By Solomon Odeniyi
Following the judgement of a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, where it held that the nomination of Senator Ademola Adeleke as candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the September 2018 Governorship Election in Osun State was null and void, legal practitioners have spoken on the implications of the verdict.
The judgment as delivered by Justice Othman Musa was premised on the fact that Adeleke does not possess the minimum educational qualification (Secondary School Certificate) prescribed in Section 177 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended and that the result attached to the form CF001 he used to secure clearance from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was fake.
The case was filed by the duo of Wahab Raheem and Adam Habeeb who are chieftains of the All Progressives Congress in Osun.
Justice Musa stressed that whereas the court found that Adeleke entered secondary school in 1976, there was no record to show that the PDP’s flag-bearer actually graduated, as his name was not found in the school’s register from 1980.
It stressed that the result he produced was found to be different from the one presented to the court by the principal of Ede Muslim High School, Ede, Osun State, where Adeleke purportedly graduated.
In another development, witnesses brought before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday told the court that the senator did not sit for the National Examination Council Examinations in 2017 as he claimed.
The witnesses include, Emmanuel Odesola and Adigun Akintayo who acted as supervisors and invigilators during the said exams in Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School.
Odesola who was the third prosecution witness said, though it was his first time of being in the school he didn’t see the senator in the examination hall.
The witnesses said they only saw one Sikiru Adeleke (the Senator’s brother) who is listed as 2nd respondent in the examination hall.
Apart from the case of which the judgement had been delivered, Ademola Adeleke and Sikiru Adeleke were accused of fraudulently, through impersonation registered as students of Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School, Ojo-Aro, Osun State to enable them sit for the NECO exam in 2017.
Reacting to the court verdict, a human right advocate, Barrister Kayode Adebisi said, by the judgement of the court, in the eyes of the law, the PDP did not field a candidate for the election, noting that it was not possible for the PDP to be declared victorious in an election it did not participate in.
He said: “It’s a pre-election matter and it boils down on the fact that the PDP presented an unqualified candidate for the election. What the PDP candidate did was against the Electoral Act 2010 as amended. Section 139 to be precise states that before you contest an election, you need to sign an oath that the information you are giving is true to the best of the person’s knowledge. If it is now found out that you have lied, like that of Adeleke the court can disqualify such candidate.
“However, in the eyes of the law, the PDP had no candidate for the gubernatorial election. In an election the victory belongs to the party and not the individual. The laws of the land do not recognize independent candidacy. Therefore, the party has not followed due process in producing a candidate for that election and it cannot claim any victory.
He said the legal team of Governor Gboyega Oyetola at the tribunal could capitalize on this by presenting this with valid evidence as part of the case before the Court of Appeal.
A lawyer, Yomi Obaditan believes that the judge must have looked at the evidence from both sides before giving his judgement, adding that the last may not have been heard of the case.
He said, the implications of the judgement is that it might put a paid to his gubernatorial ambition if it ends this way at the Supreme Court, even if the election tribunal’s judgement is upheld at the apex court .
He said: “This is what is called a pre-election matter. According to the judgement, Adeleke was unfit to have contested the election as stated in Section 177 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999. It spelt out qualification of candidates contesting elective positions.
“When you look at the nitty-gritty of the law on the allegation, the implication is that Adeleke forged his certificate and it is a criminal issue and doesn’t have to do with his disqualification. The question before us is did Adeleke acquired secondary education? If yes, the Court of Appeal will annul the High Court judgement”, he stressed.