It appears it will be a fight to the finish for the Osun State Governor, Ademola Adeleke, and his challenger, the immediate past governor of the state, Adegboyega Oyetola, who are both seeking to retain the Oke Fia Government House and continue at the Bola Ige Governor’s Office as the governor of the state.
The Independent National Electoral Commission had returned Adeleke as the winner of the July 16, 2022 Osun governorship poll. INEC said Adeleke, the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, polled 403,371 votes to defeat then-incumbent Governor Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress, who got 375,027 votes.
But Oyetola and the APC rejected the result of the poll and headed for the tribunal. They claimed the election that produced Adeleke, who had tried unsuccessfully before his eventual victory in 2022, was fraught with “irregularities.”
That was how the music abruptly stopped on January 26, 2022 for Adeleke, then fondly referred to as the ‘Dancing senator’ now ‘Dancing governor’, after the Justice Kume-led Osun State Election Petition Tribunal nullified the election that produced him.
Adeleke had been known by Nigerians through his dancing skills which he never shies away from deploying whenever there is a music of taste. He had during his campaigns also put his dancing skills to good use to woo voters and win supporters for himself both in Osun and on social media platforms.
When Adeleke was sworn in on November 27, 2022, as the sixth governor of Osun state, the governor also seized the opportunity to exhibit his dexterity on the dance floor. For the 61 days his electoral victory lasted, Adeleke was a delight to watch for the feel-good disposition he brought to governance.
Annulling his election, the Kume-led tribunal said that INEC did not comply substantially with the constitution and the provisions of the Electoral Act.
He subsequently deducted the over-voting observed from the votes scored by the candidates and declared that Oyetola won the election, having polled 314, 921, while Adeleke’s score came down to 290, 266.
Consequently, Adeleke’s victory was nullified having lost 113,105 votes with his old foe, Oyetola, declared winner of the election.
In its January 27, 2023 majority verdict, the Justice Kume-led tribunal annulled Adeleke’s victory and declared Oyetola the winner of the poll.
However, a minority judgment by Justice B. Ogbuli affirmed Adeleke as the winner of the poll.
Displeased, Adeleke and the PDP headed for the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal heard the appeal on March 13 and reserved its judgment. But, on Friday, it set aside the tribunal judgement that nullified Adeleke’s victory.
The Justice Mohammed Lawal-led three-member panel in a unanimous decision held that Adeleke’s appeal to challenge the tribunal judgment that sacked him from office was “meritorious”.
The PUNCH reports that the court awarded the sum of N500,000 as a cost against the APC and Oyetola. During the ruling, the Justice resolved that the preponderance of proof that there was over-voting in the elections rested on the petitioner and not the defendant.
The court also maintained that “the party alleging non-compliance with the Electoral Act must prove its case without merely relying on the weakness of the other party”.
Delivering judgment, Justice Mohammed Shaibu overruled the judgment of the governorship election tribunal that nullified the outcome of the July governorship polls.
The three-man panel also revoked the tribunal’s order which directed that a Certificate of Return be withdrawn from Adeleke and issued to Oyetola.
With his hope of returning as Osun governor for a second term of four years dashed, Oyetola will hold no bare in his appeal at the Supreme Court in his bid to unseat Adeleke, who has been piloting affairs of the state in a ‘low-key’ manner.
With the one and final step ahead, Adeleke on his part will also build on his victory at the appeal court to frustrate all attempts from Oyetola’s camp to stop his music at the apex court where it can’t be turned on again until the 2026 governorship election.