Will Ondo Governorship Election Conduct Surpass Edo Standards?

Will Ondo Governorship Election Conduct Surpass Edo Standards?

The Edo governorship election has been commended as peaceful, largely free and fair, with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) upping its ante by publishing the results of the election as they were being released at the polling units. To underscore the general perception of a good election, the principal challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and

The Edo governorship election has been commended as peaceful, largely free and fair, with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) upping its ante by publishing the results of the election as they were being released at the polling units.

To underscore the general perception of a good election, the principal challenger, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and his All Progressives Congress have conceded defeat and jettisoned the possibility of going to the Tribunal to the challenge the outcome of the election won by the incumbent Governor Godwin Obaseki.

But nevertheless he threw some understandably jabs at the conduct of the election. In a statement, he said “Contrary to orchestrated media reports, the election was neither free nor fair. There were several episodes of violence, voter intimidation and falsification of results. In particular, there were unlawful cancellation of results particularly from Urhonigbe South and North in Orhiomwon, while results were falsified from many polling units in Ofunama in Ovia South West, and in parts of Ovia North East, Owan West, Oredo, Egor, Ikpoba-Okha, Esan North East, Esan West, Esan South East, and Uhunmwode Local Government Areas,” he was quoted as saying.

“Sadly, two persons were killed during the election, while gun-wielding thugs took over collation centres in many locations without the intervention of law-enforcement agents. There were also several cases of malfunctioning card readers, which disenfranchised duly registered voters, in addition to many cases of unregistered voters voting with pre-purchased voters’ cards not collected by their actual owners’ said Pastor Ize-Iyamu.

Those views from someone that has just lost an election could be understood. But they didn’t diminish from the general perception of a good election, peaceful, free and fair. However, INEC could take note of the highlighted shortcomings and prevent such in subsequent elections.

All eyes are now glued to Ondo state where the governorship election would hold on Saturday October 10, 2020, where the stakes are high and the election having several similarities with that of Edo state. The two leading candidates in this election, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN and Eyitayo Jegede, SAN also contested against each other four years ago. The major parties in the election are the All Progressive Congress (APC), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) with the Zenith Labour Party playing a strong third force role. On paper, there are 17 political parties participating in the election. But, in reality, it is a three-horse race.

The daily countdown to the election has been characterized by violence and verbal attacks from the campaign podium. This election has all the signposts of violence engrained everywhere. This has heightened tension and apprehensions in the state with prospects of a looming breakdown of law and order. There have indeed been violent attacks in some places such as in Oba Akoko, Owo and even Akure the state capital. Scores of vehicles have been burnt or seriously damaged with allegations and counter allegations flowing back and forth from the major political parties.

This is worrisome remembering the role election violence in the state contributed to the termination of democratic rule in the second republic in 1983. Some of the scenarios of that time are still present in this election. One of which is the decamping of a deputy governor to contest on the platform of another party.

Ostensibly to douse tension, the INEC will today be holding a stakeholders meeting with all the participating political parties, civil society organisations, accredited observers and all other interests showing concern in the governorship election. The meeting will be addressed by INEC’s Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu and the Inspector General of Police Mohammed Adamu.

This will be followed by another peace meeting and the signing by the political parties and their candidates’ to agreement committing to peace with the signing of a peace document anchored by the General Abdusalami Abubakar’s Peace Committee tomorrow.

Issue-based campaigns were largely relegated to the background in this Ondo election but the candidates fanned more the embers of zoning and ethnic divide and also raised unproven allegations of corruption. The campaigns have been on the bitter and vitriolic tone; suggestive of a disputed outcome.

Some citizens see the election as a referendum on the performance of the incumbent governor Akeredolu whom they allege has not done enough for the people of the state in the provision of infrastructure but raised school fees to the discomfort of indigent students and poor parents. The Governor’s camp have retorted with a long list of its achievements which include several road constructions.

All the parties are drumming support for their candidates and it is expected that the final mega rallies for the major parties will hold in the state this week. There are speculations that the Zenith Labour Party and the PDP may broker a last minute alliance which may see Mr. Agboola Ajayi withdraw his candidacy for Eyitayo Jegede of the PDP but that prospect appearns forlorn and doused by the general agitation from the people in the southern part of the state craving for the coveted number one position in the state.

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum has expressed its support for the party’s candidate in the Saturday Ondo State governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede.

The Forum Chairman and Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal said “Nothing can stop the march of progress in Ondo. Indeed, Jegede’s victory is one whose time has come. The APC leadership may also return for a mega rally by its candidate on Thursday. It will pass a vote of confidence on Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. A similar rally for Edo governorship election could not hold.

It is the general expectations that INEC would build on its applauded performance in Edo state to do more in the Ondo election. A lot will depend on INEC’s determination to be impartial conduct the election according to its rules, the Electoral Act and the constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The same expectation is anticipated for the security agencies especially the Police. It is expected that the security agencies will stay as neutral as they were in Edo and allow the peoples vote to count.

The statement by President Muhammadu Buhari on how he encouraged the Edo election conduct to be free and fair has been a major inspiration to both INEC and the security agencies. If the same attitude and body language are maintained in the Ondo election, then democracy would have been propelled to a higher pedestal under President Buhari.

There were allegations of serious vote buying in the Edo state governorship and Ondo election has all the trappings that money would play a dominant role too. There are allegations of the building of financial war-chests to be deployed on the day of election on the electorate by the major political parties. But there is growing campaign too that electorate should collect the money if offered and still go ahead to vote according to their conscience.

In the final analysis, what would determine whether the Ondo election would surpass the Edo election on all parameters would be the professional conduct of INEC and the security agencies. Only such professionalism could moderate the misbehaviours and antics of members of the political class which could derail all preparations and final outcome of the election.

Ayo Aluko-Olokun

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