The Osun election petition tribunal delivered a judgment in the case of Adeleke vs Adetola on March 21, 2019. Since then, there has been a lot of skimble-scamble explanations over the details of the case.
The kernel of the judgment
It was a split judgment (2:1) in favour of Adeleke. Contrary to what is being peddled around, the core of that judgment has nothing to do with rigging. All the witnesses, most of them party agents, who alleged rigging, could not prove it from the results which they signed off on and announced by INEC. Both the main and dissenting judgments came to the same conclusion: no rigging was proven.
All other matters raised by both the petitioners and respondents fell by the way side except two issues.
Issue one: who cancelled elections in 7 polling units ?
The 7 polling units where supplementary elections were held on September 27, 2018 are at the heart of the both the main and dissenting judgments. The main judgment dwelt on the question of who cancelled the elections in those polling units on September 22, 2018.
Judges in the main judgment held that it was the State Returning Officer that cancelled the election in those 7 polling units and ordered a rerun. That action according to the judges was illegal since it is a Presiding officer at a polling unit that is invested with the authority to cancel an election due to a number of factors and order a rerun. The judges said that they came to that conclusion because when a petitioner’s witness pointed to the State Returning Officer as the one who did the cancelling, none of INEC’s counsels cross examined the witness. That in their view amounted to admission of the allegation.
Issue two: discrepancies in forms EC8A and the question of compliance
The judges also said that they established that forms EC8A for some polling units were not properly filled because the white copies of the said forms did not reflect the entries in the pink ones which were supposed to be duplicates. This according to the two judges amounted to substantial non-compliance which afflicted the results declared in the affected polling units.
The form EC8A records the number of those accredited and the number of ballots used, unused and cancelled. Judges of the main judgment believed that those discrepancies were intentional with a view to rigging the election at a later time even though there was no evidence to that effect from the results declared in those polling units.
In their concluding part of the judgment, the two judges said:
“In the final analysis, we have earlier found that the cancellation of the election in the 7 polling units in four Local Government Areas by the State returning Officer was unlawful. We have in addition found that the petitioners established a case of non-compliance which substantially affected the result of the election. By our earlier calculation, the votes affected by the non-compliance are APC 2,029 and PDP 1, 246 which we hereby nullify.
If the above votes are deducted from the scores of the parties as at the 22nd September, 2018 election, the stand of the parties will be as follows:
APC / PDP
(254,345) /(254,698) (before rerun)
(-2029)/ (-1,246) (afflicted scores)
If per chance, the rerun election is found to be valid and the final scores of the parties as declared after the re-run election of the 27th September, 2018 is allowed to stand, then deducting the votes that we have found to be afflicted by non-compliance shall stand the parties with the following result.
APC / PDP
(254,505) /(255, 023)( after rerun)
(-2029) /(-1,246) (afflicted scores)
In both situations, it is obvious that the petitioners (PDP and Adeleke) won the election into the office of the Governor of Osun State.……………………..The first respondent, Independent national Electoral Commission, is hereby ordered to issue Senator Ademola Nurudeen Adeleke a Certificate of \return as the duly elected Governor of Osun State of Nigeria.”
The Dissenting Judgment
The Chairman of the Tribunal stood alone in a dissenting judgment. He raised a series of questions about the disputed 7 polling units were a rerun was ordered:
“Was there election in those polling units and was any result cancelled at all. If results were cancelled, at what point in the election process were the results cancelled. Finally, did the announcement by INEC that the election was inconclusive amount to cancellation of election if polls did not hold at all? These questions can only be answered by evidence. It is one thing for the petitioners to plead that the Returning Officer cancelled the election, it is entirely another thing to prove the averments in the pleading by credible evidence, especially in view of the fact that the reliefs claimed by the petitioners are declaratory. Even admission by the respondents will not suffice.”
On the Issue of non-compliance, the dissenting judge said:
“The only non-compliance is that the Presiding Officer did not record columns for accreditation and ballot accounting data. There is no complaint that the election in those 23 polling units was afflicted by any other irregularity.
I am satisfied that there is non-compliance by way of omission to record the columns for accreditation and ballot accounting in 23 polling units out of the 3,010 polling units in Osun State.
What then is the degree of the non-compliance? Has it attained the degree of substantial non-compliance?
Considering the fact that all the petitioners’ 23 witnesses called in proof of this allegation have confirmed that accreditation duly took place in their respective polling units and that they have no complaint about the scores of the parties, coupled with the absence of proof of over voting in the affected poling units, I hold that the omission to record the columns for accreditation and ballot paper accounting on the result sheets, though a non-compliance, did not amount to substantial non-compliance.
.………. Having resolved these two important issues against the petitioners, I hold that the petition has not merit and same is hereby dismissed by me.”
So, there you have it. Though the petitioners and respondents crowded their filings with so many issues, it is the two issues of substantial non-compliance and whether or not the State Returning Officer cancelled any result, and if he did, whether or not it was a legal or illegal act that will attract the scrutiny of the Justices of the Appeal and Supreme courts.