James Sowole gives account of last Saturday’s governorship election in Ondo State and how Governor Olusegun Mimiko, candidate of the Labour Party (LP), trounced his opponents
That the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was determined to make last Saturday’s Gubernatorial Election in Ondo State one of its best organised elections and a tremendous improvement on the July 14 governorship election in Edo State, was revealed by concerned agencies at the Stakeholders Meeting, held at Wembey Court, Oke Ijebu in Akure, on Wednesday, October 15. At the forum, INEC’s highest hierarchy headed by its Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, told of its preparedness for the conduct of the election.
Equally, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, hinted of all the arrangements made by the security agency to make the exercise successful.
Thus, INEC’s commitment to a free, fair and credible election in line with the assurance of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as well as the readiness of the security agencies excited those that attended the forum, including chairmen of the political parties, their candidates and running mates.
Many of the stakeholders seized the opportunity to express their apprehension and suspicion on various issues concerning the election. Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Akin Orebiyi, who was the first to brief the gathering, said the commission carried all the political parties along in the process of the preparation for the election as the INEC had organised not less than 10 meetings where stakeholders were briefed adequately.
During such meetings, he said various burning issues were trashed out with representatives of the political parties and other stakeholders.
The personnel deployed for the election included INEC’s staff serving in the state office of the commission and those from out stations. In most cases, those outside the state were the ones that manned the sensitive areas to avoid cases of compromise. However, the staff on ground provided necessary assistance.
Indeed, the entire electoral personnel was headed by the National Commissioner for South-west, Professor Layi Olurode, while 18 Resident Electoral Commissioners mainly from non-Yoruba speaking states served as Electoral Officers in local governments. In addition, various electoral officers and Assistant Electoral Officers helped the deployed RECS and other officers mobilised from outside the state.
The commission also made use of the current serving members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and final year students of the Adeyemi College of Education, Ondo for the exercise. In most of the places visited in the three senatorial districts of the state, there were no reports of misbehavior by either the ad hoc or staff of the INEC.
THISDAY, however, learnt that there was no voting in some polling units in the riverine areas of the state. In the entire Ugbo Ward 2 in Ilaje Local Government, which is the local government of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there was no voting because INEC officials did not show up at the polling units. Also at Ojigbobini/Igboran Arogbo Ward 2 unit 10, it was gathered that voting did not take place because INEC officials could not get speedboat to take them to the voting centre. A credible source also informed that there was tension in the area which might be one of the reasons voting was suspended there.
The seriousness of the various security agencies was disclosed by the IG at the stakeholders meeting where he read riot act to those that might want to foment trouble before, during and after election. As a result of this, there were no less than three security men at each of the polling units visited. The security men were either from the Nigeria Police, men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and men of the Immigration Services.
Stakes in the election were apparent in the elaborate security measures that were put in place to keep trouble makers at bay. The night before the election, all roads leading to the state, including the ever busy Ore-Benin Expressway was closed to traffic.
Across the length and breathe of the state, heavily armed members of different arms of the security forces patrolled or encamped around different parts of the city. And on the day of voting itself, there was constant blaring of sirens as security agents traversed the length and breadth of the city. Major roads in Akure, were devoid of their usual hustle and bustle even as motorists totally complied with the restriction in vehicular movement.
For journalists who moved round to cover the polls, meandering through the barricades manned by heavily armed soldiers, mobile policemen, operatives of the State Security Service as well as officers of the Civil Defence Corps was a common experience. Majority of the soldiers were civil.
In line with the IG directive, policemen attached to certain politicians for one reason or the other, were withdrawn while those that were with the governor and the deputy governor, were in mufti. Intermittent, helicopters hovered around major towns while marine police and men of the Nigerian Navy, were deployed to riverine areas.
Apparently to ensure neutrality, the Commissioner of Police for the Ondo State Command, Mr. Danladi Mshebwala, was directed to swap position with his Rivers State counterpart, Mr. Mohammed Ndabawa, from Thursday, October 19, until he is directed to move. Another thing that was noticeable was that most of the security men that served in sensitive position and areas were from outside the state particularly the soldiers, mobile policemen and men of the Anti Terrorism Squad.
However, there were complaints particularly from the opposition parties that the presence of security men was not that felt in the rural areas. But the complaints about lack of security men in some areas in the state capital, was addressed when the relevant agency heard about it on a private radio station that was giving details of the election processes.
Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Niger Delta Affairs, Hon Kingsley Kuku, who also doubles as chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), decried the security situation in the riverine areas of the state and stressed that security was relaxed in the coastal communities, such as Arogbo, Ukparama, Bolouwo, Ajapa, Agadagba-Obon, Ikorigho, Ilowo and, Ayetoro with intension to weakling the stronghold of the PDP candidate, Olusola Oke.
Unlike the situation during previous elections, the number of people that were arrested for breaching security order was minimal.
In Ondo Town, hometown of the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, voting was smooth and orderly except for the arrest of one Oni Samuel, who was said to be an agent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at Unit 22 Ward 7 behind Jolaco Filling Station, with about 100 voter cards.
Also in Owo, the hometown of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, the Commissioner for Special Duties, Hon. Niran Sule-Akinsuyi was rumoured to have been arrested by soldiers, who allegedly found arms in his vehicle.
However, the Commissioner of Police deployed for the election, Mr. Ndabawa Mohammed said that though he was aware of the rumour but if anybody was arrested, the soldiers were meant to hand them over to the police.
At Igbotako in Okitipupa Local Government, the PDP candidate, Chief Olusola Oke was said to have been held for more than one hour for violating law on restriction of movement. He was later released after he made several calls to undisclosed persons.
In Akungba, Akoko South -west Local Government Area, a middle age man was arrested while trying to go through the process of accreditation in two places at different time
Most vehicles that were used for the election were brought from outside the state particularly Hilux Vans that moved election materials to voting areas. In addition, the commission made use of buses hired from private operators to move materials to polling units. Equally, the commission made use of speed boats in the riverine areas. Unlike previous exercises when INEC depended on vehicles and speedboats provided by politicians, there was no much report of shortage of logistics for the election.
There was considerable improvement in the movement of materials to polling units though, there were minor cases of lateness of materials to some units. As planned, INEC had commenced movement of both sensitive and non sensitive materials for the election from Thursday, October 18 to local government electoral offices, particularly in identified difficult terrains such as Ilaje and Ese-Odo Local Governments.
In the Ondo North and Ondo Central Senatorial Districts, materials got early to most of the polling stations as early as 7.45am particularly in Akoko area of the state just as accreditation of voters commenced at the scheduled time followed by the election proper. However, some voters in the capital who had expected that materials would arrive early because of the nearness of the state headquarters of the INEC to their various locations were disappointed that the materials still arrived late, thus delaying the process by several hours.
As at 8:50am, polling units at Sacred Heart Primary School had not begun accrediting voters. The centre which also doubles as a collation centre could not also commence voting as at 1:30pm because ballot papers had not arrived even though accreditation of voters had been done.
Explaining the cause of the delay in a brief chat with newsmen, INEC National Commissioner in charge of Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa, Ambassador Mohammed Wali, put the blame for the delay on the Supervising Presiding Officer (SPO) in charge of the area.
There was also the logistic problem of lack of sufficient vehicles to convey many of the INEC ad hoc staff to the places of assignment. A number of the ad hoc staff and youth corps members had to cram themselves in the few buses and pick-up vans that were available.
Turnout of Voters
Looking at the number of people waiting either to be accredited or vote, observers might be tempted to conclude that there was massive turn out. But results of the election in various polling units proved to the contrary. The number of votes returned in polling units and the overall results, are lesser than what was returned in the previous elections.
The reason, according to findings, might be due to the fact that previous figures were fictitious and allocated to political parties or that many people had lost their voter cards. For instance, in some polling units with about 500 voters, the number of returned votes might not be more than 200. This is evident when the total number of votes returned for the entire polling units where election took place is considered. For instance, the total number of register voters is 1,654, 205 while the total number of votes cast was 624,659 with only 594,244 valid votes while 30,000 votes was voided.
Announcement of Results
Results of the election started from the polling units where the Presiding Officers was authorized to announce them after sorting and counting and make copies available to party agents and the security. To ensure that what was announced at the polling units was actually what was taken to the collation centres, the presiding officers were escorted to the ward collation centres by party agents and the security officials up to the local government collation centres before it was finally sent to the State Collation Centre at INEC office in Akure. The situation at the collation centres was less rowdy while the place was properly lighted with adequate security. However, there were reports of mutilation of some results which led to cancellation in Ilaje Local Government.
Declaration of Winner
The announcement of election results by INEC on local government basis started on Sunday at about 2,30am and did not end until about 1.25 pm the same day after a few adjournments.
Announcing the overall results, INEC’s Returning Officer, Professor Adebiyi Daramola, declared Mimiko winner of the governorship election having satisfied the requirement of the law. According to Daramola, ACN candidate, Rotimi Akeredolu scored 143, 512 votes, the PDP candidate, Chief Olusola Oke scored 155, 961 votes while the LP candidate scored 260, 193 votes.
Giving details of the result, Daramola said out of the 1,654,205 voters that registered, only 624,659 actually voted and only 594,244 were valid while 30,415 votes were declared invalid. Further breakdown of the results showed that Mimiko won in 13 out of the 18 local governments; ACN won in 3 local governments and PDP won in 2 local governments. The local governments won by Mimiko are Akure South, Akure North, Ifedore, Ile-Oluji/Okeigbo, Ondo East and Ondo West Local Governments.
Other council areas won by the incumbent are Ose, Idanre, Akoko North West, Akoko North East and Irele Local Government. The LP candidate also won the local governments of Ese-Odo and Akoko South East.
However, the ACN candidate, Akeredolu won in his home council of Owo, Odigbo and Akoko South-west Local Government which is the local government of the incumbent Deputy Governor, Alhaji Ali Olanusi. He also announced cancellation of votes in some units in seven local government areas due to various reasons such as mutilation of results sheet, absence of electoral officials and also because some voters exceeded the number of the accredited.
First, Mimiko expressed his appreciation on behalf of the people of the state to President Jonathan for honouring his pledge to conduct a credible poll in the state. Mimiko, who addressed hundreds of supporters who had trooped to the Garden in front of the Government House at Alagbaka to rejoice with him on his electoral victory, said the poll conduct had raised the hope of a better future for the country.
The governor, who dedicated his victory to all lovers of democracy across the globe, described the election as free, fair and highly credible.
National Chairman of the Labour Party, Chief Dan Nwanyanwu said Mimiko’s victory at the poll had established the fact that the LP had done well for the people of Ondo in the last three and half years. Others who were at the Government House for the celebration included National Assembly members, the state lawmakers, commissioners, political office holders and members of the public.
Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, said results of the election had shown that the people of the state would not allow a foreigner to dictate to them who their leader is.
Also eminent Nigerians Chief Ayo Adebanjo, former Commander Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) Dr. Olu Agunloye, convener of Save Nigeria Group (SNG), Pastor Tunde Bakare and leader of Afenifere Dr. Reuben Fasoranti also commended the governor and applauded his victory.
However, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Candidate, Chief Olusola Oke, rejected results of the election and vowed to seek lawful means to challenge the outcome of the election. Director General of the Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Dr. Dare Bada, said what INEC announced was a decimation of the people’s avowed march towards enthroning integrity, transparency, modesty, focus and action.
Similarly, the State Returning Officer for the ACN, Hon Idowu Otetubi, said the leadership of the party would study the results of the election and take appropriate decision on the next line of action.
Also, the State Returning Officer for the Labour Party, Dr Benson Enikuomehin, said the party would contest some results in the riverine Ilaje Local Government Area of the state, which is the home council of the PDP candidate.
*President Jonathan who upheld his commitment to credible election
*INEC cnhairman, Professor Attahiru Jega
*Governor Olusegun Mimiko
*Alhaji Ali Olanusi, the Deputy Governor.
*All members of the Ondo State cabinet
*LP National Chairman, Chief Dan Iwuanyanwu, Chief Olu Ogidan, State Chairman and all leaders and member of the party
*All members of Afenifere that endorsed Mimiko for second term
*Market men and women and the entire people of Ondo who voted for Mimiko
*Ondo work force under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress
*Pastor Tunde Bakare
*Some leaders of the PDP who endorsed Mimiko
*Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu
*Dr Paul Akintelure, Akeredolu’s his running mate
*All South-west Governors
*All ACN National Assembly members
*Leaders and supporters of the ACN in Ondo and South-west