A Postscript on Osun Election

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Voters discharging their civic duty during the first ballot of the Osun governorship election.

There is a lot to take away from Thursday’s governorship election rerun in Osun State, writes Olaseni Durojaiye

With all the theatrics that dogged the eventual outcome of Thursday’s concluded governorship election in Osun State, which commenced Saturday, September 22 and reportedly won by APC’s Gboyega Oyetola, it is obvious that the nation’s electoral process is still far from the ideal and the desirable.

Although there are always those glimmers of hope that the country could get it right were all stakeholders united on one thing – making votes count, the reality is still a distance from what is currently obtainable.

Commendably, the first ballot was adjudged peaceful. The conduct of voters du
With all the theatrics that dogged the eventual outcome of Thursday’s concluded governorship election in Osun State, which commenced Saturday, September 22 and reportedly won by APC’s Gboyega Oyetola, it is obvious that the nation’s electoral process is still far from the ideal and the desirable.

Although there is always a glimmer of hope that the country could get it right if all stakeholders are united on one thing: making votes count, the reality is still a distance from what is currently obtainable.

Commendably, the first ballot was adjudged peaceful. The conduct of voters during the elections was a welcome development. Many had feared the election would be marred by violence prior to the elections, given the rancorous campaigns that preceded the exercise. Also rife in the build-up to the election were allegations and counter-accusations over alleged plans to rig the election, instigate crisis at polling units, and fears of terror attacks among the three major parties.

But that was not to be. Pundits had predicted a three horse race and it turned out so. Many of them had predicted, rightly too, that it was going to be between the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC), Gboyega Oyetola; Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Iyiola Omisore of the Social Democratic Party.

They went on to predict who might even win in what local government, but the results confounded many when they were released, indicating a change in the narrative in the voting pattern in the state.

But the inconclusive verdict of the electoral umpire turned out the talking point that has grabbed the most headlines. It completely dwarfed the peaceful conduct of the exercise.

INEC had declared the first ballot inconclusive despite the fact that Adeleke had a slight majority of the votes cast. Adeleke scored 254,698 votes to lead his closest rival, APC’s Oyetola, who scored 254,345 votes. INEC based its declaration on the explanation that the difference between the votes of the two leading candidates was fewer than the 3,498 cancelled votes in the election. The electoral commission, therefore, fixed September 27, for the election rerun in the areas, where votes were cancelled.

The PDP immediately rejected the decision, insisting that the process was conclusive and wanted its candidate declared winner, having met the requirements of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“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,” a statement by the party’s Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, stated.

But the ruling party on its part hailed the declaration. The party commended INEC, the security agencies and relevant stakeholders over the conduct.

In a statement by its spokesman, Yekini Nabena, the APC argued that “This is a departure from the situation under past Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administrations, where the people’s will was subverted and elections were manipulated. We hereby reject the PDP’s baseless calls that the inconclusive Osun governorship election is announced in its favour.

However, the Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy in Nigeria, David Young, on the eve of the scheduled re-run commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the decision to conduct rerun in the affected polling units. He said it would enhance democracy.

Young made the remarks at an interactive session with journalists in Kaduna, arguing that the re-run would ensure that voters at the remaining seven polling units, who were not able to vote on Saturday cast their votes.

Beyond the inconclusive verdict of INEC however, the dynamics of the election also revealed that voter apathy was still high among the electorate in the state. THISDAY findings revealed that a total of 1,682, 495 voters registered in the state while 483, 826 permanent Voters Card (PVC) were still to be collected as at August 31, barely three weeks before the election.

Data collated during result announcement further lent credence to this view. For instance, in Oriade Local Government Area of Osun East senatorial district, registered voters according to INEC data was 54,921 whereas 25, 697 voters eventually turned out to vote.

In Ede North Local Government Area of Osun Central senatorial district and the homestead of Adeleke, INEC data indicated 31,904 voters registered whereas total votes cast were 17,417. In Ilesha West Local Government, in Osun East senatorial zone, a total of 60,600 voters were registered out of which total votes cast was 23,081. Fear of possible outbreak of violence was also believed to be partly responsible for voter apathy, THISDAY gathered.

“It is a question of disillusionment among the voters. Many people still don’t believe that votes count and so, see partaking in the exercise as a waste of their time,” the analyst, a Political Science lecturer at the Lagos State University (LASU), said.

Interestingly, an analysis of the results from the various divisions in the state revealed a changing narrative in the voting pattern in the state. Hitherto perceived strongholds of some of the party were lost to opposition candidates. This was noticeable in the Ijesha division, where many predicted would vote APC being the home area of the incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola. But it was not to be.

In Obokun Local Government, PDP polled 10,859 while ‘homeboy’ Aregbesola’s party, the APC polled 7229 votes. In Ilesha West Local Government Council, APC polled 7251 while PDP polled 8,296 votes. It was the same pattern in Isokan, where PDP scored 9,048 votes to APC’s 7,297. In Ile-Ife considered by many pundits to be Omisore’s stronghold, the APC put up a good showing winning two of the four local governments, while Omisore won the remaining two.

The voting pattern is generally agreed to as instructive. Although money was considered a major influencer during the election since there were instances of vote buying even though not brazenly displayed as was the case in the Ekiti governorship election. There were those, who argued that salary crisis contributed to the voting pattern.

Whilst the two schools of thoughts could not be dismissed given the state of the state, another may just be found in the assertion by a notable politician and lawyer, Dr. Muiz Banire, in an interview with THISDAY that between “60 and 70 per cent of voters don’t know why they vote.” What this means, therefore, is that the nation’s political process is still primitive and the people can only hope for a much worse scenario in 2019.