The Nullification of Ademola Adeleke’s Candidacy: Dead on Arrival?

Daniel Whyte
20% Complete
 08-Apr-2019

The Osun State Gubernatorial election and its aftermaths is one that has been characterized by drama with surprising twists in recent times.

First in the line of diverse yet linked enactments witnessed is the rerun saga. The election which was originally held on the 22nd of September, 2018, was declared inconclusive by the returning officer, Professor Joseph Afuwape, the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA).

In fact, the election was won by the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Adeleke Ademola, who polled 254,699 votes to beat the candidate of the All Progressive Party (APC) Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who polled 254,345 votes. However, because the total number of cancelled votes (3,486) is higher than the difference between the two leading parties (353), the returning officer declared the poll inconclusive and a rerun was scheduled to hold in seven polling units where results were cancelled on the 27th of September, 2018. After which, Oyetola emerged the victor.

Seemingly dissatisfied with the rerun arrangement and its unfavourable outcome, Senator Adeleke sought redress in the hands of justice; he challenged the victory of Oyetola by filing a petition to the state’s election tribunal.

Fast forward to 2019, about six months after the conclusion of the election and four months since Gboyega Oyetola has been inaugurated as Governor of the state, new dramatic twists have begun to unfold and are gaining momentum in the media space.

First was the ruling of the state election tribunal that voided the rerun of Osun State’s election and consequently announced Senator Adeleke as the winner of the state’s election.

The tribunal sitting in Abuja, on Friday, March 22nd, ruled that INEC’s returning officer for the state had no power to cancel the elections of the seven polling units which led to the rerun. Therefore, the rerun was illegal and its result invalid.

Following the ruling, celebrations from the PDP and especially the Adeleke’s circle as well as the taunting of the APC rent the air. Similarly, the media was awash with criticisms and objections of the ruling, especially from the ruling APC.

However, in another dramatic twist, about a week and some days after the state election tribunal declared Senator Adeleke the legitimate winner of the Osun 2018 Gubernatorial election, another court ruling declared Adeleke unfit to contest in the election thereby nullifying his candidacy.

The high court sitting in Abuja, presided over by Othman Musa, said that the court’s findings revealed that Senator Adeleke enrolled into secondary school in 1976 but there was no proof of graduation afterwards.

The judge also claimed that there is a difference in the result Adeleke attached to the form CF001 which he submitted to INEC and the one presented to the court by the principal of Ede Muslim High School, Ede, Osun state – the secondary school the senator supposedly attended – hence the result was fake.

Understanding the Senator’s Certificate Scandal

In Nigeria, the secondary school certificate is required for an elective position, according to section 177 (d) of the 1999 constitution. Therefore, any candidate for an elective political office without the requisite secondary school certificate is deemed ineligible.

The question of eligibility of Senator Ademola Adeleke sometimes referred to as the “dancing Senator” has been raised several times leading to several lawsuits and demands for nullification of the Senator’s candidacy.

Two members of the Peoples Democratic Party, Rasheed Olabayo and Idowu Oluwaseun, had first filed a suit against the senator demanding that he be disqualified on the basis that the senator did not possess the required educational certificate.

However, the presiding judge, David Oladimeji, in his ruling cleared Adeleke on the grounds that he was educated up to the secondary level and although documents submitted by Adeleke’s counsel as the Senator’s prove of educational qualification up to the required level “contains serious and damaging irregularities”, the suit bothered on none possession of certificate and not forgery of certificate.

A later suit was filed against the Senator by two Two PDP delegates, Olagboye Adedamola and Oyetunji Suredi, who accused him of forgery of testimonial and statement of result presented to the Independent National Electoral Commission.

They asked the court to bar Adeleke from the poll “on account of ineligibility, false information and submission of false documents to the INEC as the 4th defendant in the suit” and urged that the first runner-up of the party’s primary, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, be declared as the lawful candidate.

The case was, however, dismissed by Justice David Oladimeji in a later ruling because the plaintiffs withdrew the case against the senator.

However, a fresh ruling has led to the nullification of the Senator’s candidacy, days after he was officially declared as the winner of the Osun Gubernatorial election.

The suit was filed by Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb, two chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Through the suit, they sought the disqualification of the Senator over the longstanding allegations of nonpossession of secondary school certificate (SSCE).

Although, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) confirmed that the Senator sat for their exam in 1981, the judge, Othman Usman, in his ruling said, that was no record or prove of graduation despite that the senator enrolled in a secondary school in 1976.

He also claimed, as aforementioned that the result presented by the Senator to INEC is fake because there is a disparity in the result he attached to the form CF001 which he submitted to INEC and the one presented to the court by the principal of Ede Muslim High School, Ede, Osun state – the secondary school the senator supposedly attended.

Adeleke’s counsels have, however, faulted the judgement and vowed to appeal it.

As culled from TheCable’s report, one Nathaniel Oke, Adeleke’s lawyer “argued that [the] judge erred in law by going out of his way to source evidence to arrive at his ‘unjust conclusion’, while ‘ignoring’ WAEC evidence that Adeleke possessed the certificate.

Niyi Owolade, another counsel to the Senator in a statement issued on Tuesday, 2nd April, has also said the nullification of the Senator’s candidacy cannot stand.

While giving four reasons why it cannot stand, he said “it would be recalled first of all that the matter in question has been addressed by two High Courts’ ruling, affirming that in the face of the constitution, Senator Ademola Adeleke is qualified to run for the governorship office. The two rulings delivered in September 2018 held that Senator Adeleke satisfied all requirements of the law to contest for office”.

“It is trite in law that once a court of coordinate jurisdiction has ruled on a matter, court of similar jurisdiction cannot entertain it. Shockingly, the Bwari judge breached this precept to subvert justice”.

“Secondly, we want to note that the judge further erred in law by failing to take note of the expiration of 180 days for ruling on pre-election matters. Even when a December 2018 judgement with respect to the issue was presented, the judge chose to ignore it”.

“We note that the judge violated the law by adjudicating over a matter whose filing and hearing period has expired”.

“Thirdly, the West African Examination Council was also subpoenaed by the court at the instance of the two APC plaintiffs (working covertly with some moles within PDP) to present evidence of facts that Senator sat for the WASC Exams. The council produced the listing of all students who sat for the May/June examination in 1981 alongside the Senator in addition to the certified true copies of his school certificate result”.

“From the evidence produced by the Council, it is crystal clear that Senator Ademola Adeleke was indeed educated beyond the minimum requirement of “up to secondary school level” as stipulated by law and therefore qualified to run for the office of governor in accordance with section 177 (D) of 1999 CFRN (as amended). Not withstanding, the judge still went ahead to rule otherwise”.

“The only statutory body empowered by law to determine authenticity of a secondary results is the West African Examination Council and they confirmed the authenticity of Senator Adeleke’s result by producing a CTC of the same result. What evidence did the judge therefore base his ruling on?”.

“Fourthly, the plaintiffs shocked by WAEC’s testimony, again subpoenaed the school principal to appear in court to produce evidence of facts as well as to confirm the authenticity of the statement of results. The principal appeared and confirmed that the statement was genuinely issued by the school and that any error noticed on the statement was that of the school, not that of Senator Adeleke. The school did not at any point disown the statement of results. The school owned up to the error which was not about forgery”.

“From the foregoing, we affirm that today’s judgement of the Bwari court is a travesty of justice, a purchased ruling designed to negatively affect the outcome of Osun governorship judicial process”.

“We declare unequivocally that the ruling being so glaringly against tested facts and the law cannot stand. It is also clear that the ruling cannot in anyway stop the reality that Senator Ademola Adeleke fulfilled constitutional requirements to be Governor of Osun State”.

With these different dramas that have unfolded, the question of who the legitimate governor of Osun state is has now become an enigma demanding to be resolved, and yet more dramatic twists may unfold with the uncertainty of time.

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