Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu
By Olawale Olaleye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and James Sowole
A week after the conclusion of the Ondo State governorship election, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Monday gave a rather ambivalent verdict on the conduct and outcome of the poll.
The party, whose candidate, Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, came a distant third in the race, said while it had resolved to put the election behind it, it would not hesitate to challenge the irregularities and wrongful actions that may have aided the results.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had declared the incumbent governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party (LP), as winner of the election.
Mimiko, who polled 260,199 votes, was followed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Chief Olusola Oko, with 155,961 votes, while Akeredolu polled143,512 votes.
On its part, Oke has written INEC demanding the certified true copies of some documents that would enable him to challenge the election results before the election petition tribunal.
However, the ACN in a statement by its National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said it had begun what it called a “swift assessment” of the entire process – from the vote count to other critical areas – and it would challenge any malpractice if proven that the process was tampered with.
Also, in another statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, the party called on the Federal Government to review its anti-terrorism tactics in view of last Sunday’s bomb attack on St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Kaduna, which it said had exposed the limitations of the current tactics.
Akande in his statement said: “We believe in the right of the people of Ondo State to determine who leads them. For us in the Action Congress of Nigeria, the Ondo State election is a battle in a larger war; the war of deepening democracy and ensuring accountability in our country.
“We are therefore resolved to put the elections behind us whilst pursuing the task of providing leadership to our people effectively.
“We have started an accurate but swift assessment of the entire election, from the vote count to the many and several irregularities and instances of thuggery and violence that occurred.
“Should we find ultimately that the misconduct and lapses were not sufficiently material to alter the outcome, we shall do the honourable thing and respect what has been announced.
“Should we find ultimately that the irregularities and wrongful actions materially altered the result, we shall contest the transgression as is our right and duty in a democracy.
“As leaders of a party and of people who trust the democratic process, we have a solemn obligation not to be swayed by emotion, on one side, or by intimidation, on the other.
“We owe a duty to ourselves, to the people of Ondo State, and to this nation to vigorously protect the integrity of the process both during and immediately after an election.”
Reviewing reactions to the election, Akande said while the party would not reject the results as being advocated by some people, it would also not bow to pressure to concede defeat.
“Some people have urged us to reject the INEC results outright because they do not favour my party. This we shall not do. We refuse to cynically treat our democracy as a thing to be discarded when its processes do not favour us.
“We believe in the long-run, the genuine processes of a genuine democracy shall favour all of us, even the loser of an election. We are prepared to lose elections if the contest is free and the process is fair and transparent.
“We know that in this manner our democracy is strengthened. No one race or political contest is worth damaging our democracy. We would rather lose the race and gain democracy than win the race and lose democracy in the process.
“On the opposite side of the spectrum, other people are trying to pressure us to concede defeat as if all was perfect with the election. They do so not because they love democracy but because they are the political opponents of our progressive party. Their interests are not in justice but in appearing to be concerned about justice,” he added.
On the security situation in the country, the party said the suicide bombing in Kaduna last Sunday showed that the Federal Government was not winning the anti-terror war.
While describing as ungodly and cruel the attack that affected mostly children and women in Kaduna, ACN said government must urgently evolve a measure that would protect innocent citizens from the terrorists and the security agencies, and curtail the ability of the insurgents to strike at a time and place of their own choosing.
It said before Sunday's attack in Kaduna, the rate at which innocent people were killed in attacks and reprisals between the security forces and the insurgents, was so alarming that it could not justify whatever modest success the government may claim to have achieved in the battle against the terrorists.
Meanwhile, preparatory to his decision to challenge the election result, Oke has written to INEC requesting certified true copies of documents necessary to prosecute his case.
The letter titled “Request for Production of Relevant Documents” written by the firm of Chief Olajide Ajana & Co, and signed by Chief Olajide Ajana, was addressed to the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Akin Orebiyi.
Ajana said the PDP had instructed his chambers to challenge the declaration of Mimiko as winner of the election before the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.
Among others, the legal firm is requesting INEC to supply it Forms EC.8C for 16 local government areas in Ondo State namely: Ilaje, Ese-Odo Irele, Akoko North East, Akoko South East, Akoko North West, Akure South, Akure North, Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo, Odigbo, Ose, Owo, Ifedore, Idanre, Ondo East and Ondo West.
It also asked INEC to make available to the firm, Forms EC.8B for all the wards in the 16 local governments listed, in addition to Forms EC.8A for all the polling units in the 16 local governments listed.