INEC Declares Osun Gov Race Inconclusive, Fixes Thursday for Rerun

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  • PDP kicks, APC set for fresh run  Saraki, Iwu, lawyers fault electoral body

By Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Deji Elumoye, Adedayo Akinwale, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Tobi Soniyi in Lagos and Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Segun James, Yinka in Osogbo

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday declared Saturday’s governorship election in Osun State inconclusive and scheduled a rerun for Thursday.

The electoral body’s action, however, drew searing criticisms from the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), whose candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, polled majority of votes in the election but could nevertheless be declared the winner of the keen contest that involved 48 political parties.

Former INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu; Senate President Bukola Saraki as well senior legal practitioners, also had harsh words for INEC’s declaration yesterday, contending that the electoral body overreached itself by acting outside the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.

The election’s returning officer, Prof. Joseph Fuwape, had earlier in the day said at the end of the collation of votes, the PDP candidate, Adeleke, won majority votes with 254,698 votes while Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) came a close second with 254,345 votes, leaving a difference of about 353 votes.

But Fuwape, who is also the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, declined to make a return on the grounds that the margin of win was less than the 3,498 registered voters in the five polling units where election was cancelled by the commission.

“I, Joseph Adeola Fuwape, hereby, declare this election inconclusive,” he said, explaining that a rerun had become necessary in the troubled five polling units.

INEC’s election guideline made pursuant to Section 153 of the Electoral Act stipulates a rerun if the margin of victory in an election is lower than the number of voters in units where elections are cancelled.

INEC National Commissioner, Prince Adedeji Soyebi, would later in the day announce Thursday as the date of the rerun election.

Soyebi said that though the conduct of the election had been commended by observers, Fuwape had communicated to the commission his inability to make a return in accordance with the legal framework and INEC’s Guidelines.

The national commissioner listed affected units as Orolu LGA, where there were disruptions in three polling units and 947 voters were affected, and in Ife South, where there was malfunctioning of the card reader in two polling units and 1,314 voters were affected.

He also listed Ife North, where there was over voting in one polling unit and 353 voters were affected, while in Osogbo local government, there was no voting at all and 3,498 voters were affected.

 Soyebi noted, “Based on the results collated by the returning officer, the margin between the two leading candidates is 353 which is lower than the number of registered voters in the affected areas. Extant law and INEC Guidelines and Regulations provide that where such a situation occurs, a declaration may not be made.

“In the light of the foregoing, the commission met and decided that it will remobilise and return to the affected polling units on Thursday, September 27, 2018 to rerun the elections, conclude collation and make a return.”

It’s Daylight Robbery, Says PDP

The PDP’s reaction to the development was swift, calling it a daylight robbery.

Addressing a press conference last night, the National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, argued that the process was conclusive and that its candidate, Adeleke, who pulled a total votes of 254,698, won the election and should be immediately declared winner by INEC, having met the requirements of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

According to him, “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.

“The declaration of the election as inconclusive, by INEC is, therefore, a sordid robbery of the franchise of the people of Osun State, who participated in the election.”

The party added that it was obvious that having failed in their schemes to alter the final results due to the resistance of the people, the APC had to bear pressure on INEC to declare the election inconclusive so as to pave the way for the perfection of their manipulative schemes, which the people of Osun State had firmly resisted so far.

It said, “Instead of yielding to the evil machination of the APC, INEC should have summoned the patriotic courage to immune itself and end this needless controversy by returning the PDP and declare our candidate as the winner.

‘’It is instructive to state that the PDP will no longer accept inconclusive elections as subterfuge by the APC  to attain its dubious electoral manipulative schemes in our nation.

‘’The people of Osun State and the entire nation are already aware that the PDP won this election. They have the authentic figures from the polling units and know the candidate the voters prefer.”

The party also cautioned INEC and the APC to note that the game is up, adding that the people of Osun State had decided in favour of the PDP and has become a fact that can never be altered.

APC Set for Rerun

However, reacting to the outcome of the election, the acting National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Yekini Nabene, said the party had accepted the outcome of the governorship election, pleading with the people of Osun State not to abandon it at the rerun election.

Speaking with THISDAY yesterday, the party’s spokesman said, “Our party must go back to the drawing board to see if it can get things right. Osun governorship election result is a big lesson ahead of 2019, and we have to re-strategise. For now, we are only begging Osun people to please vote for APC in the rerun election.’’

APC said that it believed strongly in the right of the people to decide who would govern them, adding that the wish of the people of Osun State would prevail in the end.

“We thank God for giving us another opportunity to go back to the drawing board,” it said, adding, “It has given us another opportunity to re-strategise and reposition ourselves because if things have moved smoothly we would have used that momentum to move into the 2019 elections but with this, it allow us to do a little change in what we are doing. More importantly, it has enabled us to remember that it is the people will decide who will govern them.’’

Saraki, Iwu Fault INEC

Reacting to INEC’s position, Saraki expressed concern that the electoral body had overstepped its bounds, contending that a return ought to have been made.

In a statement he personally signed yesterday as Chairman of the PDP Council on Osun Governorship Election, the Senate president said INEC was wrong in declaring the election as inconclusive because the votes in certain polling units were cancelled “as the decision of INEC to cancel the election in those areas after voting had taken place means INEC had already excluded the votes in these areas from the election process and therefore those units should have no place in the overall results.

He said, “My opinion would have been different if the election in the affected units did not take place at all, may be as a result of malfunctioning of the card reader machine or unavailability of the electoral materials. Since the voting took place and was cancelled, only the courts could reverse the initial decision by INEC to cancel the votes in these areas.

“That is why I call on our party and its candidate to seek further legal interpretation on this decision by the electoral body. One cannot but wonder whether if the places were reversed and the candidate of the ruling APC is the one leading in the election, the INEC will take the same decision it has taken now.”

He therefore called on INEC to display courage, boldness, independence, neutrality and patriotism so as to send signals to the world at large that Nigerian electoral system has come of age and that the nation’s democracy has matured.

 According to him, INEC should note that the Osun gubernatorial election is not only about the South-west state but also about Nigeria as the entire world is watching.

Saraki got a hefty support from Iwu, who also said INEC was wrong to have refused to make a return.

He said, “Actually, in 2010 during the review of INEC’s Elections’ Manual, my committee and I as the Chair, invented the inconclusive elections outcomes, particularly where elections did not hold for one reason or the other.

“However, we the initiators of the inconclusive elections realised that our proposal was against the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended), particularly the presidential and the governorship elections and returns.

“Our proposals could be applied only in senatorial, House of Representatives, and state assembly elections and returns, for which the Constitution did not specify how these returns should be made.

‘In this, what is required by the Constitution is that the ‘first past the post’ and/or that the candidate must have the polled majority of the votes cast.

“Secondly, that the candidate in addition to it, must obtain 25 per cent of the total votes cast in two-third of the LGAs of the state in question or of the states in case of presidential election. The electoral act or INEC guidelines cannot supersede the constitutional provisions for that purpose.

“As the constitution has clearly spelt out the manner and how a return should be made in the cases of governorship or presidential election returns.

“Now that the abuse of this tool is becoming obvious, the beneficiaries of this anomaly have refused to listen or adjust accordingly.

“God will surely help us.”