Osun Poll: Another Litmus Test For INEC


Tomorrow, Saturday, September 22, 2018 will be another memorable day in the political history of Nigeria and remarkable reference point in the performance index of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. It is a day that the people of Osun State will file out to elect a new governor to oversee the affairs of the State for the next four years, after the expiration of the tenure of the incumbent, Rauf Aregbesola.
After intensive electioneering campaigns by the major political parties, which reached feverish dimensions as the parties strategised and re-strategised in a bid to garner votes’ support, the die is cast, perhaps, for a new political order in that state.
The major political parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has Ademola Adeleke as its flagbearer, All Progressives Congress, APC with Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, Social Democratic Party, SDP, with Chief Iyiola Omisore, African Democratic Congress, ADC, with Fatai Akinbade and Action Democratic Party, ADP, with Moshood Adeoti, have presented different heavyweight candidates to the people for them to make their choice.
That is why we believe that Osun people should not only be allowed to choose their governor freely, the process must be made to be seen as fair, free and credible.
Indeed, the gubernatorial election will once more prove to the world how prepared the electoral umpire, INEC is for the forthcoming general elections scheduled for 2019.
We expect that the shortcomings that befuddled the recent Ekiti State governorship election, particularly, the electoral violence, vote buying, intimidation of voters, excesses of security personnel and other vices, would not repeat themselves in Osun.
Despite its attempts to distance itself from the negative fallout and aftermath of the Ekiti debacle, the summation of national and international observers of the poll shows that INEC needs to leverage on the Ekiti experiences and ensure that its house is put in order for Osun and future polls. In fact, the commission has no more excuses but to conduct a free, fair, credible and generally acceptable election using best global practices as benchmark.
So much tension and anxiety have pervaded Osun State since the electoral process began, especially, within the PDP and APC divide, despite the people being outstanding for their political consciousness. Thus, anything contrary to a smooth and credible process would be an anathema and unacceptable.
The Osun State election is therefore being seen as another litmus test for INEC, security agencies and the APC-led Federal Government. It is high time they proved their democratic credential, especially, their neutrality in election processes beyond reasonable doubt.
We are however worried at the recent body language of the APC-led Federal Government. Some of its recent actions in relation to Osun State and the poll smack of desperation in attempt to swing the election.
The recent release of N16.6 billion Paris Club fund to the incumbent governor of Osun State few days to the election is suspicious and questionable. It is possible that such funds would be diverted to political purposes that would serve the APC government’s interests. Indeed, the release of such fund is ill-timed and geared toward subverting fair electoral process and scoring cheap political points.
Moreso, the Federal Government’s willingness to readily splash the cash on security operatives for the Osun election raises more questions. After approving and deploying a total of 18,426 policemen, two helicopters, 30 armoured carriers and 300 patrol vehicles, the Federal Government paid the sum of N50,000 each to the police from the ranks of Constables to Sergeants more than their monthly take home pay, N120,000 each to officers from Inspectors, Assistant Superintendent of Police and Deputy Superintendent of Police, while each of the eight Commissioners of Police got N250,000. Meanwhile, an average police constable takes home about N45,000 per month after tax deductions.
Not withstanding the incentives or motivations to subvert the electoral process, the interest of Nigeria is paramount and the Osun election is key in setting the tone for 2019. The onus is on INEC to be trusted as an unbiased umpire, the security machinery to serve without fear or favour and the APC-led Federal Government to provide the enabling environment for democracy to thrive in Nigeria.