Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola , Chief Rauf Aregbesola : Who wins at Election Petition Tribunal ?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola

Chief Rauf Aregbesola

By Emmanuel Oladesu

Osun State Action Congress (AC) governorship candidate Chief Rauf Aregbesola and Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will submit their written addresses to the Election Petition Tribunal on Monday in readiness for judgmenet. Deputy Political Editor EMMANUEL OLADESU writes on the protracted litigation, the anxiety and tension it has raised.

There is anxiety again in Osun State as the reconstituted Election Petition Tribunal winds up on the most protracted political litigation in the state.

Concern is also mounting across the 30 local government areas; in the towns, villages and hamlets over the ability of the temple of justice to live up to expectation. The fear is not unfounded. The previous tribunal headed by Justice Thomas Naron wasted the time of the people. The verdict it delivered was consigned to the garbage. A doubt was cast on the judiciary as counsel alleged bias and partisanship on the part of the panel members.

Little did the voters know that they were in for a three-year suspense. They had filed out on April 14, 2007 to cast their votes for either Chief Rauf Aregbesola, governorship candidate of Action Congress (AC) and Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

However, the outcome of the exercise put the stakeholders off. As the AC alleged malpractices on the part of the electoral umpire and the rival PDP, the result of the critical election was discredited. A governor was sworn in, but the legitimacy crisis persisted. Up to now, the poll is inconclusive.

On Monday, Aregbesola’s final address, which has been filed early in the week, would be endorsed by his counsel. The written address was signed by Ebun Sofunde (SAN), Akin Olujimi (SAN), Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Deji Sasegbon(SAN), M.B Galileo and Ajibola Bashir. Essentially, it hammers on the issues for determination before the tribunal. They are two fold.

The first is ‘whether the first respondent (Oyinlola) was duly elected as governor of Osun State on April 14, 2007 in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2006 and the manual for election, having regard to the totality of the evidence adduced at the trial (Both oral and documentary)’

The second is ‘whether from the fact before the tribunal the governorship election held in Osun State on April 14, 2007 was vitiated by any form of irregularities or corrupt practices and in the circumstances warranting the ordering of fresh election’.

According to the counsel, Aregbesola is seeking to be declared the validly elected or returned governor . His claim is that the election in 10 of the 30 councils violated the rules of the game. The AC candidate is seeking the nullification of the votes posted for the parties in the affected local governments.

The 10 councils are Atakumosa West, Ayedaade, Boluwaduro, Boripe, Ife Central, Ife Eas t, Ife South, Ifedayo, Isokan and Odo-Otin.

If the votes from the councils are cancelled, the AC candidate will have a majority votes of 198,779 as against Oyinlola’s 172, 880.

Also, the implication is that Oyinlola will have just one quarter of the total votes cast in 17 local government areas. But Aregbesola will have one quarter in the remaining 20 local councils. This further validates his claim to victory at the poll .In accordance with Section 179(2) of the 1999 Constitution.

But counsel to Oyinlola, Kunle Kalejaye (SAN) thinks otherwise. He countered the submission of Aregbesola’s counsel, insisting that his client won the poll.

Also, the Special Adviser to Oyinlola on Information, Lasisi Olagunju, said:’there is no cause for alarm. We are expecting the best at the tribunal. AC should be preparing for the next election instead of wasting their time and day dreaming. We believe in the judiciary and rule of law’.

Had the previous tribunal been more dispassionate about its duty, the primacy of justice would have been defended and democracy would not have been at crossroads.

From the onset, the displaced tribunal, apart from being infected by dictatorial virus, conducted the litigation in a controversial manner and with unconcealed bias.

Across the globe, legal minds attach monumental value to the weight of evidence. It is of central importance in law. The relevant evidence, backed by the force of law, would have exposed the intricacies of the electoral ruse, judging by its tendency to make the fact at issue before the tribunal more or less probable than it would have been without proof.

The burden of proof rested on the petitioners, Aregbesola and AC, who sought to prove beyond reasonable doubt and with clear and convincing evidence that victory had been allotted to Oyinlola in error.

By annulling the forensic report tendered by the British expert, Adrian Forty, the tribunal consequently shielded the embarrassing exhibits, thereby denying itself the prospect of setting a good precedence in the country.

Also, lawyers agreed that the time frame which the Naron Tribunal relied upon in giving the controversial judgment rejecting the pure forensic analysis amounted to partisan elevation of technicalities over and above substantial justice.

The onus is now on the current tribunal to accept or reject the allegations that ghost voters existed in the 10 contentious local governments. It will also answer a number of puzzles: Were people allowed to vote without ticking their names on the voter’ register? Were the electoral officers empowered and legally strengthened to accord voting right to unregistered voters? Why did that trend persist across the 10 councils?

The break down of the results discredited the poll. For example, in Atakumosa Local Government, the rigging recorded was an affront on the voters. The same results were duplicated in many polling units on Form EC 8 A.

In other councils, the ballot box was attacked in several ways. This eroded its value as the most vital instrument for the expression of choice in valid elections.

To be verifiable, the ballot paper must have serial numbers. This feature makes it a robust democratic weapon of mass participation and emancipation.

In a country where the integrity of the electoral process is grossly in doubt, the serial number provides the lead to conceive irregularities, unruly acts of mass rigging and connivance. To safe its face, the smart electoral agency may simply draw another set of distribution lists to match the spread.

‘That may have been the reason why INEC claimed before the first tribunal that the distribution list for Ife Central Local Government, one of the councils been disputed, could not be found at the time of the court hearings. It was a concorted attempt to prevent access to critical evidence’, said Bashir.

Aregbesola’s counsel have also protested the illegal splitting of the ballot booklets which was rampant across the councils been contested by him. They argued that this generated, at least, 78,038 illegal votes in those areas. On a unit by unit analysis, the illegal split ballot booklets were self evident from the ballot papers presented by INEC.

Similarly, the counsel pointed out that the results of the thumb-printing analysis, when compared with the stuffing and splitting analysis, showed vivid pattern of rigging.

Instructively, the analyses were all independently conducted.

Of necessity, the ballot papers were expected to be issued with detailed distribution lists showing the ranges that were allocated for use at designated voting areas. At the polling unit level, the ballot paper distribution was done through bounded booklets of 100 papers each. It was easy to then traced their whereabout

However, Naron Tribunal admitted the Certify True Copy of their EC8A. For example, in Odo Otin council, the EC8A forms for several polling units were blank. However, results were posted on EC8B for the affected units

As Bashir argued, ‘the evidence of blank or non-existent EC8A was real, adding that ‘it also rendered the votes posted for the affected units invalid, unlawful and void’.

More worrisome was the issue of appropriate signing of Form EC8B. Aregbesola’s counsels alleged that in Ife Central Council, only PDP agent signed the form. The catalogue conveyed the impression that the election was exclusively conducted for the PDP by INEC.

In others, elections were disrupted, thereby making it impossible for the AC agents to sign the forms. In Ife Central, only the PDP agent signed the form for 11 wards, including Ilare I, II , III and IV, Iremo I, II, III, IV and V, Akarabata and Moore/Ojaja.

The forensic expert, Adrian Forty, and his team had hunted for traces of malpractices during their examination. In their finger print analysis, they discovered evidence of ballot stuffing and misuse of election materials. The coordinated effort resulted into another miracle of information technology. And it was a great service to electoral democracy an eye opener indeed.

When the images from a single booklet of ballot papers in sequential order were compared, the comparism disclosed an embarrassing evidence. It revealed many instances of multiple voting where there were long runs of consecutive ballot papers bearing impressions that had been made by the same person.

The forensic analysis also showed that multiple voting was not as a result of random instances of persons merely seizing the opportunity of casually casting more than one vote.

Forty said that it was indeed, the result of a determined and systematic state-wide rigging on a grand scale.

Observers contend that the overall result of the finger print examination challenged the credibility and validity of the election result. Their assessment was based on Forty’s verdict. A total 224,695 ballot papers were examined. Out of this number, 93,088 had multiple votes. This represents 41.4 percent of the ballot papers used for the election.

Forty had also stated that it became evident early in the finger print examination that ballot papers from individual booklets of ballot papers were found in many polling units. He described it as an untidy approach by INEC.

In the written address, the greatest evidence that may nullify the victory of the PDP is the analysis of the voting time frame. Aregbesola submitted that, considering the number of votes allegedly posted in most of the polling units being challenged and the time used for voting, imaginary figures were posted.

He argued that voting involved processes that would consume some time. The processes include arrival, verification of voter’s name on the voting register, issuance of ballot papers, thump printing, casting of votes.

His Media Aide, Gbenga Fayemiwo, while shedding light on this said:‘INEC manual for election regulation and guidelines stipulate a voting period starting not earlier than 8 am and terminating not later than 3 pm. Thus, the maximum voting period of any voting boot is seven hours(420 minutes) however, real lfe constraints such as the late arrival of election materials, absence of security personnel, the verification process for polling agents and voters, readiness of polling booths and other practical logistic limitations make it impossible to vote continuously for 420 minutes without interruptions.

‘The total number of votes for polling stations was recorded on INEC’s Form EC*A or Form EC8B, when the former is not available. Thus, the average time spent by each voter at a polling station can easily be calculated by the application of elementary mathematics; that is, to divide 420 minutes by the total number of votes recorded on Form EC8A or Form EC8B. This gives the average time taken by each voter to cast his or her vote. That was the time that elapsed during identification, verification, ballot receipt, application of indelible ink, ballot thumb printing and actual casting of ballot

‘A careful examination of the total votes cast in many polling units reveals an average voting time that defies practical possibility in any election’.

On Monday, the tribunal is expected to adjourn sine die. When both parities come back, it would be judgment day. Until then, the anxiety continues.


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