Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ondo election in retrospect


The November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election in Ondo State had been won and lost.  The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN was declared winner by the Returning Officer, Professor Abdul Ganiyu Ambali, having polled a total of 224,842 votes to defeat 27 other candidates.  The Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Eyitayo Olayinka Jegede, who polled a total of 150,380 votes came second while Olusola Alex Oke of the Alliance for Democracy placed third with a total of 126,889 votes. Akeredolu won out rightly 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 and honur of participating in a number of media analysis on several radio and television stations. I was guest analyst on Nigerian Television Authority, African Independent Television, Silverbird Television, Peoples Television and Radio Nigeria. Predictably, the election though keenly contested was peaceful, credible and conclusive.  Media and accredited observer reports shows that the Independent National Electoral Commission  did creditably well in terms of deployment and logistics as poll 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 was 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. Report has 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, Dr. 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 Voters Card by the SCR was flawless.

Most worrisome and a big minus to the credibility of last Saturday’s gubernatorial 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 labeled “See and Buy” unlike in Ekiti in 2014 where it was termed “Stomach Infrastructure”.  Nobody should be under any illusion that it was only APC that was involved in this show of shame. As reported by this newspaper “It was observed that members of the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples 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.” (See Saturday PUNCH report of November 26, 2016 entitled “Vote buying allegations trail Ondo election)

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 that the Force will not condone the insidious act in Ondo as it did in Edo on September 28, the Police personnel on election duty allegedly watch nonchalantly as politicians openly engaged in vote buying in Ondo State. This is heart rending! If the Police who had the statutory power of arresting, investigating and prosecuting criminals watch with disinterest as legal provision is being breached, is 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 to be a child of necessity during elections in Nigeria. I maintain that INEC did well by not acceding to PDP’s request for postponement of the election. If every party facing 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 PDP in the Ondo gubernatorial 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 PDP or any other political party for that matter would have increased astronomically the cost of the election and would have been unfair to other 27 political parties that fielded candidates for the election as they would have to raise additional fund for their campaigns. 

I give kudos to the security agents, accredited observer groups, the media and indeed the good electorate of Ondo State for supporting INEC to be able to conduct the gubernatorial election successfully last Saturday. It bears being emphasised that INEC alone cannot guarantee peaceful and credible election. I beseech stakeholders to continue to partner with 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 Ceaser’s wife, needs to continue to be above board and act in a way that will inspire the confidence of stakeholders in it.

All said, my hearty congratulations to the governor-elect of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN. The former Nigeria Bar Association president  has made a lot of promises during the campaigns. The time is here for him to match words with actions. Though the popular saying is that ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’, Ondo people, he should know, would not tolerate excuses when he comes to power in February 2017. He knows there are problems and he has promised to fix them. He should therefore spend the transition period to perfect his plans for the Sunshine State so that he can hit the ground running on assumption of office. The Ondo people will do well to constantly demand for the performance of those pledges he made during the campaigns.