By Wednesday, November 16, 2022, the Osun Election Petition Tribunal will resume the hearing of the petition filed by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and the All Progressives Congress, APC, challenging the declaration of the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP Senator Ademola Adeleke, as the winner of the July 16 Governorship election.
The declaration is being challenged on two fronts: One, that as at the time Senator Adeleke stood for that election, he was not qualified. Two, that he did not score the valid votes to be so declared.
From the first day when Oyetola filed his petition, the PDP, through one of its lawyers, Kolapo Alimi, who incidentally had served as a commissioner in the APC government under the immediate past administration for close to eight years, said Oyetola and the APC had no case. But each time the PDP engages in public conversations, especially on radio over the issue, they are unable to hide their anger that Oyetola is challenging their declaration at the tribunal.
Added to their anger is their botched attempt at misleading the public into believing that the tribunal would stop sitting in the wake of a decision by an Abuja Federal High Court, challenging the candidature of Oyetola, a decision that is already being challenged at the Appeal court, in Abuja.
They are unable to explain to the public why the tribunal is still sitting till date after they had boasted to their members that the Federal High Court decision would put paid to the tribunal sitting.
Only on Monday, the same Alimi was on a Radio Programme, using all kinds of unprintable words to describe the governor and the proceedings at the tribunal, insisting that the petition was dead on arrival.
However, this piece is not about what Alimi said on Monday or what the PDP spilled out about the tribunal proceedings after the last sitting, where it issued three different press releases under 24 hours, including conducting an interview with one of its lawyers and presenting same as though it was part of the proceedings of the last day. It comically titled it: “PDP reported Oyetola, APC to the Tribunal.”
But this piece is largely a review of the last proceedings with a view to bringing the reading public up to speed with the tribunal sittings.
Before the tribunal went on a week-long recess, it sat for four days non-stop.
It was on a Monday. Counsel for Oyetola and APC, Chief Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had informed the court of his intention to tender some documentary evidence to prove the alleged non compliance with the Electoral Act by INEC.
But Counsel for the PDP, Alex Izinyon (SAN), objected to it on the ground that it ran foul of Paragraph 3 of the pre-hearing report which indicated that list of witnesses should be filed 24 hours to the hearing.
He argued that since the petitioners have allegedly failed to comply with the tribunal order, the petition should be dismissed as the consequences of the action.
Counsel for INEC, Professor Paul Ananaba (SAN), also toed his line.
But Counsel for Adeleke, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), made a different submission. He contended that since the petitioners were ready to tender the documents, they ought to have allowed the respondents to have access to them earlier and cross-check, so that the process would be seamless.
Responding, the petitioners’ Counsel, Fagbemi, argued that the paragraph 3 of the pre-hearing report being relied on by the PDP counsel was not in any way referring to documentary evidence, but calling of witnesses.
He said: “My Lord, there can only be consequences if we have violated the order of the court, but in this case, we have not breached any order. The Paragraph 3 in question refers only to calling of witnesses, not documentary evidence.
“There is a difference between the witnesses and documentary evidence, but I’m used to my learned friend (referring to Iziyon); he is like that. The issue is, ‘you have to sing before you dance’. So, the issue of consequences does not arise at all because we have not violated anything.
“It is when we start calling witnesses without following your Lordship’s order that they can raise issues. But I’m sure we are not going to breach the court order. Therefore, my Lord, we want to start by tendering of documents”, Fagbemi said.
Subsequently, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Tertsea Kume, asked the parties to discuss and agree on how the documents would be tendered so as to make it seamless, to which the parties agreed. The parties met and reported back to the tribunal. The tribunal then ruled that the tendering of documents should commence the next day.
Day two was somewhat dramatic. It was a day INEC Counsel denied the commission’s documents.
Among the documents admitted in evidence by the tribunal were the 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, among others.
At the hearing, counsel for Oyetola, Chief Fagbemi,(SAN), informed the tribunal that the documentary evidence sought to be tendered had been cross-checked by the respondents and they all agreed that they should be tendered from the bar.
He then sought to tender the documents as listed on the schedule already submitted to the tribunal, which include the regulations and guidelines issued by INEC for the election.
But INEC’s counsel, Ananaba, subsequently raised an objection to all the documents which had already been certified by the Commission.
Surprised by the objection, one of the judges queried: “You are raising objection even to your regulations?”
Ananaba, in response, insisted on objecting to all the documents as listed in the schedule and hinted that he would give reasons for his objection in the final written address.
Counsel for Adeleke, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), and the PDP, Alex Izinyon (SAN), also objected to the admissibility of the evidence and indicated that they would give reasons in their final addresses.
Responding to their objections, Fagbemi sought to tender another evidence which contained the ‘Schedule of the Documents’ to be tendered, but Ananaba again objected on the grounds that it was never pleaded.
Surprised again, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Tertsea Kume, queried the INEC counsel and referred to his record where the counsel informed the court that he had cross-checked the schedule of documents and had no objection.
It was on the basis of this that the INEC counsel withdrew his objection, while Adeleke and PDP’s counsel also raised no objection to the tendering of the documents.
In his ruling, the tribunal admitted in evidence all the documents tendered and marked them as exhibits.
On this day, the tribunal accepted more
exhibits against Adeleke and INEC. The documents admitted were another set of Forms EC8As which are results of the election for 10 wards in Egbedore, 11 wards in Ejigbo, 10 wards in Ilesa West and 11 wards in Irepodun local government areas of the state.
Counsel for Adeleke, Niyi Owolade; PDP, Nathaniel Oke (SAN); and INEC, Olakunle Faokunla, confirmed that they have truly cross-checked the schedule and the documents listed for tendering.
They however took objection to the admissibility of the documents and indicated that they would canvass argument in their final written addresses.
The Chairman of the tribunal, Justice Tertsea Kume, in his ruling admitted all the evidence and marked them as exhibits.
After the ruling, the Petitioners’ counsel informed the tribunal that the respondents had been furnished with another schedule of the documents to be tendered at the next hearing.
Counsel for all respondents confirmed they had been served and indicated that they would use the schedule to cross-check the documentary evidence before they are tendered.
The tribunal subsequently adjourned the continuation of hearing till the next day, Thursday.
It was the last sitting for the week. But it was a defining moment for the APC and Oyetola. It was the day the tribunal accepted the BVAS report, a report the PDP and their patrons had told the public that the tribunal would reject. The BVAS report, duly certified by INEC, showed that the number of accredited voters is lower than the total number of votes declared.
Interestingly, on this same day, the tribunal also told the PDP lawyer that it was not here for social media commentaries when he claimed that reports of the proceedings in the media were not a true reflection of what was transpiring at the sittings. But he could not provide any credible evidence to support his claim.
Among the documents admitted in evidence on this day were Adeleke’s Diploma Certificate from Penn Foster High School, B.Sc Certificate from Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Letter of Attestation dated 22/5/2016 from Ede Muslim High School, NYSC Certificate of Exception and some other documents as exhibits.
Also admitted are forms EC8As for Olorunda, Obokun and Ila local governments; forms EC8Bs which are results of the wards; and forms EC8Cs — the results of each of the 10 local governments being challenged; form EC8D which is the summary of the overall results; EC8Es the declaration of the result and form EC9.
Dr. Saka Layoonu (SAN), who led the Oyetola’s team on this day, tendered additional documentary evidence, including the CTC of the much-celebrated BVAS reports which indicated that the number of accredited voters is lower than the total number votes scored and declared.
While formally tendering the documents, he informed the court that the evidence had been jointly cross-checked by both parties and the secretariat of the tribunal and confirmed to be accurate.
Respondents’ counsel, Jamiu Olabode (INEC), Niyi Owolade (Adeleke) and Nathaniel Oke, SAN, (PDP), objected to the admissibility of the documents and indicated that they would canvass arguments in the final written addresses.
The tribunal, in its ruling admitted the documents in evidence, marked them as exhibits and adjourned till November 16.
Earlier on the day, the PDP counsel, Oke, raised the alarm before the court, alleging that the media reports being circulated were not actually what transpired in court, saying, “My Lords, we are not comfortable with the reports of proceedings by pressmen in this court”.
But the tribunal Chairman, while responding asked for evidence, hard facts to that effect.
The panel further said it was unaware of any inaccurate reportage of its proceedings, saying, “We can’t comment on what we don’t know, unless you come up with hard facts. We are not here for social media commentaries.”
The tribunal is entering an interesting stage. Recall that once APC and its candidate filed their petitions in court, INEC issued another CTC of the BVAS report to the PDP, claiming that as at the time the first one was issued to Oyetola, it had not syncronised the data in the BVAS.
One of the questions the tribunal will be helping to resolve in the days ahead will be the reason for two separate and conflicting BVAS reports.
Another question will be, if indeed the first BVAS report was released before the synchronisation of the data, what was the basis of declaring the election results? These and many more are some of the issues the Tribunal will be helping Nigerians to resolve in the days ahead, as it resumes sitting on Wednesday.
No doubt, the three street walks embarked upon by the APC recently, including the one by the women, led by Osun First Lady, Mrs. Kafayat Olaitan Oyetola, to drum support for its presidential candidate and his running mate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Kashim Shettima, in Osun, are a pointer to the fact that APC is still very popular in Osun and that it remains the party to beat any time, any day.
To this end, let all supporters of Governor Oyetola remain calm, and resist the temptation to precipitate crisis by members of the opposition PDP.
Omipidan, a former Political Editor with The Sun Newspapers is the spokesperson to Osun Governor.