OPINION: Osun Election Tribunal – Petitioners Turn Alawada

scales-of-justiceThe laws that created rooms for periodic elections into 1, 695 elective public offices in Nigeria, which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is empowered to conduct, also allow rooms for Elections’ Petition Tribunals (equivalent of high courts) to handle judicial petitions aris­ing from the conduct of such polls, with a view to determining the authenticity or otherwise of such polls. Such petitions are filed by aggrieved parties. Matters that are brought before polls’ tribunals are those that have to do with the con­duct of the polls proper. In the Constitu­tion of Nigeria, 1999, as amended in 2011 and the Electoral Act of the Federation of 2010, governorship poll tribunal cases start at the tribunal (high court) and terminate at the Supreme Court (three steps).

The Constitution envisages that contes­tants are likely to be aggrieved. And, in true democracy, such situations are given the best opportunity to be addressed, so that true de­mocracy is not only achieved but also seen, by the majority, to have been achieved. This is where the constituting of Osun State Elec­tion Petition Tribunal could be situated.

Despite the open and widespread knowl­edge in Osun State and beyond that candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Dr. Iyiola Omisore was not a match to the incumbent governor Rauf Aregbesola in electoral contests, as clearly demonstrated through the ballots on the 9th of August, 2014, the former still went on to challenge what was and is still regarded as a clear vic­tory to the incumbent.

Analysts have argued that this is nothing but a gross abuse of the tribunal, or judicial, process. The result of the election that gave victory to Ogbeni was incontrovertible as there was no serious reported case of irregu­larities or violence in areas where he gained victory to warrant going to the Tribunal de­spite provocations on the ruling All Progres­sive Congress, APC, in the state by agents of the federal government which backed Omi­sore with every conceivable arsenal. If there was any violation, it certainly came from ar­eas where the PDP candidate had some per­ceived advantages. But because the law has the duty to entertain even the most ridiculous petition as stated above, the process had to be followed through.

From the beginning of the hearings at the Tribunal at the Osogbo High Court, to the tendering of exhibits through to the presenta­tion of Petitioner’s Witnesses, it was nothing but a case of the absurd. We had the annoy­ing, the abusive, the funny as well as even the entertainingly ridiculous, which I term the Awada Kerekeri scenarios.

In the Yoruba entertainment scenes, Awada Kerikeri is the comedy genre meant to relief tension after a serious day at work. Comedies and comedians are often injected into seri­ous drama scenes to put our nerves at bay. So, whatever happens in comedy series and scenes are often taken for what they truly are- Comedy-unserious, footnotes and extrane­ous. The petition of Iyiola Omisore, the loser of the August 9, 2014 gubernatorial election in Osun State, is nothing other than Comedy, or, Awada Kerikeri, where the participants, including the Chief Petitioner himself, his so called witnesses and his band of supporters are nothing but Alawada, or comedians.

It is rather too unimaginable that a peti­tioner would claim irregularities in 85 poll­ing units of the 105 of a local government area and call only 3 witnesses whose only evidence is, in most cases, by proxy, or hear­say, which he knows is clearly inadmissible in law. As a Petitioner’s Witness, by defini­tion, you ought to be the first-hand witness to the event in contention. You are not supposed to present third party information. And even then, calling 3 witnesses representing only 3 polling units of the alleged 85 in my native Ikire, Irewole Local government example is nothing but absurdity and a waste of time and deliberate plot to distract the government of Osun. What happens to the remaining 82 polling booths where you claim irregularity that made you lose the election? The picture painted above also represents what the Peti­tioner was claiming in virtually all the other local governments contested.

More bizarre is the fact that the Petitioner called a witness in respect of unit 4 ward 6 of Ejigbo Local government area of the State to prove that the election result from this unit was invalid. Ejigbo has 68 polling units, and the petitioners are challenging 49. Interest­ingly, the result of the Unit 4 had been can­celled during the election by the Presiding Officer for malpractices perpetrated by PDP agent and supporters in the polling unit! Do these Petitioners know what they are doing at all trying to invalidate an already invalidated result?

So, why seeking to invalidate an already invalidated result, if not to waste time and distract governance?

The above absurd scenarios played out in all the 17 local governments in contention by the Petitioners.

From the above analysis done on a Local Government by Local Government basis, it is crystal clear that out of 965 Polling Units be­ing challenged by the Petitioners, they only called evidence in support of their petition in only 239 Polling Units with the abandonment of 726 Polling Units pleaded in their petition. Assuming, without conceding, that the Peti­tioners have led credible evidence in all the 239 polling units (which is not the case here), is that enough to sway the judgment in their favour? 239 Polling Units represent 7.94 per cent of the 3,010 polling units contained in the State. This is definitely too insignificant to upturn the result of the gubernatorial elec­tion held on August 9, 2014.

To make matters worse, the Petitioners tendered Form EC8A in respect of only 230 units which mean that even if their claim suc­ceeds in respect of the 239 Polling Units in which evidence was led, the Tribunal can only rule in their favour in respect of the said 230 Polling Units in which Form EC8A was tendered.

Akinola, a social and political commen­tator wrote through dolam2005@yahoo.com