Osun State Governor Gboyega Oyetola may engage no fewer than 50 lawyers, including senior advocates, to challenge the victory of the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Ademola Adeleke, in last Saturday’s governorship election in the state.
A member of the governor’s legal team, Kunle Adegoke, gave this indication in an interview with our correspondent on Tuesday just as the PDP and the governor-elect warned the Independent National Electoral Commission against allowing the All Progressives Congress to tamper with election materials.
The governor’s legal team has been sifting through the election results in preparation for taking serious legal action against the declaration of Adeleke as the governor-elect by the INEC.
The electoral body had on Sunday declared Adeleke the winner of the governorship election in the state. The Returning Officer for the election and Vice Chancellor of the University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, said Adeleke got a total of 403,371 votes to beat the incumbent APC governor, who polled 375,027 votes and 13 other candidates in the keenly contested race.
Oyetola won in 13 local government areas of the state to come second in the election.
Before his electoral loss, Oyetola, had 2018 defeated Adeleke after a run-off, with the support of his predecessor, and now Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and former Lagos state governor and now, APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.
After his opponent was declared the winner, the governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Ismaila Omipidan, told his supporters to remain calm, noting that he would respond after studying the results.
He stated, “Governor Adegboyega Oyetola has taken cognisance of the results of the governorship election in the state as announced by INEC on Sunday.
“He, however, noted that the party would be responding appropriately after studying the results and consulting with critical stakeholders of the party.”
Layonu leads team
But a member of Oyetola’s legal team, Kunle Adegoke (SAN), told The PUNCH on Tuesday that they were still reviewing the results declared by INEC.
He said, “We are still reviewing documents and the legal team is actually working. In an election of this nature, the documents will be so many; so it is important to look at them critically before we make a decision and that is exactly what we are working on right now.
“Dr Biodun Layonu (SAN), is the leader of the team. The legal team is not complete yet because there are so many others that will still come in.
“In the meantime, the two members of the legal team we can reveal are Dr Biodum Layonu and Kunle Adegoke. Others that may come in are people we may not know but as soon as we are ready to move, we will notify the press.
“The membership can’t be determined as many lawyers are interested in joining the team. You know election petition is a special case. So, we allow as many lawyers that are interested to come in. We may run into 50 or more members.”
Commenting on moves by the governor to contest the poll outcome at the election petition tribunal, the Media Adviser to the APC chairman in Osun State, Kola Olabisi, said whatever position was taken by Oyetola on the outcome of the election would also be the stand of the party. Olabisi disclosed this while speaking with our correspondent on Tuesday.
He said, “I have not read what you said the governor had said but the posture of the party can not be different from what the governor had said.”
Asked what the governor’s legal team studying the election results had discovered, Olabisi simply said, “It is the legal team that is competent to speak on whatever has been discovered.”
But Adeleke has warned INEC against tampering with the materials used for the July 16 Osun state governorship poll in a bid to favour the APC.
Adeleke in a statement signed by the Chairman of his Media Management Team, Prince Diran Odeyemi, alleged that there were insinuations that the leadership of the APC was working on INEC to tamper with some electoral materials that would be used against Adeleke’s victory at the Election Petition Tribunal.
The statement alleged that some APC leaders had been moving around the local government offices of the commission to liaise with the INEC officials who would tamper with some election materials kept in their custody.
Adeleke called on the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, to direct the commission’s officials in Osun to submit all electoral materials to the state headquarters.
The statement read in part, “There is rumour milling around the state that the leadership of the All Progressives Congress are romancing the INEC to tamper with some electoral materials that could be used against the victory of the governor-elect in their alleged proposed brief at the Election Petition Tribunal.
“Some APC leaders have been moving around local government offices of the commission to liaise with the INEC officials to tamper with some of the Electoral Materials in their custody.
“Senator Adeleke called on the INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, to call his officials in Osun State to order so as to prevent them from perpetrating the dastardly act.”
Responding to the allegation, Olabisi challenged Adeleke and the PDP to prove their allegation against the APC.
He said, “They said they have won the election, yet they are still afraid. That means they have skeletons in their wardrobe. They are just ranting. They should prove their allegation or stop ranting. They are afraid of their shadow.”
Speaking to one of our correspondents, the Secretary of Osun PDP Legal Committee, Hashim Abioye, said bringing together several lawyers by the APC to challenge Adeleke’s victory was not a threat to the party.
According to him, engaging a large number of lawyers is within the right of the APC, adding that the PDP team will be waiting to meet them.
“The APC have a right to line up as many lawyers as they can. It is their right. From all indications, they want to go to the tribunal. If you look at the Electoral Act, it has roles for INEC, political parties, the conduct of the election and after that, there are provisions for election petitions.
“It is not a threat at all. I have been involved in so many election petition matters where you line up as many lawyers as you can. That does not mean anything. There is no room for anyone to hide again in litigation. You place your card face up. We are waiting for them,” Abioye said.
The Director of Media and Publicity in Osun PDP, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said APC can hire more than 50 lawyers, it would still not change the clear victory recorded by the party in the governorship poll.
Oluwabamiji said, “If that is the way they want to go, there is no problem with it. It is not usual that when a party is defeated in an electoral contest of this nature, you are not satisfied or think you have any ground for redress, the next thing is to go to court.
“For the 50 legal practitioners APC wants to hire, I think that 50 might not be enough. They can as well double that number. Perhaps they may be able to help them. I am not a lawyer, but I know it will an excercise in futility. It was a clear contest which produced a winner.”
A legal practitioner, Matthew Burkaa, SAN, said “Any Nigerian who aspires to any office with another person, then wins election as a candidate of a political party and contest in the general election has a right to complain if he or she feels there is any infraction in that election.
“It is his constitutional right.
It is also more beneficial for people to approach the court than sort themselves out.
“As far as I am concerned, Oyetola going to court to challenge Adeleke’s victory is not in any way a wrong move.”
But a political analyst, Sunny Anyanwu described the planned litigation by the governor as a waste of time and resources, adding that the election which produced Senator Adeleke was adjudged free and fair, and it was the will of the people.
“What Oyetola is doing is wasting his time and resources of Osun people. I wish the 2023 Presidential election would be like what happened in Osun, Nigerians will be happy. It was adjudged to be free and fair, even by international observers. The people of Osun have spoken, they want Adeleke,” he submitted.
Meanwhile, the Accord Party candidate in the poll, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, has decried the influence of money in the governorship election.
Ogunbiyi, who spoke through one of his aides, Stephen Owolabi, however, said Osun people had made their choice and he had no problem with their decision.
“The election was all about money. Money was shared openly. The operatives of the EFCC and police didn’t do anything. They even brought money to Ogunbiyi’s polling unit and ward. EFCC didn’t do enough.
“Despite the outcome of the election, the Accord Party candidate is in good spirit. He even went to church to thank God that none of those who worked with him died.
“In the election, Osun people made their choice and no problem about that,” Ogunbiyi added.