By Bola Bamigbola
There are high expectations and tension within the Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition All Progressives Congress in Osun State as the state Election Petition Tribunal will on Friday (tomorrow) deliver a judgment on a petition filed by the APC against the victory of Governor Ademola Adeleke in the July 16 governorship poll in the state, BOLA BAMIGBOLA writes
The political circle in Osun State and beyond is upbeat, as the Election Petition Tribunal hearing complaints emanating from the July 16 governorship election in the state delivers its judgment tomorrow.
Following the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate at the poll, Senator Ademola Adeleke, was returned elected by the Independent National Electoral Commission, the then incumbent governor, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola and his party, All Progressives Congress, approached the Tribunal, to challenge Adeleke’s victory.
The APC wants the result of the poll upturned in favour of its candidate, stemming from allegation of non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Acts and the Constitution.
The petitioners also raised issues on the certificates tendered by Adeleke for the 2018 governorship election which he lost to Oyetola, and thus requested the panel to declare some of the filings inconsistent.
In Osun’s recent history, Oyetola and Adeleke, have emerged the dominant political figures with bitter rivalry which appears not to be losing steam yet.
Since yielding power to Adeleke, Oyetola has not stopped talking about his high hopes of returning to office in no time. He even waxed spiritual at a recent prayer session held recently to formally mark his return to the state, declaring before a huge crowd of party supporters – a spiritual assurance from God that he would return to office this year.
In reaction, the spokesperson for Governor Adeleke, Olawale Rasheed, told the immediate past governor that he possibly heard from the devil and not God of his return to Oke Fia Osun Government House.
The fact that the 2023 general elections are only few days away, also makes the decision of the panel very crucial to how the party would perform in the next round of elections.
In the calculation of both parties, the decision of the panel is capable of either motivating or demoralising members ahead of the general elections. This explains why efforts are not spared to have a victorious outing, even as political watchers predict the matter may go to the Supreme Court.
Aware of the fact that the decision in its favour will energise its members, who are experiencing life in opposition for the first time since 2010, leaders of APC in the state have been working hard to sensitise loyalists of the party on the need to remain within its fold, so as to approach the next general elections as a united front.
The APC leaders who are of the opinion that only a strong form of motivation, like a positive court ruling would truly keep the party together are therefore very hopeful of Oyetola’s return to power.
But despite being in power already, the PDP leaders in Osun have been also working very hard to match the opposition by impressing it on their members not to relax yet until the case before court over Adeleke’s victory was finally disposed off.
Since the different court sessions, supporters of the two parties have been storming the court in large number to witness the proceedings, and after each session, the attendees have been relaying the outcome through social media engagements and political meetings with other members.
During the trial, the petitioners called two witnesses and laid before the panel, many documents, while the respondents being the PDP, Adeleke and INEC jointly called 3 witnesses and also filed many documents.
After conclusion of pre-trial hearing, the petitioners opened their case by filing documentary evidence that included – INEC Regulation and Guideline for the election, INEC Manual for Electoral Officials, Forms EC8As which are election results for Osogbo, Ede North and Ede South local governments.
Other materials filed included: Form EC8As of 10 wards in – Egbedore, 11 wards in Ejigbo, 10 wards in Ilesa West and 11 wards in Irepodun local government areas of the state.
Testifying before the court, petitioners’ expert witness, Dr Isiaka Olanrewaju told the Tribunal that he established irregularities in the declaration of Adeleke as the governor-elect by INEC after analysing the result forms for the election and compared it with the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS).
While being cross examined by the INEC counsel, Prof. Paul Ananaba, SAN, the witness said he analysed the result of the election in 749 units across 10 Local Governments.
The second petitioners’ witness, Mr Rasak Adeosun, while giving evidence, said Adeleke did not attend any university, hence he could not have obtained any certificate.
Adeosun, who also told the panel that he was an appointee of the ex governor, said he was the state Collation Officer for the APC during the poll, and that he received report of the happenings across polling units on the election day and from the reports he got, there was no compliance with INEC manual during the poll.
Leading the respondents, INEC through its counsel, Ananaba, who had earlier laid before the panel, exhibits that included over 1000 BVAS machines and CTC of Form EC8 series, called a Deputy Director in the ICT department of the Commission, Abimbola Oladunjoye as witness.
Under cross examination, Oladunjoye said there was seemingly over voting in some polling units mentioned by the petitioners’ counsel, but under reexamination, Oladunjoye said over voting can only be established when figures on Form ECA8 series are compared with the physical data extracted from BVAS machines.
Oladunjoye also informed the panel that she signed and certified a BVAS report for the petitioners and the one presented by the Commission.
Explaining reasons for differences in the two BVAS reports issued by the Commission, Oladunjoye said synchronisation of data was completed after election result had been declared and BVAS report issued to the petitioners.
Also appearing before the panel, the 2nd respondent’s witness, Samuel Oduntan, a forensic examiner, said he conducted physical inspection of BVAS machines used for the election and compared the data extracted with the figures on Form EC8 series.
According to him, after the exercise, he established over-voting in about six units, while other data he got on BVAS machines, matched information on Form ECA8 series he obtained.
Also in his evidence, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, a Personal Assistant to the governor, who also appeared before the Tribunal, tendered Adeleke’s certificates.
Jenyo, said as Personal Assistant to Adeleke, his duties included, keeping his principa’s personal documents. He also told the panel that he attended Adeleke’s graduation in the United States of America.
At the proceedings which lasted about 10 hours, including two short break observed by the panel, the counsel advanced argument on their final written addresses already filed before the court.
Addressing the court separately after adopting their written addresses, counsel to the respondents, in their separate submissions, said the PDP candidate won the election, and asked the panel to dismiss petition against his victory.
One of them, Onyeachi Ikpeazu, SAN, specifically said the petitioners did not call any documentary evidence to prove that Adeleke forged any documents, noting that no witness was also called from the institutions that issued the certificates to him to prove forgery allegations. He also said a Court of Appeal had ruled on the case of forgery against Adeleke and pronounced him not guilty.
Source: The Punch