Osun Poll: INEC Act Now!

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Penultimate Saturday, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted governorship election in Osun State, in which 48 political parties fielded candidates to contest for the votes of 1,678,985 registered voters in the state. At the end of the exercise, 769,495 total votes were cast, 721,621 were valid while 47,874 were rejected.
INEC Chief Returning Officer for the election and Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure, Prof Joseph Adeola Fuwape, while announcing the final results, last Thursday, said the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gboyega Oyetola scored 255,505 votes to defeat the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ademola Adeleke, who scored 255,023 votes.
Before announcing the final results, Adeleke had led the race with 254,698 votes, with 353 votes more than his closest rival, Gboyega Oyetola of the APC. But Fuwape refused to announce Adeleke winner and instead declared the poll inconclusive, claiming that the margin was less than the 3,498 votes in seven polling units where voting was cancelled in four local government areas of the state.
He said “Section 179 (2) (a) (b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), was clear and 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’.” He, therefore, scheduled a rerun between the two leading candidates four days after.
While reacting to the INEC declaration of Oyetola as winner of the election, Adeleke not only rejected the results, but vowed to challenge the outcome of the process in court. In a statement in Osogbo by his campaign organisation’s spokesperson, Mr Olawale Rasheed, Adeleke said he would seek legal redress over INEC’s declaration that Oyetola won with 482 votes in the rerun poll.
Senate President and Chairman of PDP Campaign Council on Osun State, Dr. Bukola Saraki, reiterated that the recently conducted supplementary election in Osun was “a charade and an embarrassment to Nigeria’s democracy”.
Similarly, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (NCSSR), said it was “concerned that the entirety of the Osun re-run electoral derogates from the recent gains made in our elections process and the confidence that was beginning to be built. The lapses in the Osun re-run elections have put a serious question mark on the electoral process and raise concerns about the forthcoming 2019 general elections.”
The same sentiment was shared by a major election monitoring group, Centre for Democracy and Development, which dismissed the re-run election as “fraudulent and anti-democratic”, and called for an immediate investigation into the roles of government institutions which participated in the process. “In the light of these anti-democratic acts, which have undermined the sanctity of the ballot, therefore, we hold strongly the view that the re-run poll of September 27, 2018, does not meet up with the minimum standards for free, fair and credible elections. It falls short of global best practices in democratic elections which Nigeria aspires towards”, the CDD said.
The Tide agrees no less with Adeleke and the PDP, and expects that the ‘stolen’ mandate would be retrieved in court. We also support Saraki, other stakeholders, NCSSR, CDD, and even international observers, that the recent Osun election was a low point in Nigeria’s electoral system and democratic process.
It is, therefore, important that Nigerians and the international community work assiduously to stop enemies of democracy from turning the hands of the clock back in terms of the achievements recorded in the last general elections. We should not make a mockery of democracy by conducting elections in the manner that the Osun poll was conducted.
We fear that the Osun election may be a clear indication of how the 2019 elections will be conducted. Our fear is hinged on the fact that if INEC cannot conduct free, peaceful and fair elections in seven polling units spread across four local government areas of a state, then, the conduct of the general elections in 774 local government areas across 36 states of the country and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is already endangered.
This is why we call on the government, INEC, security agencies and development partners to ensure a radical change in the way and manner the next set of elections will be conducted.
We recall that in the 2015 elections, Nigeria witnessed several gains in its electoral process. The process was transparent and people’s votes counted. These gains made it possible for the then opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to win at the centre and in many states of the nation. That election highlighted a fine moment in Nigeria’s democracy.
However, the Prof Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC’s performance, rather than improving, has begun to nose-dive. Apart from the Anambra and Bayelsa guber elections, the Ondo, Edo, and Ekiti elections had witnessed a downward slide in the nation’s electoral system.
The case of Osun, last week, shows that neither the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government nor INEC are ready to assuage the fears of Nigerians that the ruling party was not ready to conduct free, fair and credible elections.
This is why we caution INEC to immediately correct the mistakes of the past and allay the fears of Nigerians before it plunges the country into anarchy and chaos. We do not expect anything less!