Two of the three members of the Osun election tribunal on Friday nullified the election of the incumbent governor of the state, Gboyega Oyetola.
However, a member of the tribunal, Muhammad Surajo, gave a dissenting judgement, disagreeing with major areas of Ademola Adeleke’s request.
Mr Surajo, who chairs the tribunal, directed his court assistants to note the submissions of the majority judgement and regard them as binding.
The panel’s decision followed an application filed by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Adeleke, who had accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of colluding with the All Progressives Congress (APC) to subvert his victory at the elections.
INEC had declared the Osun State election conducted on September 22, 2018, inconclusive.
At the end of the collation of votes in that first election, Mr Adeleke won majority votes of 254,698, while Mr Oyetola of the APC came a close second with 254,345 votes. Both leading candidates had a difference of about 354 votes.
Declaring the election inconclusive, INEC’s presiding officer, Joseph Fuwape, said it was impossible to name an outright winner without organising a rerun.
“Unfortunately as the returning officer, it’s not possible to declare anybody as the clear winner of the election on the first ballot,” Mr Fuwape, Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said.
He explained that the total registered voters in the polling units where elections were cancelled is 3,498 votes.
Since that figure was higher than the difference between the votes of the leading candidates, a rerun election had to be conducted, the INEC chief explained.
Following that declaration, INEC conducted a rerun election on September 27, 2018, in seven polling units.
The APC candidate, Mr Oyetola, was declared the winner of the supplementary election in six of the seven polling units amidst widespread voter intimidation and other electoral irregularities.
At the end of the tally of votes for the September 27 elections, the APC candidate scored a total of 255,505 votes while the PDP candidate scored 255,023 votes.
Subsequently, While Mr Adeleke emerged the winner in the September 22 elections with a margin of 354 votes, Mr Oyetola defeated the PDP candidate with 482 votes at the end of the supplementary election.
In a reaction, Mr Adeleke and his party who had rejected the move for a supplementary election accused INEC of partisanship and alleged that the commission violated the provisions of the law by organising the rerun.
Mr Adeleke’s lawyers, led by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, also accused INEC of allowing the APC to manipulate voting figures in their favour.
In their ruling, the two other members of the panel, Peter Obiora and Adegboye Gbolagunte, agreed with the submissions of Mr Ikpeazu that the petitioners succeeded in proving that there was substantial non-compliance with provisions of the law in 17 polling units.
The panel also agreed with the PDP and Mr Adeleke that the INEC officer who had announced the cancellation of results had no power to do so.
The two panellists, however, rejected the application of the PDP relating to over-voting.
According to the tribunal, the petitioner failed to prove the allegation of over-voting.
“The petitioner (Mr Adeleke) having fulfilled the constitutional requirements and scored the majority lawful vote is declared winner and returned as governor.
“The rerun in the seven cancelled units are hereby declared null and void and of no electoral effect.”
The tribunal ordered the withdrawal of the certificate of return issued to Mr Oyetola and directed that a new certificate of return be issued to Mr Adeleke.
In a dissenting judgement, however, Mr Surajo said the evidence brought forward by the PDP was not sufficient to prove the allegation of non-compliance.
He also ruled that the INEC was right in its decision to conduct a rerun.
APC, Oyetola to Appeal
The APC has indicated its resolve to challenge the ruling, stressing that the decision of the panel’s majority could not stand an appeal.
Mr Oyetola is expected to remain in office till a final decision is reached on the matter at the appeal court, and at the Supreme Court if it is further appealed.
According to section 143 (1) (2) of the electoral act, where a candidate whose election has been nullified notifies parties of his appeal within 21 days, he shall continue to enjoy the benefits of that office and shall not be deterred from doing so till the appeal is determined.