By Louis Odion, FNGE
With the air across the national space currently fouled up by partisanship, there can never be a consensus on the propriety or otherwise of the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to declare the Osun governorship polls of last Saturday inconclusive.
The ongoing babel is certainly not helped by merchant lawyers who probably only see an opportunity to tout for briefs after the fact.
Indeed, PDP’s Ademola Adeleke came tops with 254,698 votes; APC’s Gbeoyega scored 254,345 and SDP’s Iyiola Omisore polled 128,049 to finish third.
In its own wisdom, INEC ruled that potential votes from seven polling units amounting to 3,498 (earlier set aside for sundry reasons) are now too significant to be overlooked given that PDP only led eventually with marginal 353 votes at the end of counting and collation Sunday morning. Hence, supplementary elections for September 27 to decide the winner between PDP and APC.
Interestingly, a report had trended in the social media on Sunday purporting that erstwhile INEC boss, Professor Maurice Iwu, poohpoohed the idea of holding a re-run. But just as many began to wonder what moral credentials qualified him to so speak given the sheer outlawry that had defined his own stint as the nation’s chief electoral officer came a strident rebuttal by the man himself on Monday.
Alas – another instance of fake news, thus exposing once more the increasing vulnerability of our airwaves to the vector of lies and disinformation.
Well, putting the referenced distraction aside, to me, there are four preliminary takeaways from the last Saturday’s epic electoral battle in the province of the fabled “living spring”.
By design or default, in terms of critical electoral weight, the stated seven polling units have somehow evoked the memory of “Modakeke-lization” now almost four-decades-old. Older generations of citizens might readily recall how Modekeke, a rustic town bordering the far more historic Ile-Ife, was literally conjured in the 1983 general polls by then ruling National Party of Party at the centre (largely seen as the ideological progenitor of today’s PDP) to perform a magic never seen in the nation’s electoral history.
Noticing that the tally of figures from the provinces across the old Oyo State was tipping the scale in favor of rival Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), what NPN desperadoes simply did was to tender the results from Modakeke (considered their stranglehold) inflated on a scale that defied even sanity or reason: the stated figures were far in excess of all registered voters on FEDECO’s register in order to deliver Victor Olunloyo over the then incumbent Governor Bola Ige. (It is from the old Oyo State that Osun State descended.)
Now, the 3,498 number has been summoned by providence to break the tie in the re-run.
Secondly, the outcome of the last Saturday’s exercise offers sufficient ground to test the hypothesis of the popularity or otherwise of the two leading candidates within their respective parties. The results undoubtedly prove yet again that Adeleke still betters his arch rival in the PDP primaries. He had similarly scored a slim margin with 1,569 votes to defeat Akin Ogunbiyi who got 1562.
But, taken together, it would have been more interesting had Iyiola Omisore not defected from PDP in the eleventh hour to seek the crown on SDP’s platform. He came third on Saturday with an impressive 128,049.
As for APC’s Gboyega Oyetola, it is indeed another validation for the innovation of direct primaries being championed by the new national chair of the party, Adams Oshiomhole, with a view to banishing imposition and “restoring ownership back to real party members”.
Oyetola’s arch rival in the APC’s shadow election was Moshood Adeoti, erstwhile Secretary to the State Government, who only scored 49,742 in the exercise on ADC’s platform. Having failed to secure APC’s ticket, he resigned from the Rauf Aregbesola administration and pitched his tent with ADC.
Three, if any doubt still existed about the place of substance and morality in contemporary politics Adeleke’s remarkable showing last Saturday has undoubtedly erased such. At some point in our history, proof of academic brilliance would be an added advantage, if not the sole clincher, in the contest for public office. Such concession would undoubtedly stem from a common thinking that public trust was too lofty, too fragile to be left with a fickle mind whose mental reflex could not be trusted at critical moments.
Adeleke’s rise would then appear to have shattered that myth. For not only has it been established that the PDP candidate was an academic failure having bagged F9 in the only paper (English language) he sat for in WAEC close to four decades ago, his apparent attempt to make up last year in fact ended up allegedly a big scam altogether.
According to police charge sheet, Adeleke, as a sitting senator, procured NECO results awarding him credits in seven subjects without evidence he ever sat for the exams at Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School, Egbedore LGA, Osun State. Police had last week tendered records to show he was earlier quizzed last year over the matter.
However, the suggestion of tainted integrity or insinuation of a dodgy academic profile seemed not enough to sway voters against the PDP candidate in the polls, given the hefty votes he posted to place him slightly above the better read, more articulate and far more composed Oyetola of APC.
Few days to the D-Day, fearing police arrest might deny him chance to participate in the election, Adeleke quickly fortified himself by obtaining a restraining court order.
While the principle of fair hearing obliges us to grant him benefit of doubt for now, what is however beyond dispute is his complete intellectual vacuity.
How strange then that a man aspiring to lead the state that once sired the likes of the great Bola Ige, home to the great Obafemi Awolowo University, is a self-advertised disco freak, whose instinctive answer to any invitation to public scrutiny is to simply break into sometimes clownish dance routines, thus exhibiting, not revulsion, but the air of personal fulfillment at what ordinarily should be considered a derogation – being addressed as “the dancing senator”. As if what statecraft is all about is the ability to switch seamlessly from “Skelewu” to “Shaku Shaku” on the dance-floor.
As a congressman, Adeleke is not known to have, so far, espoused any grand idea at the senate chamber even with the dismal standards of the current denizens; nor lent his voice to any lofty debate outside for that matter.
Without shame, thrice, he consistently dodged televised debates organized for candidates and was never lacking excuses.
Maybe substituting the debate with dancing competition would have lured Adeleke out of hiding; he probably would have been more comfortable with questions bordering on which song is the rave on the billboard charts than with posers on the fiscal prescriptions needed to lift Osun from present economic challenges.
But the truth: what is required in the Governor’s office is more of sobriety only made possible by a presence of mind, certainly not the mere possession of a pair of dancing shoes.
Fourthly, the September 22 exercise in Osun has proved that, once various stakeholders exercise high sense of vigilance and the umpire evinces will and commitment, the possibility of the ruling party to deploy incumbency mindlessly is minimized. This was very much in evidence last Saturday. That the results were close between ruling APC and main opposition PDP is an unassailable proof of relatively high level of integrity of the Saturday exercise.
If nothing at all, President Buhari deserves kudos for providing a level-playing field, resisting the temptation to put security agencies at his party’s disposal to impose its will.
In a show of statesmanship, PMB even overruled the police after they declared the PDP candidate wanted few days to the polls over otherwise grave allegation of NECO certificate racketeering. An unscrupulous power broker could have seized that as a perfect excuse to put Adeleke away in the name of due process.
This is very much unlike the scenario in both Osun and Ekiti back in 2014 when then ruling PDP, in a brazen flaunting of raw power, not only cracked down on a good number of political opponents but also ruthlessly let loose battalions of hooded state goons to harass and intimidate the opposition before and during the elections.
Of course, there were reports last Saturday of votes-buying in Osogbo and Ede, but certainly not on the industrial scale witnessed recently in Ekiti involving both the ruling party and members of the opposition. In what suggested at least a new fear, those engaged in the “stomach infrastructure” this time resorted to a novelty – swearing to oaths before sums ranging from N5,000 and N6,000 exchanged hands on the night preceding the election. Unlike in Ekiti recently where such illicit transactions were openly consummated.
There was also the tale of an extraordinary show of valor that Saturday night by cops who overpowered hoodlums attempting to snatch ballot boxes at the collation centre in Osogbo after shooting into the air and shattering the rear windscreen of a Sports Utility Vehicle.
Let us hope this resolve to defend the sanctity of the ballot, this noticeable sense of official restraint is sustained by the ruling party in the bigger national contest months away, so that the nation’s democratic culture is deepened.