When the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the conduct of the governorship election in Osun State last year, it was like the day would never come.
But alas, like the twinkle of an eye, the long awaited September 22, 2018 election to the office of the governor of Osun State came but the expectation that by Sunday, 23rd of September, the governor-elect would emerge became a mirage.
Long before last Sunday’s inconclusive declaration, politicians in Osun, like others world over, couldn’t go to sleep, so, before the lift of ban on expression of interest by aspirants to the seat of governor by prospective political gladiators, underground work had commenced and aspirants began to strategise.
Recall that it was late Senator Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, a brother to the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ademola Adeleke that first showed his aspiration to contest for governor on the platform of APC.
He was scolded on the account that it was too early to show interest and it was on that strength that ban was placed on further expression of interest so that governance could thrive against politicking.
However, other political parties were putting what was left of them together by putting in place party executive committees that would lead them to victory when the time came.
The INEC continued with what it knows how to do best by allowing all eligible voters to register, distribute Permanent Voter’s Card to prospective voters among others
Having set up executive committees by prospective political parties and adhering strictly to the timetable of INEC, aspirants to the seat of the governor started showing up.
In the People’s Democratic Party, no fewer than 25 aspirants emerged, all of them showed their interest with fanfare long before the All Progressives Congress (APC) lifted ban for expression of interest.
Notable among the aspirants in the PDP were, former Speaker, Osun House of Assembly, Hon Adejare Bello; former secretary to the state government; Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade; Akogun Lere Oyewumi; Prof Adeolu Durotoye; Senator Olasunkanmi Akinlabi; Dr Akin Ogunbiyi; Chief Nathaniel Oke; Senator Ademola Adeleke; Senator Kola Ogunwale to mention but few.
The governorship primary election that fragmented the party was conducted through delegates’ election popularly known as indirect primary election.
The intrigue involved in the conduct of the money induced party primary and subsequent emergence of Senator Ademola Adeleke as the flag bearer of PDP, fragmented the party as gladiators like Alhaji Fatai Akinbade; Prof Adeolu Durotoye; Hon Adejare Bello among others dumped the party for other parties.
Akinbade eventually settled with African Democratic Congress where he emerged the governorship candidate with rtd Justice Oloyede emerging as his deputy.
For the All Progressives Congress, tension heightened as the protracted ban on aspirants began to raise suspicion even when some parties had picked their candidates.
Eventually when the ban was lifted, no fewer than 30 aspirants showed interest initially but along the line, some of them took their exit from the race.
Notable among the aspirants were, the secretary to the state government, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti; Dr Peter Babalola; Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, who was the chief of staff to the governor; deputy speaker, House of Representatives, Hon Lasun Yussuff; Mr Saka Layoonu; Engr Adeyemi Oriolowo; Speaker, Osun House of Assembly, Hon Najeem Salam among others.
Against the expectations of majority of the aspirants who had invested heavily towards reaching out to party delegates, the party announced direct primary for picking its candidate.
The decision generated bad blood and fragmented the party heavily with the exit and eventually withdrawal of Alhaji Moshood Adeoti, 12 out of the 16 member-executive committee of APC and some stalwarts of the party that included Dr Wale Bolorunduro, former commissioner for Finance under Aregbesola administration and Hon Sunday Akere also a former commissioner in Aregbesola’s government.
This set of decampees joined the Action Democratic Party where Alhaji Moshood Adeoti emerged as their governorship flag bearer.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) housed Senator Iyiola Omisore, a stalwart of the Peoples Democratic Party who slugged it out with the incumbent, Governor Rauf Aregbesola in the 2015 governorship election on the platform of the PDP.
Omisore left PDP when it became obvious that he may not get the party’s ticket to run for governor and therefore decided to join the Social Democratic Party, a party perceived to be weak in Osun then. Though the party like earlier mentioned, cannot be said to be among the front line political parties in Osun, the moment Omisore joined the party, it became relevant in the scheme of things in the state.
He eventually emerged the gubernatorial flag bearer of the party despite hues and cries over alleged dominance of the party by old members.
Because of the political consciousness of Osun people, 48 political parties filled candidate for the election, which has never happened anywhere in Nigeria.
The candidates engaged in campaigns across the state and it is right to commend politicians in the state that despite large numbers of political parties participating in the electioneering campaign, only pockets of violence were recorded.
INEC publicly acknowledged this through its resident electoral commissioner in Osun, Mr Olusegun Agbaje.
The issue of prompt payment of salaries of civi servants and allowances of retirees; payment of backlog of outstanding salaries as a result of introduction of modulated salary structure dominated the campaigns.
Others included the appeal to Osun electorate to consider a candidate from Osun West as the next governor of Osun after alleged marginalisation.
Osun recorded a peaceful election that witnessed massive turn out of voters across the state. INEC did excellently as officials with materials arrived at the polling units across the state promptly.
Though there was restriction of vehicular movement on the day of election, security operatives were civil in their approach hence removing conflicts during voting.
The election went on smoothly and counting was conducted at polling units, collation carried out at ward and local government levels accordingly. However, the long awaited moment for the announcement of Osun governorship election result became a mirage on Sunday 23rd, September with the INEC verdict that the election was inconclusive.
In 2015, when Osun witnessed election of the incumbent governor, the final result was released at about 6:00 am on Sunday by the then state returning officer despite similar foot-dragging that did not last for long.
However, on September 22, local government returning officers started arriving INEC headquarters located along Gbongan road with the results of election conducted in their local government of jurisdiction as early as 8:00pm.
By midnight, if not all, majority of the local government returning officers had converged on INEC, yet the collation exercise did not commence until about 2:am.
The local government returning officers painstakingly took their turns to give account of their stewardship.
The large number of the political parties involved in the exercise did not help matters as it took a long time for each returning officer to present his report.
You would pity some of the returning officers who probably, because of visual impairment, coupled with large numbers of political parties to contend with, had to sweat profusely to deliver their results.
Some of them even demanded a round of applause for successfully delivering their reports especially when it was hitch free. In truth, they deserve accolades for a job well done.
It was indeed a smooth exercise until the Peoples Democratic Party agent from Ayedaade local government area raised the issue of disparity in the result pasted on the notice board of INEC local government office in Gbongan.
According to him, the actual figure declared was short of 1,000 votes against his party. The observation generated row but the state returning officer, who was presiding, calmed nerves when he ordered the returning officer and the party agent to resolve the issue among themselves amicably.
The agent who defended his objection with the picture of the pasted election result, took some time before the local government returning officer came back to announce that the issue had been resolved.
The collation exercise was concluded at about 11:00 am and the expectations were that within the next one hour, the results would be announced.
People became apprehensive when the result was not forthcoming hours thereafter and which informed results flying on social media.
Besides, supporters of a particular political party mounted surveillance in front of INEC office. They would have loved to be at the collation center but for the tight security provided by security operatives round the collation center, they defied the heavy rain and insisted that the exercise was devoid of manipulation even though security agents had to fire tear gas to disperse the restive youths when they appeared to be growing wings.
The result was eventually released at the time tension had heightened with the verdict that the election was inconclusive.
Declaring the verdict of the electoral body, the state returning officer, Prof Joseph Fuwape, said the electoral law stated that as long as the marginal difference between the candidate with the highest vote and the runner up is lower to cancelled votes, there must be a rerun in the areas affected.
Professor Fuwape, who is the vice chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure announced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Nurudeen Ademola Adeleke, as having led in the contest with 254,698 votes as against 254,345 votes obtained by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola.
The Social Democratic Party candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore polled 128,049 to come third while the candidate of the Action Democratic Party, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti scored 49,742 votes.
The African Democratic Congress (ADC) candidate, Alhaji Fatai Akinade Akinbade also scored 7,601 to come fifth among the 48 political parties involved in the contest.
Thursday, September 27th was thereafter announced for the seven units in four local government where the cancellation took place.
The decision of INEC has since generated reactions from various quarters, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rejected the verdict, the All Progressives Congress acclaimed.
While the two frontiers have agreed to participate in the election, the remaining 46 parties are not left out.
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