Niyi Owolade is a former Attorney General of Osun State. He served in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration. According to him, the outcome of the tribunal ruling shows that the law is supreme and the judiciary remains the last hope of Nigerians. Like Alimi, he also spoke while featuring on a television programme; monitored in Lagos. He said he believes that the PDP governorship candidate in Osun, Senator Ademola Adeleke will win even at the Supreme Court.
Governor Oyetola’s camp disagree with the grounds upon which his election was annulled, what do you have to say?
I am surprised that anyone would say so and I guess they just have a mindset. The majority judgment is a landmark judgment and I must commend the two judges who were courageous enough to make that decision. The average Nigerian is intelligent and knows when an election is okay or is not okay. We all know that most people refer to the June 12, 1993 election as the most credible that we have had. But I can tell you with all sense of sincerity and responsibility that the rerun that was held in Osun in September 2018 was the worst that ever happened.
Contrary to what the APC is saying, there is a process and a manual for the conduct or cancellations of elections. In the Electoral Act, there are 16 steps to be followed by the returning officer in the declaration of results and none of those steps indicate that the returning officer can cancel elections because he does not have the power to do that. You cannot execute powers that you do not have. It is the presiding officer of the polling units that has the power to cancel elections and to do that, he has to sign the EC40 form.
What we understand was done was that votes were subtracted from seven wards and from the number of votes that each candidate had garnered and that was how they were able to conclude that your candidate was the winner of the election. Why was this so?
There was a subtraction but if you recall that the September 22 election, Adeleke won the election by 353 votes but because of the substantial non-compliance whereby something unbelievable happened which Nigerians should know and we must say enough is enough, the three judges even made reference to this whereby some INEC officials would tamper with the results. We have form EC8A where the results are filed from the polling units, and we asked for the Certified True Copy (CTC) from INEC. The PDP agents came to court with their form EC8A and when compared with the CTC from INEC, there were discrepancies. It was discovered that some juggling had been done and it was INEC staff that did the juggling whereby figures which were not in the pink copy which the agents are given were found in the CTC. It was then obvious that the INEC staff had tampered with the figures. Figures that were not originally in the CTC were put there. So there were obvious manipulations, what do you then want the judges to do? INEC is supposed to be an impartial party.
The decision was not unanimous on this matter because one of the judges felt that it cannot be the job of judges to subtract votes from the figures that have been declared by INEC because it has not been done before. Is that correct?
On the contrary, that has been done several times. The point is that when you have substantial non compliance and manipulation and the results sheets being tampered with, what are the judges there for? Actually the judges were courageous enough to say that what happened is not right. Part of the problems we have in Nigeria is that there are no sanctions for such criminal behavior like tampering with votes.
Do you think that this judgment would hold in the Court of Appeal?
I am confident that it will hold. If you recall the landmark judgment of Justice Kolawole which he delivered in the case between Labour Party versus INEC, he said the powers of a judge should not be limited. He went further to say that every election case is considered on the peculiarity of the facts on ground. If the judges found serious irregularities and even pointed out that figures were manipulated, what should they have done? Should they have closed their eyes? There was substantial non compliance of the dictates of the Electoral Act during the election and the evidence was clear; what should the judges have done?
On the copies of the duplicate that your party agents had, the APC was already declared winner on that duplicate, isn’t that right? At the final collation after all the results have been collated, doesn’t INEC give you a copy to show you how they arrived at the final figure?
Our agents were given the final results at the collation center but there were two issues that I want to point out; the first one is that the returning officer who does not have the powers to cancel elections did so contrary to the guidelines of the Electoral Act. It is important that this fact is established. Our star witness was the state agent and he alluded to the fact that it was the returning officer who did the cancellation. He was not examined by the first, second or third respondent on this. No contrary evidence was presented. The guidelines clearly state that it is only the presiding officer that has the power to cancel elections at the polling units. It was because of the cancellation that the returning officer who had no authority to do it in the first place, that brought about the supplementary election.
The other issue is that some columns were purposely left blank on the pink copy and then all of a sudden, we saw that some figures were written on those same columns in the Certified True Copy. Carbonated copies are usually collected by the agents and those copies would show what the scores are and what you have inserted but in most of the cases, there were alterations from the Certified True Copy , so what has happened. What we had on our pink form should be the same thing on what is on the Certified True Copy.
In whose favour was the conjured figures in the Certified True Copy?
The figures were in favour of APC and what they judges did was to say that since there were substantial irregularities and non compliance, the conjured figures had to be taken out.
The ruling of the tribunal doesn’t seem to take immediate effect, why is that?
As of today, the law is that Senator Ademola Adeleke is the governor-elect of Osun and we sincerely hope that INEC will obey the court order to issue a fresh Certificate of Return immediately.
The minority judgment by Justice Muhammad Suraju says that when non substantial compliance affects the outcome of a election, the tribunal, by Section 140 subsection 2 of the Electoral Act, does not have the power to subtract the votes affected by the non compliance from the scores of the candidates and announce a winner. According to him, the Tribunal only has the power to nullify the results affected by the non compliance and order a supplementary poll. Do you agree with him?
No I do not. In fact, I am surprised that Justice Suraju with due respect to him because he is a senior judge, should have said that, bearing in mind that on July 21, 2011, in the case between the Labour Party versus INEC, Justice Kolawole took down Section 142 since 2011. He said that you cannot limit the powers of a judge to perform his function by an act of parliament. No superior court has overturned it till date.