. The panel courageously echoed the true reflections of the will of the people of Osun state, and expectedly, threw the state into wild and spontaneous celebrations.
The road to justice, though rough and tiring, but it has always provided consolation for the aggrieved and averts society from descending into anarchy. This was the path pursued by Senator Ademola Adeleke in retrieving his mandate violently, crudely and brazenly stolen from him.
Unlike the usurper, Senator Adeleke refused to be lured to the theatre of criminality and lawlessness but rather sought recourse in the courts, which is the foundation of every democratic society. Armed with evidences of clear breaches of the Nigerian Constitution, the electoral law and other acts of gross electoral irregularities and brigandage, Senator Adeleke approached the election petition tribunal to seek redress. His prayer before the panel was simple, expunge illegality and uphold justice.
From days to weeks and months, his legal counsel laid bare evidences of foul play and glaring manipulations of the people’s will. In the courtroom, Senator Adeleke did not miss the opportunity to question the power of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) Returning Officer (RO) to cancel elections in the 7 polling units that purportedly warranted a rerun.
Before the panel, Senator Adeleke exposed the electoral umpire’s flagrant abuse of the electoral process, which included doctoring and falsifying critical election documents without the knowledge of the other political parties besides the ruling APC it was in cahoots with. INEC’s manipulations were so brazen that the tribunal shoved aside the Certified True Copies (CTC) of results presented by the electoral umpire and placed reliance on form EC8As (Pink copies) issued to party agents.
This gross act of electoral malfeasance attracted the rebuke of the judges, who held that “The obvious implication of this unfortunate development is that the 1st Respondent (INEC ) went to work on the documents after the election behind the parties. The 1st Respondent should realise that it holds an office of public trust and should at all times strive to maintain the sanctity of the electoral process. In conclusion, based on our resolution of all the issues for determination and our findings, we hereby declare that there is merit in this petition.”
The learned judges agreed that the will of Osun people have been mischievously subverted and INEC erroneously returned Gboyega Oyetola as against Senator Ademola Adeleke, who secured majority of the lawful votes cast. They therefore ruled thus: “The second respondent, Adegboyega Isiaka Oyetola, was not duly elected and/or returned by majority of lawful votes cast in the Osun State governorship election held on Saturday, 22nd September and the rerun election of Thursday, 27th September, 2018 and therefore his declaration and return as the Governor-elect of Osun State is null, void and of no effect whatsoever.”
By the pronouncement of the panel, Senator Adeleke was recognized as the duly elected governor of Osun state. Though, there are still levels of appeals to be exercised by anyone not satisfied with the ruling of the tribunal but one thing is evident, truth has prevailed!!
The tribunal ruling answered Osun peoples clamour for justice and that explained their excitement when news of the judgement filtered into the nooks and crannies of the entire 30 local government areas across the state.
From the findings of the judges, it was clear that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was not fair to Osun people as it brazenly manipulated their will to favour APC. The tribunal, chaired by Justice Muhammad. I. Sirajo, heard evidences from nearly 90 witnessses who had experienced the lapses or manipulations in the Osun governorsip election, most of which are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) agents and observers. Their detailed testimonies guided the tribunal findings on the injustice meted on Osun people, and expectedly, they courageously upturned the illegality.
One of the major findings of the tribunal judges was the illegal cancellation of elections and scores of candidates in 7polling units by INEC’s State Returning Officer upon which it based its decision for a rerun! Such cancellations ought to have taken place at the respective polling units by the polling officers and a report of such duly recorded which is then submitted to the State Returning Officer through form EC40G! This was not done and the tribunal agreed with Senator Ademola Adeleke’s contention that this was an illegality and a deliberate contrivance to allow the APC rig an election it had already lost!!
While the APC has appealed the ruling, but it remains to be seen how the landmark pronouncement of the Tribunal judges, which major legal experts in the country have commended for its soundness on law and justice, drawing copiously from the electoral ACT, the constitution and decided cases by superior courts, would be upturned.
What the tribunal did, is to ensure that laid down process is followed to the letter in every electoral process and that the people should be the one who decides their elected officials, not the machinations of INEC or political actors. As witnesssed in Osun, the electoral umpire’s brazen bias almost robbed the people the manifestation of their expressed will but the tribunal came in handy to bring succour to the dejected and worried population, who clearly elected Senator Adeleke as their governor.
Until the tribunal verdict that recognized Senator Adeleke’s mandate, the impunity of the Osun governorsip election bear a huge weight on the minds of Nigerians and was a blight on the country’s fledging democracy. The desperation exhibited by the usurper was nothing more than a despicable ploy to derail our democracy, and bypass the acceptable route to political leadership.
Now that the tribunal has spoken, the people can smile again, because justice has been served and verily, political power belongs to them! No one, no mater how highly placed can treat the people shabbily and with great contempt, trample on their rights and dignity for eight years, then blatantly rig elections to install a stooge in office and get away with it!! Never again!!!
_Sarafa Ibrahim is a freelance journalist and writes from Osun state_
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