The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja on Tuesday May 9th, 2023 as delivered judgement in favour of Senator Ademola Adeleke by re-affirmed him as the authentic elected governor of Osun State against the petition filed by APC and their Governership Candidate, Adegboyega Oyetola challenging the ruling of appeal Court which upheld the election of Senator Ademola Adeleke as Governor of Osun.
During the legal battles that bring Adeleke this far before earning victory at the polls, Justice Nathaniel Emmanuel of the Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo had earlier affirmed Senator Ademola Adeleke as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for Osun governorship election slated for July 16 2022.
The judge dismissed a suit filed by Prince Dotun Babayemi, seeking to be declared the candidate of PDP.
The judgement of a five-member panel, on Tuesday, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which had earlier on 24 March affirmed Mr Adeleke’s victory.
It lays to rest the dispute over the outcome of the governorship election, and extinguishes Mr Oyetola’s hopes of coming back to office after his momentary victory at the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal gav in January.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mr Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the election in an upset that deprived Mr Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) a second term in office.
Displeased with INEC’s result, Mr Oyetola had approached the election petition tribunal in Osogbo, the state capital, to challenge the outcome of the poll.
The tribunal in its decision in January ruled in favour of Mr Oyetola by declaring him the winner of the election, and sacking Mr Adeleke who was just months in office.
Mr Adeleke, who remained in office to exhaust his right of appeal, had appealed against the decision of the tribunal.
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His appeal was successful.
Upholding Mr Adeleke’s victory, the Court of Appeal in Abuja held that the tribunal was wrong in its conclusion that that the election in some parts of the state was marred by over-voting, the pivotal legal issue on which Mr Oyetola built his case.
The court held that “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 appellate court held.
The Court of Appeal noted that Mr Oyetola and the APC “did not tender the voter registers and Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS machines,” which captured data of eligible voters at the Osun governorship election.
“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 judgement, only relied on the table set out in an address of counsel to hold that over voting occured in an election,” the Court of Appeal said.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Mr Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the winner of the governorship election held in Osun State on 16 July 2022.
The INEC Chief Returning Officer for Osun, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who announced the result on the day after the election, said the PDP candidate scored 403,371 votes to emerge victorious.
Mr Adeleke defeated Mr Oyetola, who polled 375,027 votes to come second in the race.
But a three-member panel of the Osun State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal headed by Terste Kume set aside Mr Adeleke’s victory in its verdict delivered on 27 January.
In a two-to-one split judgement, the majority decision of the tribunal declared Mr Oyetola the winner of the election.
It also ordered INEC to issue the certificate of return to Mr Oyetola.
Mr Kume, in the lead majority judgement, held that INEC failed to conduct the Osun governorship election in compliance with the Electoral Act, 2022 (as amended).
The tribunal noted that the poll was marred by over-voting. It said after deducting the excessive votes that were cast, the figure Mr Adeleke scored came down to 290,666, which was lower than the 314,921 garnered by Mr Oyetola.
Consequently, the tribunal ordered that Mr Oyetola be returned as governor of Osun State.
However, in the minority decision, the second member of the tribunal, P. A Ogbuli, said the petitioners – Mr Oyetola and the APC – failed to prove that there were cases of over-voting in the governorship election.
Mr Ogbuli noted that the petitioners’ witnesses in their testimony before the panel did not convince him that there was over-voting.
He said the petitioners should have brought the total registered voters to court to claim that over-voting occurred.