Adeleke Vs Oyetola: Was The Supreme Court Right?

Ademola Adeleke has seen his sojourn in the Judicial sphere come to a futile end.

The man who was nearly there. I’m sure the heartbreak is painful now, than it would have been at the point of just losing election to Adegboyega Oyetola. Imagine when a court had given one a glimmer of hope only for that to be dashed by another court.

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It was not only dashed by one court, another court, which happens to be the final “bus stop” decides to put another knife through the heart.

But was the supreme court right?

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Let’s ignore the advice of ex Vice President and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar – who advised the country’s apex court should consider the “pulse of the people” before delivering judgment – and look at this in its true context.

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This is no matter of sentiments or emotions. This is a simple judgment, according by law and you can’t fault it.

While the argument of rigging remains valid regarding the September 22 and 27, 2018 election, the judgment of the supreme court is one that is in a totally different context.

The supreme court was merely vetting the judgment of the lower court, the appellant court (which did the same to the State’s election’s tribunal) and was to determine whether it’s right or wrong.

Technically, the supreme court at this point wasn’t ruling on who won election; was the supplementary election necessary or whether polls were rigged? The supreme court had a straight forward job; was the lower court(s) right or wrong.

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One can understand the sentiments of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. It’s almost a general consensus the polls were rigged. If you followed the process, you would understand why there’s a feeling of disappointment as regards the supreme court’s verdict.

If you didn’t follow the process of 2018, then welcome to a refresher session.

When the elections was first held on September 22, 2018, Ademola Adeleke of the PDP appeared to have won with 254,698 votes, while Adegboyega Oyetola of the APC, who polled 253,452 votes, was thought as the runner up.

Adeleke ended up not having the opportunity to celebrate because INEC had other plans. The electoral umpire claimed there were irregularities in 17 local government areas and supplementary election was sanctioned in affected areas.

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A supplementary election followed on September 27, 2018 in seven polling units. This time the table turned. Oyetola then polled a total of 255,505 votes to emerge the winner of the poll while the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party polled a total of 255,023 votes to come second in the contest.

State Tribunal

Next step was a petition. Mr. Adeleke, who claimed he polled the highest number of votes in the main election; that the affected votes that resulted in the supplementary poll didn’t matter, asked the tribunal to cancel the victory of Mr Oyetola and declare him the winner of the election.

The Osun tribunal would eventually rule in favour Mr Adeleke and declare him the winner of the election. In a split judgment of two to one, the tribunal ruled that INEC was wrong to have ordered a rerun election. It nullified the rerun.

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The APC decided to not go down without a fight. An appeal was filed at the court of appeal.

In May this year, the Court of Appeal ruled that “the tribunal was in patent error when it set aside the rerun.”

The appellate court, which had also delivered its verdict in a split decision of four to one, ruled that the judge who issued the majority decision at the tribunal, Peter Obiora, was absent on February 6, 2019, when a major discussion on the issue of none-compliance was tabled before the tribunal; and could therefore not have viewed the issue squarely.

Supreme Court

Adeleke, dissatisfied with the appellant court ruling, went all the way to the Supreme Court.

The country’s apex court delivered its ruling on Friday, July 5, 2019, upholding the decision of the appellant court.

In what was also a split decision, three to two, the supreme court ruled that a majority judgment delivered at the tribunal was a nullity, in apparent agreement with the appeal court.

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This is where the main point lies. The point that the supreme court was merely vetting the ruling of the lower court(s). Was the lower court(s) right or wrong? That was the essence.

The constitutional provision is quite clear. Section 285, subsection 4 of the 1999 constitution, which stipulates election tribunal guidelines, made it clear that a quorum of three must be formed, otherwise every hearing is null and void.

The quorum of judges should consists of a Chairman and two members. In this case of the state’s tribunal hearing, this was defaulted as one of the judges was absent in one of the sittings.

The appeal court ruling, which was validated by the supreme court, set aside the tribunal judgment on the basis that one of the judges ,Peter Obiora, was absent (on feb. 16) when a major discussion was being tabled and the appeal court concluded, owing to his absence, the issue was not viewed squarely as the other two judges cannot only form a quorum.

So one can fault INEC for that having enforced a supplementary election but you cannot argue with the supreme court judgment. The idea of going to court is to prove beyond every resealable doubt why your case should stand.

Adeleke may have convinced the tribunal but there was a fault. The absence of the judge and that cost him.

So the supreme court was right.

What’s your take on this story? drop your comments below.