Frontline pro-democracy think tank, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) through its Election Analysis Centre (EAC), has commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other election stakeholders for the successful conduct of the July 16 governorship election in Osun State.
In its post-election statement on Sunday signed the its Director, Idayat Hassan, and the CDD-EAC chairman, Professor Adele Jinadu, the group praised all election stakeholders for what it described as a positive performance.
CDD-EAC expressed satisfaction that despite apprehension about the possibility of violent disruption of the election, the process has turned out to be peaceful.
CDD noted that like the Ekiti State governorship election held last month, the Osun poll witnessed impressive voter enthusiasm.
The group commended the political actors for ensuring that the post-election environment remained calm, peaceful and free of any agitations following the declaration of the results by the State Collation Officer appointed by INEC.
According to the results as declared by INEC, Senator Ademola Adeleke of the PDP polled 403,371 votes (51.8%) to defeat his closest challenger, incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the APC, who polled 375,027 votes (48.2%).
Subsequently, the group called on all contestants to embrace the spirit of true sportsmanship, which entails being graceful in defeat, and exhibiting magnanimity in victory, noting that democracy grows with such virtues.
On the general atmosphere, which characterised the election, the pro-democracy group’s verdict was that the election saw significant improvement in INEC’s election logistics and poll opening time and the conduct of INEC officials.
“For example, critical materials were promptly distributed. INEC indicates that 827,218 voters were accredited out of 1,952,387 registered voters for the election, representing a 42.37% turnout.
“This is an improvement over the 36.74% voter turnout recorded in the Ekiti 2022 governorship election, and is a marginal improvement over the voter turnout of 41.34% recorded in the 2018 Osun governorship election,” it said.
On the issue of deployment of election materials, which used to undermine elections in the past, CDD-EAC data showed that INEC officials and materials arrived very early across the 30 local government areas (LGAs) of the State.
“INEC officials arrived early, some as early as 6:32 am, and started setting up their workspaces and removing posters of political parties. Only a few polling units reported late arrival of critical election materials.
“One of those isolated cases was in Ward 6, polling unit 6, Osun Ila where only 490 ballot papers were provided instead of 494 for accredited voters. However, INEC officials successfully resolved this issue to the satisfaction of the party agents,” it added.
On the issue of functionality of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the CDD-EAC report said the performance of the device was largely successful in the Osun State governorship election.
“As at 6:00pm, CDD-EAC observed that 84.3% of polling units covered had transmitted their results via BVAS. Likewise, the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) was in full operation for the uploading of results in most of the polling units. At about 10:00pm, 99.7% of the results were available on the IReV. This level of compliance is commendable and needs to be encouraged for future elections.
“With a few exemptions, BVAS worked perfectly in almost all the polling units across the 30 local government areas of the state,” the group said.
The group, however, noted that one of the challenges experienced in the Osun election was the difficulty of the BVAS in capturing and accrediting the elderly. The pro-democracy group noted that the same challenge was encountered in the recently concluded Ekiti election where elderly voters encountered problems getting accredited by the BVAS.
On the issue of inclusion of people with disabilities, the CDD-EAC observation found substantial compliance with the provision for people with special needs, such as pregnant women and elderly voters, to cast their ballots first.
“In line with INEC guidelines, poll officials prioritised the elderly, pregnant women and the disabled in most of the polling units. CDD-EAC also observed that INEC provided equipment including braille ballot guides and magnifying glasses to assist voters with disabilities to cast their votes. However, 13.5% of polling units observed did not make proper arrangements for voters with disabilities. CDD-EAC notes poor representation of women given only six women deputy governorship candidates and no female governorship candidate in the election.”
On the challenge of vote buying, the CDD-EAC observed that the act was done discreetly in Osun, unlike the brazen vote buying in the Ekiti State election. This, the centre stressed was because of the presence of watchful anti-graft security personnel. The other challenge, which according to the report was prevalent in the election is the problem of fake news and misinformation. The CDD-EAC noted that its Fake News Hub for the July 16, Osun State Governorship election closely monitored online and offline spaces with the objective of tracking and fact-checking fake news and misinformation.
“A number of fake news stories, misleading captions for images, and the sharing of dead online links were used by partisan actors to mislead voters or to possibly depress the vote in areas in which the political opposition is perceived to have some strengths. CDD-EAC fact-checkers have also documented claims and counter-claims by political actors over allegations of vote buying.
“Using online tools, and a range of verification techniques, CDD-EAC fact-checkers worked independently to fact-check fake news and misinformation capable of undermining voter confidence. One of the major fake news stories, which trended on Election Day, was the claim that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Ademola Adeleke had been sacked by a court. CDD-EAC fact checkers verified and found this claim to be false. CDD-EAC fact-checkers also spotted a claim that one of the major opposition parties’ candidates was asking voters to swear an oath that voters voted for him before he would pay them.
“However, CDD-EAC fact-checkers found nothing on the circulated image to lend credence to the claim. Our fact-checkers also noted that the image, which was circulated to make the claim, was taken at the point the candidate was casting his vote. Fact checkers at our fake news hub also spotted a claim circulating online that the APC Presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu was on the ballot in the Osun State Governorship election. This claim was confirmed to be false.”
As Nigeria marches towards the 2023 general elections therefore, CDD-EAC reiterated its call to INEC and stakeholders to maintain and consolidate their cordial working relationship for the conduct of future elections.
It said: “The collaboration between INEC and other stakeholders, especially Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and security agents, including anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) also contributed to the successful outcome of the Osun election. With the countdown towards the highly anticipated 2023 general elections, all stakeholders must sustain the synergies, which have contributed to the vast improvements recorded in Osun and Ekiti States. At the CDD-EAC, we hope to see the improvements recorded in the recent elections replicated in the conduct of the 2023 general elections.”