By Chioma Gabriel
In a historic ruling weekend, the Election Petition Tribunal in Osun State nullified the election of Governor Gbenga Oyetola and declared Senator Adeleke the winner of the September 22, 2018 gubernatorial election in Osun State. It was a stunning moment for Osun which had one of the most controversial governorship elections last year and for democracy in Nigeria.
Osun’s gubernatorial election was highly controversial with allegations and counter allegations of intimidation of journalists and observers, votes manipulation and insecurity.
In some quarters, it was believed that the mandate was stolen from the PDP which the APC dismissed as a fairy tale.
What saw the table turning against the All Progressives Congress, APC, at the tribunal was a simple mathematical that saw the cancelled votes in some polling units deducted from the results of the election and the results recalculated. The tribunal judgment had offered a potent display of independence in a country where courts often come under intense pressure from political leaders.
Will the courts display independence especially where Governor Oyetola has appealed the judgment of the tribunal?
Indeed, what happened at the Osun gubernatorial election last year was a theatre of the absurd. For as long as the drama lasted, it kept many Nigerians entertained, many dismayed and many in indescribable moods.
First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the Osun gubernatorial election of September 22 inconclusive and ordered a supplementary election at seven polling centres in four local councils on September 27.
Many saw the supplementary election as an opportunity to muscle out the PDP candidate whose chances were bright from the results released so far. Their worst fears appeared confirmed when eventually, Gbenga Oyetola of the APC emerged winner under controversial circumstances. Many believed the results of the supplementary elections were manipulated.
And so, the PDP went to the tribunal.
Before Oyetola was declared winner by INEC, social media tigers and giants were in limelight, interpreting and re-interpreting what the law says. Political analysts became pocket lawyers. Lawyers and non-lawyers alike brought the Nigerian constitution into action. The social media space was suffused with relevant sections of the 1999 Constitution on elections. Popular references were made to Sections 1(2), 69 and 179 (2) of the Constitution and Sections 68 (c), 69 and 153 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). Decided cases from the past were equally dug out and brought to the fore.
If you are an illiterate in legal matters, you were lost because lawyers and non-lawyers would refer to precedents from previous elections in Kogi, Bauchi, Edo, Katsina states, and court rulings in Osunbor vs Oshiomhole, Nwobasi vs Ogbaga and 2 ors., and Faleke vs INEC.
They debated whether INEC acted right within the purview of the law by declaring the Osun gubernatorial election inconclusive and whether a candidate who won a simple majority and one-quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the local councils in the state as required under Section 179(2) of the 1999 Constitution, would be denied a prompt declaration on the grounds that the margin of his victory is lower than the number of cancelled votes?
The guidelines provided in the Electoral Act 2010 and the INEC Manual for Election officials were also brought to the fore and the question was whether these can override the Constitution.
There was also the question of whether INEC has the powers to declare an election inconclusive? It was also argued whether Senator Ademola Adeleke having been the first to go past the post in the Osun Gubernatorial election of September 22 should have been declared winner of the election?
There were more questions than answers over the Osun election and when Oyetola was declared winner, PDP and its supporters kicked. Adeleke headed to the tribunal inspite of the exam malpractice scandal hanging over his head but many were not surprised.
And despite being considered not educated enough and not serious enough (he seems to think the world is a dancing stage), the facts have been laid bare that Osun people preferred an Adeleke to an Oyetola and this stands to be countered in the courts.
When Adeleke was accused of not having the requisite educational qualification for the office: secondary education and was taken to court, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) was asked for clarification via a sworn affidavit and the Examinations Council confirmed that he indeed sat for the School Certificate Examination in 1980/81. The issue of F9 in English came up and before Nigerians knew what was happening, the Police Headquarters in Abuja disclosed that Ademola Adeleke and one Sikiru Adeleke are the subjects of an investigation involving an alleged fraudulent procurement of NECO certificates.
He was summoned to Abuja but President Buhari intervened.
The last has not been heard of the Osun election especially as similar issues are trending in many states in Nigeria over the last gubernatorial elections in the country. We know, Nigerians know that many candidates will get the Osun treatment and end up in the election petition tribunals and the courts.
However things go, the Osun experience should be a lesson.
As often said, Nigerian politicians should learn from history because, sometime, someday, history will vindicate the just.
Is Adeleke a cat with nine likes? Only time will tell.