Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Ondo State Gubernatorial Poll 2016 lection Retrospect.

The governorship election in Ondo State has been won and lost. The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, was declared winner by the Returning Officer, Prof. Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, having polled a total of 224,842 votes to defeat 27 other candidates.  

The Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Eyitayo Jegede, who polled a total of 150,380 votes came second while Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy placed third with a total of 126,889 votes. Akeredolu won in 14 out of the 18 Local Government Areas of the state but had the required 25  per cent of valid votes cast in the entire LGAs of the Sunshine State. The state has a total of 1,647,973 registered voters and 584,997 were accredited for the election while a total of 580,887 votes were cast. A total of 551,272 votes were valid and 29,615 votes were rejected. Ahead of the election, during and after the poll, I had the privilege of participating in a number of media analyses on several radio and TV stations.Also my organisation, Rights Monitoring Group was accredited to observe the total process. Predictably, the election, though keenly contested, was peaceful, credible and conclusive. 

The Independent National Electoral Commission did creditably well in terms of deployment and logistics as voting commenced in over 90 per cent of the 3007 Polling Units as and when due, that is , at 8 am. Sorting, counting, collation and announcement of results also took a shorter time. But for the results of Ilaje LGA which were late in coming due to the about five hours distance on water to the state capital, Akure, the entire exercise would have been wrapped up in 24 hours. 

Reports had it that most of the 16,723 Poll Officials deployed by INEC for the election were very professional, having been well-trained by the electoral commission. Even though there were issues with fingerprint authentication of voters in few of the Polling Units (outgoing Governor Olusegun Mimiko was among those whose fingerprints could not be authenticated and have to be accredited with Incident Forms to enable them vote), however, verification of Permanent Voter Cards by the SCR was flawless. 

Most worrisome, and a big minus to the credibility of the election was the ugly phenomenon of vote-buying. There were several reported cases of bribe-for-vote. It was a demand and supply thing which Ondo people labelled “See and Buy” unlike in Ekiti in 2014 where it was termed “Stomach Infrastructure”.( in these States l personally captured on camera where money exchange hands between voters and party agents).Nobody should be under any illusion that it was only the APC that was involved in this show of shame. “It was observed that members of the All Progressives Congress, the People’s Democratic Party and the Alliance for Democracy were giving money to voters at most polling centres visited across the state. Some polling units in Odigbo, Okitipupa and Ilaje local governments areas were given N450,000 while each voter got between N3,000 and N5,000.APC gave more than PDP and AD. I had warned ahead of the poll that Section 124 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended has criminalised the act of vote buying as bribery and conspiracy. It says in Section 124 (4) that any person caught in the act is liable on conviction to a maximum fine of N500,000 or 12 months’ imprisonment or both. Despite the grandstanding of the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, that the Force would not condone the insidious act in Ondo as it did in Edo on September 28, the police personnel on election duty allegedly watched nonchalantly as politicians openly engaged in vote-buying. This is heartrending! If the police who have the statutory power of arresting, investigating and prosecuting criminals watched with disinterest as legal provisions were being breached, was it the Poll Officials whose primary duty is to conduct election that Nigerians expect to start running after those involved in vote-buying? It is sad that some hoodlums still tried to disrupt the election in few Polling Units despite the heavy deployment of security personnel to maintain law and order during the election. This shows the incorrigibility of the political gladiators and has made heavy security deployment a child of necessity during elections in Nigeria. 

I maintain that INEC did well by not acceding to the PDP’s request for postponement of the election. If every party facing an internal crisis were to ask for shift in the date of poll and have their request granted, the election will never hold. What happened to the PDP in the Ondo election is a warning signal to all political parties that they risk losing their chances of winning electoral contests if they allow internal wrangling to bog down their preparations for the polls. Any postponement of the election at the behest of the PDP or any other political party for that matter would have increased astronomically the cost of the election and would have been unfair to the 27 political parties that fielded candidates for the election as they would have to raise additional funds for their campaigns. I give kudos to the security agents, accredited observer groups, the media and indeed the Ondo electorate for supporting INEC to be able to conduct the election successfully last Saturday. It bears being emphasised that INEC alone cannot guarantee peaceful and credible election. I implore stakeholders to continue to partner the electoral commission in the forthcoming bye-elections next Saturday in Lagos and Abuja as well as the court-ordered re-run elections in Rivers State on December 10, 2016. INEC, like Caesar’s wife, needs to continue to be above board and act in a way that will inspire the confidence of stakeholders in it. Olufemi Aduwo. President, Rights Monitoring Group(RMG) ,Observation note made available to lNEC After 2016 election.

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