Now’s not a good time for Davido, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and  supporters of Ademola Adeleke. An election tribunal sitting in Osun state on January 27, 2023, annulled the governorship election result of July 16, 2022, in which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) subsequently declared Adeleke winner.

The initial victory, which came over the incumbent All Progressives Congress (APC) governor, Gboyega Oyetola, saw Adeleke win with 403,371 votes to defeat Oyetola, who got 375,027 votes — a 3.5% margin of victory.

However, the three-person tribunal led by Justice Tetsea Kume voted 2-1 to overturn the result.

What was the ruling?

The tribunal declared that INEC did not comply substantially with the Constitution and the provisions of the Electoral Act. The tribunal ruled that there was “overvoting” and declared that Oyetola won the election, polling 314,931 votes, while Adeleke got 290,266.

Justice Kume ordered INEC to withdraw Adeleke’s certificate of return and issued another to Oyetola, who he declared the lawful winner.

How did things play out in court?

Emmanuel Ujiadughele, a source in court when the ruling was read said:

“The tribunal ended its proceedings today after the petition was filed on August 5, 2022. There were five parties to that petition. The first and second petitioners were the APC and Gboyega Oyetola. The first, second and third respondents respectively were INEC, Ademola Adeleke and the PDP.

“There were three grounds on which the APC challenged the election. The first was that Adeleke wasn’t qualified and that he forged the certificates he submitted to INEC when he contested in 2018. The tribunal ruled that although forgery was proven especially with his secondary school certificate issued by Muslim High School in Osun state — at a time when the state hadn’t been created— his other accompanying certificates exonerated him from the issue of forgery. The tribunal ruled in favour of the respondent.

“The second however, was on grounds of overvoting. The third was on grounds that INEC didn’t conduct elections in compliance with the Electoral Act. The tribunal ruled that overvoting occurred as stated by the petitioner. It also said that both parties benefited from overvoting. The tribunal ruled that INEC’s actions amounted to tampering with official records by producing multiple results and manipulation of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation (BVAS) machines.

“According to the tribunal, INEC’s defense was erroneous. This was in respect to the terms of the sections of relevant laws they quoted. APC had challenged the results in 749 polling units in 10 local governments of Osun state. 

“After deliberations, the tribunal deducted from places where there was overvoting. Former governor Oyetola scored 314, 931 votes while Adeleke scored 290,266 votes. The tribunal ruled that Adeleke didn’t score enough votes to be declared the lawful winner of the election. It ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Adeleke.

“There was a minority judgment which noted that the petitioners failed woefully to prove their case and ruled in favour of the respondent.”

What does this mean?

History appears to be repeating itself, and it’s two times unlucky for Adeleke against a familiar foe. In March 2019, a three-person tribunal declared Adeleke winner over Oyetola after a September 2018 governorship contest that Oyetola narrowly won. However, the victory was nullified by a court of appeal, and Oyetola was reinstated. 

The silver lining for Adeleke is that he can challenge this ruling in court and hope for Oyetola’s good fortune. Still, this spells even bigger worries for INEC, who initially basked in the success of BVAS in conducting the election. A claim that overvoting still occurred is a reality check for INEC, with presidential elections less than a month away.

Adeleke has called for calm. All’s not lost yet. Perhaps they could get a favourable ruling at a higher court and hopefully, look forward to a better time.

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