A three-man panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja yesterday reversed the verdict of the Osun State governorship election petition tribunal which had nullified the election of the state governor, Mr. Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In a unanimous decision, the jury led by Justice Mohammed Shuaibu held that there was merit in Adeleke’s appeal to challenge his removal by the tribunal.
The judgement was based on the appeal filed by Adeleke and marked CA/AK/EPT/GOV/01/2023.
Recall that the tribunal had on January 27 in a split judgement of two to one, voided Adeleke’s election as governor and directed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw the certificate of return from Adeleke and issue same to the former governor, Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The majority judgement which was read by the chairman, Justice Tertse Kume said Oyetola scored the majority lawful votes of 314, 931 against Adeleke’s 290, 266.
The tribunal also held that the governorship election was not held in compliance with Nigeria’s Electoral Act, adding that the exercise was characterised by over-voting.
In the judgement delivered yesterday, the Court of Appeal held that Adeleke’s appeal challenging his removal by the tribunal was meritorious.
Apart from setting aside the judgement of the tribunal, the court awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the All Progressive Congress (APC) and its candidate in the election, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola, who were listed as the 1st and 2nd respondents in the appeal.
The court also resolved that the preponderance of proof that there was over-voting in the elections rested on the petitioner.
“The party alleging non-compliance with the Electoral Act must prove its case without merely relying on the weakness of the other party,” it stated.
The panel also revoked the tribunal’s order which directed that a Certificate of Return be withdrawn from Adeleke and issued to his predecessor and the APC candidate, (Oyetola).
Besides, the court condemned the reference made to ‘lo lo lo lo buga won’ which appears to be a reference to Adeleke’s dance to a song by Nigerian artiste, Kizz Daniel.
The applicant had questioned whether the reference to his eccentric dancing did not affect the judgement of the tribunal court on grounds of bias.
The judge, however, held that the comment although condemnable did not affect the tribunal judgement as it did not constitute “judicial bias”.
Reacting to the judgement, Oyetola said in a statement by his media aide, Mr. Ismail Omipitan that he has unwavering faith in the judiciary in spite of the outcome of Adeleke’s appeal.
“We have heard the judgement of the Appeal Court, but we have yet to receive a copy of the judgement.
“However, from the snippets we are getting, we believe we have a potential ground to approach the Supreme Court. Our belief in the judiciary remains unshaken, just as my abiding faith in the God’s promise regarding the reclaim of my mandate remains undoubted.
“I, therefore, appeal to our supporters and party members to remain calm as we take the next step,” he said.