To be sworn in today, * Judgement, a rude shock–PDP
By OLA AJAYI, ibadan
AFTER over three years of legal battle, Engineer Rauf Aregbesola, who contested on the platform of the Action Congress, AC has been declared winner of the April 14, 2007 governorship election.
He is to be sworn in today after the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan voided the election and confirmation of Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party by the then Professor Iwu led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The court in a unanimous judgment nullified the election results of the 10 local governments pleaded for by Aregbesola and set aside the earlier judgnment of a lower tribunal which confirmed the election of Oyinlola.
Yesterday’s sitting was presided over by Honourable Justice Clara Ogunbiyi who was flanked by other four justices. They are Honourable Justices M.L. Garba, P.A. Galinge, C.C Nweze, and A. Jauro.
When the court resumed yesterday, the five man panel first tackled the cross application filed by Oyinlola challenging the judgment of the lower tribunal on the nullification of some election results.
The court resolved all the five issues in favour of the appellants. The issues are that votes recorded and/or returned in the following Local Government Areas, namely, Atakumosa West ,Ayedaade, Boluwaduro, Boripe, Ede North, Ife Central, Ife East, Ife South, Ifedayo,Isokan, Odo – Otin and Ola Oluwa Local Governments, do not represent lawful votes cast in the said Local Government Areas and as having been obtained in vitiating circumstances of substantial non-compliance with mandatory provisions of Electoral Act, 2006, violence and malpractices which substantially affected the validity of the said elections that none of the candidates in the said elections can be validly returned as having validly won in the said affected Local Government Areas; Issue 2, that Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was not duly elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the Osun State Governorship election held on April 14, 2007 and that his election is void;
As a result of this, he prayed the court to declare that Aregbesola was elected and ought to have been returned having scored the highest number of votes cast in the election.
He also prayed the court to resolve that the Osun State Governorship Election held on April 14, 2007 is void on the ground that the election was not conducted substantially in accordance with the provisions of Part IV of the Electoral Act, 2006;
And that the said election was vitiated by substantial non compliance with the mandatory statutory requirements which substantially affected the validity of the said elections that none of the candidates in the said election can be validly returned as having validly won the said election.
While resolving the case in favour of the appellant, the court held that both criminal and civil offence should not be lumped together, saying Chief Akin Olujimi who led other counsel of the appellant was right to ask for the severance of the two.
The court said, “ the tribunal erred that all allegations related to criminal offence that must be proved beyond all reasnable doubts. The two allegations are severable. We are of the view that the allegations are civil in nature.”
On issue two, the court stated that by the tribunal relying that the petition be proved beyond reasonable doubts still amounted to lumping together the two allegations.
Accordng to the court, it is out of place for the tribunal to hold that the Electoral Act 2006 does not recognise ward supervisors adding that they are well qualified to be at the polling units for supervision.
During the course of trial, the INEC did not call any witness which Olujimi said it was tantamount to abandonment of their cases. The court agreed with Olujimi and held it against the respondent.
It also held that the tribunal goofed by not giving the witnesses the privilege of evaluation. Instead of the tribunal to evaluate the witnesses, it went about its duty in a shoddy and shabby manner and “we are concerned about the lackadaisical disposition of the tribunal. How can one explain how the tribunal glossed over all inconsistencies?
On the finger printing done by Adrian Forty which was later taken over by his partner after the death of the former, the court flawed by not attaching much weight to the document having been presented by an expert.
To the appellate court, it amounted to gross miscarriage of justice for the tribunal to discountenance the evidence of such an expert with all his academic qualifications.
The court said, “we are satisfied with the absence of other members of the team that did the analysis of the finger printing because of timing and distance. With the academic qualification of the finger printing expert, we find it strange that the tribunal could afford the laxity to wish his expertise away.”
In conclusion, the court held that in considering the foregoing reliefs, the petitioners have proved non compliance with the Electoral Act 2006 and this has greatly affected the results of the over all results.
The court then cancelled the results of the 10 local governments and deducted it from the total votes casr. According to the court, the total votes creidted to Aregbesola in the affected local government areas were 41, 923 votes while 253,789 was given to Oyinlola.
After deduction of the cancelled votes in the ten local governments, Aregbesola was scored 198,799 and Oyinlola given 172, 880.
“The first appellant having scored the majority of lawful votes cast in the April 14, 2007 election is hereby declared the winner of the election. Appellant’s appeal has merit and subsists. He is hereby allowed having set aside the judgment of the lower tribunal. Therefore, the return of Prince Oyinlola as the governor of the Osun State Governorship election in 2007 is hereby nullified.
He was not elected by majority of lawful votes cast in the election. And Engineer Aregbesola, having satisfied the provisions of the constitution is hereby declared the winner. INEC is hereby ordered to issue a certificate of Return to him.”
The court was yet to give its final judgment and the teeming party supporters believed to be loyalists of Aregbesola had gone into wild jubilation. Even in court, the security men had hectic time controlling them.
As soon as all the five issues were resolved against Oyinlola and the results of the 10 local governments cancelled, they shouted. But the security men with the justices had to come out more than three times telling them to maintain order in the court room.
The court was filled to the brim as some lawyers and journalists either bent down or sat on the floor.
Outside the court, all party members, including those of the PDP, had been driven far away from the court premises.
They had arrived the court ahead of the security men. When the secuirty men came, they asked all of them to leave and all cars parked outside the gate of the court were removed.
Some of them wanted to pretend as if they were not the owners but when the policemen threatened to deflate their tyres, they hurriedly moved them .
All gates leading to the Appellate court were blocked with police Hilux Van and all road users coming from Challenge, Dugbe and Iyanganku areas were turned back.
The court had become rowdy after the lead judgment had been read. But other justices spoke one after the other.
Some journalists were initially barred by some SSS men from entering claiming that the court room had been filled up. It took the intervention of the Special Adviser on Special Duties, Prince Diran Odeyemi to prevail on the security men.
Both counsel of the parties commended the five hour judgment and agreed that it was well researched and delivered.
Deji Sasegbon who stood in for Argebesola said, “the judgment is well researched and well considered. It has everything in it. We all listened from here. As for my learned colleagues, they have given a good spirited fight but like in every case, there must be a loser and winner. In this case, we have won and they have lost.
THE court was filled to the brim as both parties in the appeal were represented. Mr. Ojo Williams, Deputy Chairman, PDP in Osun represented Oyinlola while Mr. Gboyega Famodun, State Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria stood in for Arebgesola.
Others who were in attendance included Mr. Niyi Owolade, the Attorney General of Osun State, Mr. Nathaniel Oke, SAN, Chief Kunle Kalejaye, SAN, and many others.
Governor Akala, reacting through his Special Adviser on Public Communication, Prince Dotun Oyelade, reassured the people of Oyo State that as an entity, their fortunes are not affected by the political development in Osun State.
“Since 2007, this Administration has won all electoral cases brought against it. We won the April 14, gubernatorial polls, we won at the Tribunal and the Appellate court. We have also retained and expanded on our people’s trust and confidence. The political development in Osun State , unwelcomed as it is, has no bearing whatsoever with our own realities either now or in subsequent elections”, he said.