OLAJIDE OMOJOLOMOJU examines the hullaballoo following the declaration of Osun State gubernatorial election inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC).
The 2018 gubernatorial election in Osun State has come and gone, but the dusts raised by the outcome of the election, which was declared inconclusive by the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, may refuse to settle down in a long time to come.
The five leading contestants in the election, out of 48 candidates, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke, polled 254,698 votes, while his closest marker, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, of the All Progressives Congress, APC scored 254,345 votes. The candidate of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Otunba Iyiola Omisore, polled 128,049, while the candidate of the Action Democratic Party, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti scores 49,742 votes and that of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade also scored 7,681.
The announcement of the results and the declaration of the election inconclusive have elicited various reactions from various quarters. While some applauded the decision of INEC over the election, many others, especially the opposition PDP has continued to knock the electoral umpire, asking it to declare Adeleke the winner of the election.
The PDP, while reacting to the development through it National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, described the INEC’s declaration as a “sordid robbery of the franchise of the people of the state.”
The party called on INEC to immediately declare Adeleke the winner. Ologbondiyan said, “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.’
Also, Senate President Bukola Saraki, in a statement also called on INEC to declare Adeleke the winner of the election.
Even former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George did not spare the INEC, saying that Osun people have spoken and their will should prevail.
In a statement he personally signed, George said, “In a free and fair democratic process, the people of Osun chose Senator Ademola Adeleke as the next governor to preside over their affairs for the next four years.
“It was a clear, unambiguous victory well earned by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party. Senator Adeleke was the people’s choice. Mr Gboyega Oyetola, the APC Candidate was defeated regardless of the narrow margin.
“It is rather disturbing for the INEC to now concoct an unnecessary stalemate. Cancelled votes remain cancelled, removed from the total votes. Where then did they manufacture a so called inconclusive election”?
George added that the INEC decision “has no bearing with our electoral law,” describing it as “a blatant fraud which may trigger a dangerous recourse for our democracy.”
He added that Adeleke fulfilled all the necessary electoral requirements for his well-deserved victory, saying that there is no extant electoral stipulation for a so called “rerun farcical dramatization.”
He concluded, “INEC must as a matter of justice, fairness and the codification of the rule of law and constitutional primacy declare Senator Adeleke as the rightful winner. The will of the people must prevail. We must not conflagrate this nation.
“The dark experience of 1963 that reverberated across the South West and that eventually consumed our nation began with this similar attempt to thwart the will of the people. This nation must never go through this road again. The whole world is watching. We must not set this country ablaze. The agents of doom and destruction must never prevail.”
But is what happened in Osun novel to our political experiement? The answer is not far-fetched. And in most of the previous situations where this has been used in an election, and where it favoured the PDP, the electoral umpire INEC is praised to high heavens.
INEC has applied this regulation in several polls, and thus, applying it in the case of Osun for exactly the same reason should not be regarded as an attempt to manipulate the Osun gubernatorial election in fvaour of any party.
The same rule was applied in governorship elections in Imo State in 2011 and 2015; Anambra State in 2013; Taraba State in 2015; Kogi State in 2015 and Taraba State in 2015. It has also been applied in several other polls across the country.
In the first instance, the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) made it the exclusive preserve of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible elections, and to achieve this onerous task, the voter is very important: his or her vote must count and therefore, it is of great importance to protect the sanctity of the vote.
In carrying out its functions as prescribed by the constitution, INEC assigns responsibilities; defines the processes and procedures and prescribes sanctions where necessary.
In specific terms, Section 153 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) empowers INEC, in pursuit of the provisions of the Act, to “issue regulations, guidelines, or manuals for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of this Act and for its administration thereof.” And in accordance to this section, INEC has designed guidelines and regulations to protect the sanctity of the vote in situations where there are events, either man-made or natural, to disenfranchise voters.
It is not strange in our polity to see ballot boxes and materials hijacked by politicians or chase away voters violently and create commotion in the electoral process to gain undue advantage over their opponents.
And it is in an attempt to forestall the disenfranchisement of a potential voter that INEC formulated guidelines and regulations to give such disenfranchised voter,for no cause of his own, another opportunity to exercise their franchise, especially where the number of the affected voters will make a difference in the final outcome of an election.
Now let us examine instances where the rule applied in Osun election was applied in the past:
In the Imo State gubernatorial election in 2015, between Rochas Okorocha of the APC and Emeka Ihedioha of the PDP, Okorocha polled 385,671 votes to Ihedioha’s 306,142 votes, with a margin of 79,529 votes between them, while a total of 144,715 votes were cancelled.
It was clearly evident that the victory margin was far lower than the number of cancelled votes, enough to actually balance the votes.
Then, INEC under Prof Attahiru Jega, declared the election inconclusive. Note that the then ruling PDP hailed INEC and Jega, describing it “a patriotic and sound decision.”
The APC kicked against the decision of the INEC, but a rerun election took place and the APC won.
The same scenario had earlier played out in the same Imo State in 2011, between Okorocha, then of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA and Ikedi Ohakim of PDP, when for the same reason, INEC declared election inconclusive, because election then did not take place in some wards.
In 2011, it was the same game plan in Anambra State in the senatorial election between the late former Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, who contested on the platform of APGA and present Miniter of Labour and former governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Akunyili had polled 66,273 votes against Ngige’s 65,576 votes, with a margin of 697 votes; but because election was cancelled in some wards, where the voting population was higher than the margin between the duo, INEC declared the election inconclusive; a rerun took place and Akunyili lost to Ngige.
Also in 2015, during the Kogi State gubernatorial election, the late former governor of the state, Abubakar Audu, running on the platform of the APC, was pitched against the then incumbent governor, Wada Idris of the PDP.
Audu polled 240,867 votes against Wada’s 199,514 votes with a margin of 41, 353. But the total cancelled vote amounted to 49,953, which outweighed the margin. The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu declared the election inconclusive and ordered a rerun.
It is worthy of note that the APC has assumed the mantle of leadership at the centre in that November and was actually with a huge lead, but INEC refused to budge under intense pressure to announce the ruling party the winner of the election and the PDP applauded that decision and hailed INEC.
Also in 2015, at the gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State, the PDP candidate, Seriake Dickson polled 105,748 votes to Timipre Siva, the APC candidate’s 72,594 votes with a margin of 33,154 votes, before a charade result of over 120,000 votes from Southern Ijaw for Silva, a number which was higher than the number of registered voters. The PDP received the news with celebration and praised INEC to the high heavens.
Another case in perspective was the 2013 gubernatorial election in Anambra State where Willie Obiano, the APGA candidate polled 174,710 votes against PDP’s Tony Nwoye’s 94,956 votes with a margin of 79,754 votes. Total cancelled votes were 113,113 votes, higher than the margin between the duo.
INEC, under Jega, declared the election inconclusive and the decision was described by the PDP as “a bold move.”
From these few cases, even where the margins had been massive and where in most cases, the PDP was at the receiving end, the declaration of elections in those instances as inconclusive were well accepted and celebrated by the PDP.
Perhaps, there are certain things the PDP and other analysts and commentators crying wolf over the Osun election have seen that are not discerning to the generality of Nigerians; or perhaps, the party was bent on foistering its will on the people. May be majority of those bashing INEC and its decision have decided to forget history or turn history on its heads.
Note that in the Osun case, the margin between the leading candidate, Adeleke of the PDP and the runner up, Oyetola of the APC, is a paltry 353 votes, while the total number of cancelled votes in the election was 3,498 votes, more than 1000 per cent of the margin, and is therefore not enough for a party to insist that it should be declared the winner of the disputed poll.
Section 53 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that where there is over voting, as was in the case in one polling unit in Ife North Local Government Area, INEC should declare the result null and void and another date fixed for the conduct of fresh election, especially, where the registered number of voters could make a difference in the election result and in this case, the total number of voters equals the margin between the two leading candidates.
There were disruptions also in six other polling units: three in Orolu Local Government Area, with a total 947 registered voters; two in Ife South Local Government Area with cumulative total registered 1,314 voters and one in Osogbo Local Government Area with 884 voters.
It is therefore not out of place for the electoral umpire, INEC to declare a rerun election in Osun State, as there were precedents to point at and as far as the commission was not acting outside its mandate as conferred on it by the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Law 2010 (as amended).
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