By Ibrahim Sarafa
For nearly sixty days, the Osun people were left agitated and restless. The reason for their worries stems from the controversial judgement of the Election Petition Tribunal that questioned the mandate freely given to Governor Ademola Adeleke at the July 16 governorship poll. The judgement by Justice Tertse Kume not only attacked the essence of justice but questioned the rights of the people to choose who to lead them.
Justice Kume misapplied the principle of law to erroneously conclude on over-voting and in the process, fell for former governor Gboyega Oyetola’s plot to usurp the mandate of the people. In that judgement, Justice Kume ignored the principle of ‘best evidence’ by adopting a controversial server report to arrive at the decision of over-voting instead of the BVAS machines used at the contested polling units.
Interestingly, the BVAS machines are the originator of accreditation data and as such, should hold prominence in establishing over-voting in an election. Let’s be clear– what happened at the Tribunal was an injustice on the Osun people as it tried to impose a different choice from what they made at the poll on them based on false and discredited evidence.
The sour taste of injustice will however not linger for too long as the Appeal Court sitting in Abuja set aside the Tribunal judgement that had invalidated the victory of Governor Adeleke in the July 16 poll. The panel, in a unanimous decision, upheld the sanctity of the vote of the people in a democrary by restoring the mandate they freely gave Governor Adeleke in last year’s poll.
Line by line, the appellate court showed in vivid and poignant detail that the election of Governor Adeleke was without any question and that it should stand. Justice Muhammed Shuaibu who read the lead judgement, faulted the finding of the Tribunal on over-voting as there was no evidence before it to arrive at such conclusion.
Justice Shuaibu who upheld the primacy of the BVAS machines over any other evidence in establishing over-voting held that the Tribunal was “wrong to reach the conclusion that there was over-voting during the state governorship election held on 16 July 2022” based its decision on a backend server report.
It is not hard to agree with the finding of the Appeal Court because the reasoning is well-rooted in law and logic. BVAS machines are the tool used for accreditations in an election. In essence, it is the origin of accreditation data, and the source of any information in the backend server warehoused in far away Abuja.
This makes the BVAS machines the primary source of evidence of accreditation data and holds more relevance in proving over-voting than any other source of evidence. This was exactly the argument of the PDP, Adeleke, and the INEC, at the Tribunal, but was rebuffed by Justice Kume, who appeared determined to foist Oyetola on Osun people irrespective of the facts presented before it.
Unlike the backend server that is barely known to voters in the contentious polling units on the day of the election, the BVAS machines were what was used to accredit voters before they cast their ballots. In fact, agents of political parties in the election had access to the device before and after the conclusion of the election, before results are entered into form EC8A.
Contrary to the erroneous impression that Oyetola and his party, the APC, had created out there, the accreditation data on the BVAS machines are transmitted to the backend server of INEC provided that the presiding officer presses the enter button. Beyond this is network, which its non-availability, can weigh on the transmission of not only accreditation data but results entered on the BVAS machines to the backend server.
The interesting fact in all these is that agents of the APC appended their signatures to the results in all of the contentious polling units, and none of them was at the Tribunal to disown it. Nothing can explain this knowing well that the very reason for having agents at polling units was to monitor the election and ensure it was in order otherwise, they are expected to protest the outcome, which will see them withhold their signatures on the result.
Another intrinsic part of our election, which the Appeal Court judgement stressed, was the voters’ register. At the Tribunal, Justice Kume dismissed the role of the voters’ register whereas the Electoral Act 2022 and the Guideline of the INEC made it an integral part of the conduct of the election.
It is important to note that before casting the ballot, a voter will be accredited by the BVAS machines and afterward, his or her name will be ticked on the voters register. In short, every voter will go through two layers of accreditation, and to show over-voting, it is necessary to compare the accreditation done on the BVAS machines with the manual accreditation done on the voters’ register. This is something that Oyetola and the APC failed to do, informing the Appeal Court judgement to hold that it did not prove its over-voting allegation.
But even as the Osun people embraced the decision of the appellate court on the restoration of the mandate of Governor Adeleke, the state is not out of the wood. Oyetola and his party, the APC, are yet to accept the fact of the decision of the Osun people, leaving them in denial and becoming more fervent and extreme in the pursuit of usurping the mandate of the people. Shortly after the Appeal Court judgement, they unleashed their hirelings to playdown the landmark decision of the panel, selling a dangerous narrative and professing determination to distort the will of the Osun people crookedly.
It was a brazen challenge of the power of the people in a democrary and a dangerous adventure. The judiciary must stand firm against these anti-democratic elements and ensure that as against their scheming and efforts, nothing happens to the mandate that the Osun people freely gave Governor Ademola Adeleke in the July 16 governorship election.
• Sarafa Ibrahim is a public affairs analyst and writes from Osogbo, Osun State.
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