Osun polls has exposed government intention for 2019 – Adegboruwa
By OBINNA EZUGWU
Last week’s rerun governorship election in Osun State, which eventually saw the emergence of the All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate, Mr. Gboyega Oyetola defeat his People’s Democratic Party (PDP) opponent, Senator Ademola Adeleke with 482 votes – according to results announced by the state’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Returning Officer, Professor Joseph Fuwape – to emerge the state’s governor-elect has been condemned by many as a rape of democracy on account of alleged widespread intimidation and massive vote buying.
And as 2019 general election approaches in few months, Nigerians have continued to express worry that the all important 2019 polls may just be a charade, as according to them, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has given enough evidence that it would not allow people’s will to prevail.
“The truth is that in Buhari’s Nigeria, the PVC is worthless, as we have seen in most elections conducted while Buhari is president, the latest being the Osun State governorship election,” said US based professor of Communications, Farooq Kperogi. ”
Characterised, according to many observers, by massive vote manipulation, the Osun poll has continued to cause outrage. In a statement on Thursday, U.S., EU, U.K. missions who monitored the election said there were incidents of intimidation that were very worrisome.
“We witnessed what appeared to be incidents of interference and intimidation of voters and heard reports of harassment of party monitors, journalists and domestic observers,” U.S. Consul-General John Bray, who spoke on behalf of the missions, told journalists.
“We are very concerned by these reports and we will be checking with stakeholders to determine the facts. We call on all stakeholders to remain calm.”
In a viral post, a bleeding member of the PDP, a lawyer who gave his name as Tope Enisogbon, narrated how he was attacked by those he described as “agents of the Osun State government,” who damaged his glasses and prevented supporters of his party from voting in Oshogbo.
Indeed, INEC itself had admitted on the day that it was “disturbed about reports that accredited media and observers are being arrested or prevented from operating in some polling units. This is being taken up with the security agencies.#OsunDecides2018” in a message posted on its Twitter handle, INEC Nigeria (@inecnigeria).
Before later assuring with the same handle that “all issues of access to polling units by voters, accredited Media & Observers have since been resolved and the exercise is going on well in all the units in spite of the heavy rain in some areas.#OsunDecides2018.”
For many it is not the first time the governorship elections in Edo and Ekiti states having, according to them, followed similar pattern of vote buying and intimidation by security agencies. And in 2019, it would be foolhardy to expect that things would turn out differently.
“The horror of the brazenly manipulated Osun State rerun election confirms the fears of all and sundry that this inept government will never allow free and fair elections next year,” said the Eastern Consultative Assembly in a statement signed by its Deputy leader, Chief (Mrs.) Maria Okwor and secretary, Evangelist Elliot Uko.
“The daylight robbery in Edo, plus the brutal show in Ekiti, both warned the world of what to expect in 2019.”
President Buhari is standing for re-election under the APC platform in February 2019. But with a first term that had seen all the development indices head south, and the country battling economic recession for many months, and yet warning signs of another recession on a high, the president has lost vast amount of goodwill. And he has not been helped by reports by notable international analysts that his possible second term portends even more trouble for the economy.
In a report recently titled: “Nigeria: Papering Over The Cracks”, HSBC Bank, a global financial organisation, said the country’s economy will suffer yet another setback if the president is elected in 2019, while adding that his chances of winning were slim.
“A second term for Mr Buhari, however, raises the risk of limited economic progress and further fiscal deterioration, prolonging the stagnation of his first term, particularly if there is no move towards completing reform of the exchange rate system or fiscal adjustments that diversify government revenues away from oil,” the report read.
“In the near term, however, the election impact is likely to be negative as increased political uncertainty precludes policy reforms, weighs on confidence, deters investment spending and restrains the growth outlook.”
On account of this poor performance in office, extreme nepotism and what many say is incompetence, several organisations and notable individuals had predicted that the president would likely lose in the polls.
Few days ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research unit of The Economist Magazine, predicted that the opposition PDP will defeat Buhari and the APC in the presidential election of next year.
The Magazine stated in a widely reported report that: “The 2019 elections will be a close contest between the ruling APC and the PDP. We expect the PDP presidential candidate to win, but for the next administration to flounder against the same problems as the incumbent one.
“The next government is likely to be led by the PDP, the main opposition, potentially in a coalition with smaller parties, but instability will remain an insoluble challenge.”
The Economist’s prediction was in tune, obviously, with the prevailing feelings in the country. And with the PDP initially beating the APC in the Osun governorship polls when it was first held on Saturday last week with 353 votes – a state the ruling party had held sway in for eight years, even with alleged inflation of vote figures in its favour – many tended to accept that Buhari’s reign would almost certainly come to an end in 2019.
In a report that came on the heels of Saturday’s Osun polls, Teneo Intelligence, a New York-based analysis firm, noted that with the election had shown that President Buhari could lose in 2019.
“There is already a clear message sent from Osun State: provided the PDP remains united, and the vote is reasonably free and fair, Buhari and his APC are likely to lose the general election,” Malte Liewerscheidt, an analyst at Teneo, said.
However, when on Thursday, the rerun was done and the ruling party barred its fangs, turning around its initial defeat in the way it did, the level of optimism dampened, with many observers arguing that the president would perpetuate himself in power, people’s will notwithstanding.
“All indices show that Buhari would lose the election if it’s free and fair,” noted Prof Kperogi. “But Buhari would rather die in power than hand over to anyone.
“He is mulish, unthinking, power crazy tyrant who would rather set the country ablaze than give up power.”
The results of the Osun polls announced by the Returning Officer on Sunday had shown that APC’s candidate, Oyetola trailed PDP’s Adeleke by 353 votes, both having scored 254,345 and 254,698 votes respectively. PDP had contended that 1000 votes was deducted from its total in Ayedaade Local Government, and that the electoral umpire had allotted to the APC 16,254 votes in Olorunda Local Government instead of 14, 254 votes it scored.
However, INEC decided to declare the election inconclusive based on the provision of the electoral law to the effect that if the margin of victory for the winning candidate is less than total number of cancelled votes, there should be rerun. The number of registered voters in the cancelled polling units, covering Oshogbo, Orolu, Ife South and Ife North local government areas stood at 3498, which was over 353.
After Thursday’s rerun, the APC was able to overturn the results, scoring 255,505 votes to edge the PDP which totalled 255,023 votes. A break down showed that the ruling party beat the opposition in Oshogbo, Unit 17 Ataoja ward 5 with 299 to 165; Orolu Units 1&4 ward A by 280 to 122 votes; Ife South Unit 12 ward 7 by 455 to 36 and Ife North Unit 02 ward 10 by 126 to 02 votes in the election that is now a source of sustained outrage.
“The sad impression that the APC as a ruling party and INEC as the electoral body have both created with the Osun re-run election is that we are back in the trenches of do or die electoral regime, of violence and of denial of the real will of the people,” said human rights lawyer, Ebun-olu Adegboruwa.
Adegboruwa said the election had exposed among other things, that under the present government, INEC is not independent and that security agencies have been compromised.”
The APC has, however, dismissed as untrue the allegation that it rigged the election in its favour.
In a statement by Mr. Kunle Oyatomi, its’ Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy in Osun, the party said the PDP was lamenting over its inability to buy votes and manipulate like they did during the first election last Saturday.
“We have always known and have made ourselves clear before the election that the PDP had made elaborate arrangement to rig the election through the manipulation of the card readers,” Oyatomi said.
“And it was this process that made them get the votes allocated to them in the first ballot. We want Osun people to understand that the run off votes went the way it did because the PDP was unable to manipulate the card readers this time around and fortunately the police thwarted their plot of buying and trying to use the PVCs of unsuspecting voters.
“That was why some of their leaders were arrested. So the PDP should look for other excuses. They attempted to win by fraud; they failed in the first round and eventually lost the rerun election.”