Oluwole Josiah

There is no better way to demonstrate that power truly belongs to the people than the outcome of the ballot. It is even sweeter when the powerful is thrown down from a loft by the will of the people. This is the case with the just concluded governorship election in Osun State where the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola has been defeated and his tenure will end at the expiration of four years. He will now join the historical list of south west governors whose reelection bids were thwarted by the contrary wishes of the people.

The INEC Chief Returning Officer for Osun, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who announced the result Sunday Morning said the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) candidate, Ademola Adeleke, scored 403,371 votes to emerge victorious over the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 375,027 votes.

Although 15 political parties featured candidates in the election, the race was actually between the PDP and the APC, a rivalry that was formed in the 2018 governorship election.

Although the election was then a narrow victory for the APC, the battle became sterner with the more number of eligible voters and realignments within the parties.

Not even members of the PDP were expecting a resounding victory as witnessed in the concluded election. In 2018, Mr Adeleke won the first round of the election, but was later defeated in the rerun with only 482 votes. However in Saturday’s poll the margin of victory is 28,344 votes.

Mr Adeleke’s victory was recorded from 17 out of the total of 30 local government areas. He also won some local governments in strong holds of the APC, such as Ilesa West and Ife North. He also won a decisive victory in Osogbo, the largest voting block of the state. Mr Adeleke’s popularity was defined by victories in strategic local governments and a brilliant challenge in areas expected to be the stronghold of the APC. He also maintained a clean sheet in his own Osun West domain.

Inspiration from 2018 election

Ademola Adeleke with Davido during a campaign outing
It only used the opportunity to further list out the sins of Mr Oyetola against his predecessor. The interpretations of the text of their stand showed before hand, that all would not be well.

They reminded voters how Mr Aregbesola virtually “stole” victory for the incumbent governor in 2018. TOP also stated that in spite of the place of the former governor in the scheme of politics in Osun State, Mr Oyetola dis not inform or invite him during the campaigns.

It was also not reasonable for the governor to invite his predecessor to his campaign when he on the even of the election, was seeking a court judgment to nullify his nomination as the candidate of the APC in the election. Thus the party approached the election on Saturday split right from the middle. The governor and his advisers failed to make good their promise to emerge victorious without Mr Aregbesola.

Mr Aregbesola was reported to have jetted out of the country before the election. How could a chieftain of the APC be away when his house was on fire? Not a few are mouthing the rumour that he might have ignited the fire himself.

People Wanted Change

There is little argument that the governor is a gentleman, who kept his promises to the people to a large extent. His performance in debt repayment, salaries to workers and stability of the state’s solvency is not under scrutiny. The people wanted a change. They would hold the governor responsible for high cost of living, insecurity and uncertainty, largely blamed on the ruling APC nationwide. It is trite that all APC leaders in offices would have to bear this burden in the coming 2023 general elections. Adeyinka, a receptionist in one of the leading hotels in Osogbo told PREMIUM TIMES that there is no reason why the people would want to continue with an APC government that has so much created problems for the people nationwide. He however was concerned that the Osun voter might return to the APC when the presidential election is held just for the sake of Bola Tinubu.

Money! Money!! Money!!!

The acrimony witnessed at the polling units among voters on Saturday was mainly because of money. PREMIUM TIMES can report that the people largely were “sensitized” to come out en masse by the fact that monies would be available to buy votes and they would be willing to sell. They got money from all the parties willing to dole out to them in different values: N10,000, N5,000, or so on. One voter even complained that she was supposed to be get N10,000 from one of the parties, but the sharer of the money shortchanged her.

Another voter who spoke to this reporter expressed frustration that he came to vote but at the time he came monies had already been shared and no one was willing to pay him. “I am holding my PVC, I have not voted, and I am yet to get my share. I will not vote until I get my money,” he said, in a lamentable mood.

Women of all ages were involved and young men taking the lead. The parties have  denied that they were involved in the buying of votes, but the voters did not deny collecting money for votes.

People Deceive Politicians(PDP)

Politicians are often described as “scammers” who would say one thing and do the other. at the Osun polls, the people were the real scammers. They shouted praises of the politicians as they came to vote, they plundered them with their songs of glorification but would cast their votes whichever way they wished.  For example, the result from Polling Unit 003, Ward 1, Ife East is the voting point of the National Secretary of the APC, Mr Omisore. The results are APC 192, PDP, 168. Only a difference of 24 votes. The crowd that welcome him at the unit when he came to cast his vote was overwhelming you would think he fed them every day and none of them would vote for the PDP, but the result says differently.

Iyiola Omisore at the polling unit on Saturday

The voters, it was gathered, went around collecting monies from all the parties, provided they were paying, and voted for only a candidate. While it may be difficult to ascertain whether they voted for the candidates who paid them higher, it is likely that this factor could have worked against the APC who expected their supporters to vote them back to office.

Oyetola’s Politics

Those close to the governor have hinted that his kind of politics would not stand the whirlwind of the dancing senator whose populist mien is infectious. “Oiling” the party machinery was necessary to keep the house together and enhance comradeship within the fold. PREMIUM TIMES gathered early before the election that party leaders at the grassroots had complained of the failure of the government of Oyetola to make funds available to them to help “keep the people happy.”

“Oyetola is not the kind of person who throws money around,” a source said. “He is going to carefully examine the proposal and determine carefully what is to be done and what amount is going into it before you can get the money out. But money is what speaks in this clime.”

Another APC loyalist who would not want to be named, said “we knew he would lose because he is not like an Aregbesola who would bulldoze his way to get what he wants.

“Even if he is losing this election, he would rather lose it than fight dirty to retain office.”

INEC’s Improvements

The deployment of BVAS has changed the game to a large extent. Accreditation and results collation have been enhanced through the new system. Even the rate of violence has dropped especially with the records of the concluded election. Fewer ballot boxes were smashed at the polls and fewer cancellations were recorded. This credit goes to INEC given that the ballots were secured and the voters’ wishes were well communicated, at least, in tact.

Lawrence Adewole, a 78-year-old voter at PU 004, Ward 1, Ife East, recalled that the election he participated since the 1960s was vastly different from Saturday’s polls. He lauded the INEC for introducing BVAS, a device that had improved the credibility and transparency of the ballot. He said now Nigerians could vote and their votes would count. It is a shared view that with the transmission of results from the PUs to INEC’s data base by Polling officers had greatly reduced the chances of manipulation by state actors of the election.

Demeanor of Security Operatives

Besides looking the other way from the activities of vote buyers and sellers, credit should go to the security agencies who did their best to be neutral in the Osun State 2022 governorship polls. This reporter did not witness any security operatives aiding the manipulation of votes during the exercise.

Some residents who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES however said the credit should rather go to the incumbent governor who refused or was unwilling to use the state agents in his own favour.

It also confirms the assertions by many civil society organisations that the conduct of the security agencies could make or mar elections, as they continued to call on the police and their sister agencies to comport themselves professionally during elections. This is the only way the people’s confidence in the ballot can grow and make the process more credible.
First published in PREMIUM TIMES

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