Osun State: Judicial Magic; A Sad Day For Democracy – Written by Ajibola Osungbohun

A disappointing day for democracy dawned on the people of Osun State, Nigeria. On that day, the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Osogbo, the state capital of Osun State, issued a verdict in the legal challenge that had been brought forward by the former Osun State governor and the APC gubernatorial candidate, Mr.Gboyega Oyetola.

In August 2022, Gboyega Oyetola, former Osun governor, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) petitioned the tribunal to challenge the election victory of Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Oyetola, the immediate past governor of the state, claimed that the election was characterized by over-voting in 749 polling units. 

He also argued that Mr Adeleke forged the academic credentials he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to contest for the election.

The decision was overturned by two of three member panels of the tribunal on the 27th January 2023. Delivering judgment by Justice Terste Kume held that the tribunal directed INEC to withdraw the certificate of return issued to Mr Adeleke and his deputy, Kola Adewusi, both of whom had been sworn in.

The panel led by Justice Terste Kume directed that the certificate of return should instead be issued to Mr Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Justice Kume held that the governorship election was not held in compliance with Nigeria’s Electoral Act.

The tribunal held that the governorship election was characterized by over-voting. It said after deducting the excessive votes, the figure Mr Oyetola polled at the election was 314, 921. 

This decision, though reached by an authoritative body, was viewed as a slap in the face of the rule of law, and a massive blow to democracy in Osun State. Courts are expected to enforce and uphold the law, not to flout it. Allowing an election to take place without resolving all the matters before the court shows that the judiciary does not believe in due process. This undermines the very foundation of democracy – the belief that the law will protect the rights of all who come before the courts. 
Reactions have been coming from party members, supporters and sympathizers on social media most especially twitter, a member Osun State house of Assembly under PDP @adewumiadeyemii  tweeted ” No cause for alarm.
Light has come to stay”. Also a tweep @IfedolapoOsun “Governor Ademola Nurudeen Adeleke Remains The Governor Of Osun State.No Cause for alarm”

The implications of this decision on future cases do not look good – the Election Petition Tribunal verdict seems to suggest that the judiciary is capable of subverting the rule of law in order to achieve its desired ends. This disregard for the due process could lead to the weakening of democracy, as it gives citizens the impression that their rights or grievances will not be taken seriously by the courts. 

The sad truth is that the Osun State Petition Tribunal decision will be remembered as an example of the judiciary failing to live up to its duties as the guardian of justice and protector of the rights of citizens in a democracy. This is a tragic day for democracy, but it is important to remember the lessons this ruling has taught us that candidates should sensitize their supporters not to be overwhelmed at the polling units as any decision they take may deter the chance of you winning and also we must never cease to be vigilant in our defense of the rule of law and ensuring that free and credible election is not negotiable.

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