After a testy two-horse race in which the leading contenders ran neck-to-neck, the outcome of Saturday’s governorship election in Osun turned out an anti-climax of sorts.
The Chief Returning Officer for the election, Prof. Joseph Fuwape, had declared the election inconclusive, after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ademola Adeleke, had garnered 254,698 votes to beat the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer, Gboyega Oyetola, who had 254,345.
Fuwape, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Akure, said that the electoral guidelines require that the margin between the two leading contestants must be in excess of the total registered voters where an election was cancelled.
He further explained that the margin between the candidate of the APC and that of the PDP was 353 while there were 3,498 registered voters in the contentious seven polling units spread across the four local government areas of Orolu, Osogbo, Ife South and Ife North.
In one of the closest margins in Nigeria’s election history, Adeleke won with 353 votes, short of the 3,498 voided in Orolu Local Government Area (three units–947 votes), Ife South Local Government Area (two units–1,314 votes), Ife North Local Government Area (One unit–353 votes) and Osogbo Local Government Area (One unit, 884 votes).
After conducting no fewer than 191 different types of elections, including six governorship polls since 2015, the final outcome of Saturday’s exercise was indeed a benumbing experience for the election management body and its16, 000-strong staff deployed for the exercise.
Although 48 political parties presented candidates for the election, the battle for the coveted seat, in reality, was between APC candidate, Gboyega Oyetola, PDP standard bearer, Ademola Adeleke, and Social Democratic Party flag bearer, Iyiola Omisore.
The outcome of that electoral exercise and the portents thrown up offer compelling lessons as the nation inches toward the 2019 general elections.
One of the immediate lessons thrown up by the governorship election is that office seekers would no longer take the ordinary voter for granted.
The electoral exercise in Osun presented a highly mobilised people with unusual political consciousness that not only turned out to vote but also remained resolute at various polling units to monitor the vote counting process.
Although INEC registered a total of 1,682,495 voters, some 400,000 Permanent Voters Cards were uncollected 24 hours before the election.
A total 815,798 voters, however, participated in the exercise while a whopping 47,843 votes were to be voided by INEC.
In spite of the drumbeats of war in some quarters, the Osun election was perhaps the most peaceful in recent times as the thousands of security officials deployed from the military, police, Department of State Services as well as Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, among others, were largely on holiday.
Other than the few incidents of ballot snatching in the contentious polling units set to hold rerun, there was no other report of violence across the 3,010 Polling Units and 755 Polling Points spread across the three senatorial districts and 30 local government areas of the state.
The serenity in the state as the election got underway and the peaceful conduct of voters at polling units were, however, not necessarily due to the ubiquitous presence of gun-wielding security personnel deployed but much more a product of the fidelity of the electoral process put in place by INEC.
Indeed, across many polling units, election materials and the commission’s staff arrived well before the 8.am commencement of accreditation and voting while the often unpredictable card readers were somewhat pliable.
The welter of commendation by domestic and international observers over INEC’s conduct of this latest exercise is particularly instructive.
According to Ketil Karlsen, who is the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria, INEC has conducted a “proper” election.
Karlsen, who spoke on behalf of a group of 28 observers from eight European countries, also says: “I commend INEC so much because it’s like they have learnt from previous elections.
“And that is exactly what we want to see, for the people to vote for who they want democratically.
“The security situation is also commendable; everywhere is peaceful, very calm…this is a good development for democracy; to decide who determines your well-being. We hope this will serve as an inspiration for the 2019 elections.’’
In a way, the conciliatory remarks by the actors in the political process, particularly the candidates and party leaders during the exercise, also contributed in dousing tension and reigning in those predisposed to violence.
The voting pattern in the election, however, further reinforces the country’s fault line of “ethnocentrism’’ even in a state that is largely mono-cultural, with each of the candidates hauling in the most votes in their senatorial districts.
While Oyetola for example hauled in 23,379 votes from Osogbo Local Government Area in his Osun Central Senatorial District, Adeleke had 14,499.
In Ede North Local Government Area under Osun West Senatorial District which Adeleke presently represents, his PDP garnered 18,745 compared with APC’s 7,025 and SDP’s 1,382
Omisore, on his part, raked in 20,494 in Ife East Local Government Area, Osun East Senatorial District, in contrast to APC’s 6,957 and PDP’s 3, 200.
Given the keen competition between the two leading contenders and the slim margin, it was understandable that the rerun decision by the electoral umpire would at once attract an admixture of outrage and support.
The PDP believes it has been robbed of victory, insisting that the election process was conclusive and that its candidate was in clear lead.
The party’s spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, maintains that Section 179 (2) (a)(b) of the 1999 Constitution, (as amended) “ is clear and very unambiguous in spelling out the conditions for returning a candidate to the office of governor of a state.’’
“This section states inter-alia, “A candidate for an election to the office of Governor of a State shall be deemed to have been duly elected where, there being two or more candidates – (a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the state.
“The declaration of the election as inconclusive by INEC is therefore a sordid robbery of the franchise of the people of Osun State, who participated in the election,’’ he says.
But the APC Campaign Council for the 2018 Osun Governorship Election, describes as “excessive grandstanding” the call by the PDP for INEC to declare Adeleke winner.
The Chairman of the Council’s Media Committee, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, decries PDP’s “descent into hysteria’’ after INEC announced that the election was inconclusive.
Rather than resort to threats, Mohammed advises the PDP to either go to court or decide not to participate in the supplementary election of Thursday.
He further says: “What the PDP cannot and must not do is to engage in its trademark brigandage or to employ tactics that can short-circuit the democratic process.
”In its time, there would have been no room for a supplementary election in Osun because the PDP would have used state institutions to hijack the election proper, as it did in Ekiti in 2014.
“But in its deafening hysteria, the PDP pretends not to understand the real meaning of the outcome of the Osun election.
“The party failed to understand that the ruling APC did nothing to prevent the state institutions that organised the election from carrying out their duties in the spirit of true democracy.
”Local and foreign observers have hailed INEC and the security agencies for a well-organised election. We join them in this commendation.
“Our confidence in the ability of the relevant state institutions involved in the Osun election remains unshaken.
“So also is our belief that every disagreement resulting from the election must be resolved through the democratic process rather than a resort to threats of fire and brimstone.”
According to Mohammed, the APC was leading the PDP massively (by over 40,000 votes) in the 2015 Kogi governorship election when INEC declared the election inconclusive.
”Rather than resort to threats like the PDP is doing now, the APC simply submitted to the democratic process and the supplementary election was peacefully conducted in 91 polling units across 18 of the 21 local governments in the state,’’ he says.
While the two parties dig in ahead of Thursday’s rerun, Omisore, the Ile-Ife prince and serial contestant, has paradoxically become the beautiful bride with both contending parties said to be making overtures to him to swing the votes either way.
Ironically too, the spectra of vote buying, which all but fizzled out at polling units in Saturday’s poll, has once again reared its ugly head, with a price tag of N50,000 said to be on offer to each of the 3,498 potential voters holding a PVC in the contentious polling units.
The task before INEC and the security agencies is already well cut out for them on Thursday: they must deliver a credible and conclusive poll to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.
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