BEVERLY HILLS, October 08, (THEWILL) – The just concluded governorship election in Osun State his sure one of the most contentious elections in Nigeria in decades because of the way the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC managed the exercise, especially the subsequent supplementary poll.
The consensus verdict was that the people of Osun State chose Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as its governor but the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, blocked it with the help of INEC. It was clearly a stolen election.
The main election in Osun on September 22, 2018, which INEC declared inconclusive was relatively free and fair and received commendations from both domestic and international observers. It was indeed an election that the ruling party was dealt a huge shock and needed INEC and the federal machinery to force its will on the people afterwards. The underdog, Adeleke was ahead by over 350 votes, forcing a supplementary election because the number of people who could not vote in some areas for one reason or another was above 3, 000, the INEC ruled.
There have been concerns about the impartiality of the electoral agency in conducting free, fair and credible elections in 2019. The supplementary election did at least confirm that INEC may not be neutral in this round of elections. Many believe the supplementary election was a charade and a coup against the people of the south western state.
It is of great concern that the supplementary election that took place in seven polling units across four local government areas was characterized by intimidation of voters perceived to be members of the PDP, press and observers.
According to media reports, thugs loyal to the All Progressives Congress, APC’s candidate, Gboyega Oyebola, prevented PDP members from accessing the polling units to vote. In the do-or-die poll, in which thugs reportedly carried dangerous weapons and fired shots severally into the air, journalists and accredited election observers were denied access to polling units, despite the heavy presence of security agents. Some were manhandled and arrested, while many journalists were warned not to report proceedings at the voting centres.
THEWILL, like European Union, EU, Britain and U.S. Election Observers share the same view that the election was a charade. Of great concern is the obvious compromise of the security agents, which failed to act professionally while the mayhem and the electoral irregularities persisted.
THEWILL condemns the heavy deployment of federal might in the entire election. Though INEC had expressed concern at the arrest of journalists and observers, it was obvious that they both acted a script that was centrally crafted to subdue the will of majority of Osun voters.
It is feared that if INEC could manifestly compromise in an election that took place in seven polling units, its credibility in handling the upcoming general election across the nation is seriously in doubt. INEC’s performance rubbished all the gains that it had recorded in previous elections.
Equally, the inconsistency of INEC in determining which election to declare inconclusive has also arisen in the plot to subvert the will of the people.
Without prejudice to the legal battle that is coming, THEWILL believes that INEC overtly demonstrated double standard in declaring the Osun election inconclusive.
For instance, in declaring the first ballot which the candidate of the PDP, Adeleke won inconclusive, INEC cited violence and disenfranchised of voters in the affected seven polling units in which the rerun was ordered. It added that the margin with which Adeleke defeated Oyebola was small, compared with those disenfranchised in units where the supplementary poll was held.
However, it acted differently in a recent bye election to fill the Lokoja/Kogi federal constituency. In that election, INEC declared the APC candidate winner with 26, 850, with the PDP candidate scoring 14, 845, even when over 19, 960 votes were cancelled in that poll.
The Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC must come out clean on these inconsistencies, and alleged systemic rigging of elections to favour the APC-led federal government. This is the only way that the electorate can have confidence in our voting system.
It is shameful that the Osun poll, which was expected to be a shadow for the 2019 election, has rather heightened the apprehension over a free and fair 2019 election.