There was jubilation across Osun State on Friday after the Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Abuja declared Ademola Adeleke the winner of the elections held in September, 2018.
The three-member panel at the tribunal, in a split judgment of two-to-one, declared the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate the winner of the September 2018 election.
The tribunal, through the majority judgment, nullified the certificate of return issued to Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and ordered the commission to issue a fresh one to Mr Adeleke.
The tribunal, which had earlier dismissed the preliminary objection filed against the PDP and Mr Adeleke’s petition, stated that the petitioners failed to prove the allegations of over-voting in many polling units during the September 22, 2018 election.
It also held that the petitioners’ complaints of corrupt practices and violent disruption of voting and disenfranchisement of voters during the September 27, 2018 run-off were not proved.
But the tribunal, in its majority judgment, went ahead to uphold the petition on the grounds that the petitioners successfully proved that there was substantial non-compliance with the Electoral Act 2010 in the conduct of the September 27, 2018 run-off in 17 polling units.
Dissenting, the Chairman, Ibrahim Sirajo, in his minority judgment dismissed the petition filed by Mr Adeleke and the PDP for lacking in merit.
But Peter Obiora, who read the lead majority judgment, and Ayinla Gbolagunte, who agreed, upheld the petition.
The judgment lasted for about six hours.
The majority judgment nullified the September 27, 2018 supplementary election after declaring it illegal and declared Mr Adeleke the winner of the poll based on the outcome of the September 22, 2018 election.
Considering the valid results of the election, the tribunal deducted the votes polled by both the APC and the PDP in the 17 polling units across many local government areas where it held that the election was conducted in “substantial non-compliance” with the Electoral Act.
It deducted 2,029 “afflicted votes” polled by the APC in the 17 polling units from the party’s total votes in the September 22, 2018 election, and deducted 1,246 from PDP’s votes.
According to the tribunal, the PDP won the election with 254,698 votes, while the APC placed second with 253,452 votes.
Mr Obiora added that the PDP would still have won the poll even if the tribunal validated the supplementary election.
He held that if the “afflicted votes” of 2,029 were deducted from the 255,505 votes polled by the APC at the end of the September 27, 2018 run-off, the party and its candidate would only have polled 253,476 votes.
But according to Mr Obiora, the PDP would have won with 253,777 votes if the afflicted votes of 1,246 votes were deducted from the party’s 255,023 votes at the end of the supplementary election.
Mr Obiora said, “By our earlier calculation, the votes affected by non-compliance are:
“APC: 2,029; PDP: 1,246 which we hereby nullify.
“If the above votes are deducted from the scores of the parties as of September 22, 2018 election, the standing of the parties will be as follows: APC: 254,345 votes, minus 2,029 votes equal 252,315 votes.
PDP: 254,698 votes, minus 1,246 votes, equal to 253,452 votes.
“Perchance the rerun is found to be valid, and the final scores of the parties declared after the rerun of September 27, 2018 is allowed to stand, then deducting the votes that were found to be afflicted by non-compliance shall stand the parties in the following scores:
“APC: 255,505 votes, minus 2,029 votes, equal to 253,476 votes.
“PDP: 255,023 votes, minus the afflicted votes of non-compliance which is 1,246, will give us 253,777 votes.
“In both situations, it is obvious that the petitioners won the election to the office of the Governor of Osun State.”
The tribunal held that the election in 17 polling units was conducted in non-compliance with the Electoral Act by alleged “deliberate failure” of INEC to fill in eight columns on the result sheets and the number of accredited voters and give an account of usage of ballot papers.
“We are of the opinion that the non-recording was deliberate and tailored towards achieving an unwholesome result.”
The tribunal added that aside from the cases of non-compliance, Forms EC8A and the result sheets of polling units were discredited during the trial by virtue of alterations noticed on them.
It said the figures on the certified true copies of the forms were different from what was on the pink duplicate copies issued to party agents at the end of the election.
Commenting on the conduct of INEC, the tribunal stated, “We note that a substantial number of the Certified True Copies of the Forms EC8A either have figures on them altered or have figures entered in them in Columns 1 – 8 thereof.
“The alterations in figures and fresh filling in the columns were not on the pink copies of the Forms EC8A distributed to the parties’ polling unit agents on the day of the election, which were tendered before this honourable tribunal.
“The obvious implication of this unfortunate development is that the first respondent went to work on the documents after the election, behind the parties.
“The first respondent (INEC) should realise that it holds an office of public trust and should at all times, strive to maintain the sanctity of the electoral practice.”
It added that the supplementary poll was illegal because it was a product of an unlawful cancellation of the September 22, 2018 election in seven polling units.
It held that the Returning Officer unlawfully cancelled the September 22, 2018 governorship election in the state in seven polling units.
It said the “unlawful” cancellation of the election in the seven polling units by the State Returning Officer informed the INEC’s decision to declare the results inconclusive and fixed September 27, 2018 for the supplementary election.
Mr Obiora also noted that Mr Oyetola’s lawyer, Wole Olanipekun, had argued that the tribunal could not nullify his client’s certificate of return issued to him by INEC on the grounds that the said certificate was not tendered by the petitioners.
But the tribunal held that “an order of nullification of the said certificate of return is a mere formality” as “the foundation of the certificate of return issued to the second respondent has been eroded” by the nullification of Mr Oyetola’s election.
Meanwhile, in his minority judgment, Justice Sirajo, held that the petitioners did not prove that election actually held in the seven polling units where results were cancelled.
He added that the petitioners failed to prove who, in fact, cancelled the results.
He, therefore, held that the supplementary election of September, 27, 2018 was lawful.
According to Mr Sirajo, ” even if non-substantial compliance had affected the outcome of the election, the tribunal, by virtue of Section 140(2) of the Electoral Act, lacked the power to subtract the votes affected by the non-compliance from the scores of the candidates and announce a winner.”