The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja on Friday upheld the victory of All Progressive Congress (APC)’s candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, in the disputed September 2018 governorship election in Osun State.
Five of the seven-member court voted in favour of the defendant and two in favour of the petitioner, Ademola Adeleke, candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
In September 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared Oyetola the winner of the election, after it had organised a re-run election in seven polling units across four local governments of the state, namely Osogbo, Orolu, Ife North and Ife South.
Claiming he had the highest number of valid votes cast and not pleased with the result declared by INEC, PDP’s candidate, Adeleke, filed a petition to the Election Tribunal against Oyetola’s victory.
In March 2019, the Tribunal, in a judgement led by Justice Peter Obiora, declared Adeleke the winner of the election.
According to the Tribunal then, INEC erred by declaring the election inconclusive and going ahead to organise a supplementary election. The supplementary election was nullified and voided by the tribunal.
Judging on the matter, the tribunal said INEC did not follow the laid down procedure in validating the results of 17 polling stations in the state.
For this reason, the court said PDP and Adeleke would have still won the election even if it decided to validate the supplementary election.
However, Oyetola headed for the Court of Appeal, which set aside the entire proceedings of the tribunal on the ground that the panel was not properly constituted, and ruled in his favour, May 2019.
The Appeal Court ruled that the tribunal erred when it failed to consider the rerun election in its judgement, saying “the tribunal was in patent error when it set aside the rerun.”
Also, the appellate court ruled that it was not appropriate for Justice Obiora, who was absent at the February 6, 2019 hearing, when the tribunal heard the issue of none-compliance, to rule on the case because he would not have seen the case squarely.
Equally dissatisfied with the Court of Appeal’s decision, Adeleke appealed to the Supreme Court.
Fixing the date for the judgement, a seven-member panel of the apex court, led by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko, slated Friday for judgement, after entertaining arguments from parties on June 17.
Reading the decision of the majority, the apex court, led by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour, upheld the decision of Court of Appeal and disagreed with the judgement of the Election Tribunal.
Like the court of appeal, Justice Rhodes-Vivour noted that Justice Obiora did not sign a record to indicate that he was present at the tribunal on February 6, which led to the conclusion that he did not sit on February 6.
Considering Justice Obiora’s absence at the tribunal a “serious matter,” and “a fundamental error,” the Supreme Court said it considered “the proceedings of that day a nullity and the entire judgement a nullity.”
In his remarks, Justice Rhodes-Vivour said that five members of the panel agreed with the judgement while two others disagreed with it.
Conclusively, while upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal by affirming Oyetola’s victory, the Supreme Court threw out Adeleke’s application.