It has been a roller-coaster two weeks for Ademola Adeleke, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in last year’s governorship election in Osun state.
- He experienced the high of being declared by the election petition tribunal as rightful winner of the election, contrary to INEC’s declaration of APC’s Gboyega Oyetola. The verdict is being appealed.
- He experienced the low of having his candidacy declared invalid by a Federal High Court in Abuja, which ruled that he was ineligible by virtue of submitting a fake WAEC result to INEC. The verdict is also being appealed.
The big question: What happens if the Supreme Court rules in the election petition case that Adeleke was the rightful winner, and then rules in the eligibility case that he was ineligible to contest as PDP candidate in the first place? What then? Does the governorship remain with the PDP or does it move to the party with the next highest votes (which is the APC)?
We asked three legal practitioners for their opinions on the matter:
- Ayokunle Odekunle, a lawyer and media public relations practitioner, said the high court ruling on Adeleke’s eligibility was flawed because “SSCE is not a requirement for contesting political office. He has First School Leaving certificate.”
- However, he said, even if the Supreme Court holds that Adeleke was ineligible, then “his deputy should be sworn in.” Citing the principle in Amaechi vs. INEC, he said “parties are on the ballot, not candidates.”
- Ayobami Olopade, a lawyer and associate with not-for-profit group, Civic Monitor, agrees. “In such a situation, Adeleke will be disqualified, but the PDP will still remain the ruling party in the state,” he said. “They may then have to decide who they intend to replace him.”
- “The law is that the party is voted for, and not the candidate. So a candidate may be disqualified but that does not nullify the party’s victory,” Olopade said.
- He however said it is not set in stone that Adeleke’s running mate would take over. He cited the Kogi example, where a different candidate, Yahaya Bello, was chosen, following the death of the then APC candidate, Abubakar Audu, who was leading at the time.
- Disagreeing with the other experts, another lawyer, Kayode Oyemakinde, who vied in 2018 for the All Progressives Congress (APC) primary ticket for Kosofe Constituency 1 in the Lagos assembly, said if Adeleke is found ineligible, “the incumbent will remain in power, since he is the next winner in the race.”
- Oyemakinde argued that another person within the PDP cannot be declared winner because recent judicial pronouncements have stated that “a person who did not stand the rigor of an election cannot come to enjoy its benefits.”
Bottom line: This is an unprecedented case, there won’t be uniformity of opinions. Ultimately it would fall on the learned justices of the Supreme Court to make the call if it ever gets to that point.