CGPI REPORT OF THE MONITORED OSUN STATE GUBERNATORIAL ELECTION
The Osun gubernatorial election which took place on the 22nd of September 2018 had earlier been described by many analysts including the contesting parties as the final prelude to the 2019 General Elections. Almost all the major parties took it as a litmus test to prove their strength and acceptance; hence the preparations, campaigns and canvassing were robust. The election exhibited certain trends which were more or less a departure from what we used to know, and also produced some useful insights into the progress we have made in our electoral system.
For instance, contrary to the bandwagon syndrome usually reflected in a party dominating a state or a region, with the usual allotment of states to certain parties based on perceived ‘presence’, the Osun election told us that elections in Nigeria can be issues-based. It also opened us to a new reality that contrary to the belief that electoral results are usually predetermined through well-known manipulations, the votes are beginning to count owing to massive improvement in the operational procedures of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Below is the report of the election with some of its highlights and observations.
Arrival and briefing
The CGPI team arrived Oshogbo, the state’s capital on Friday and joined the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) for a work briefing at Ideal Nest Hotel in Oshogbo. Thereafter election monitors were dispatched to various parts of the state with requisite materials for noting observed events
The Election Day (22nd of September 2018)
Early arrival of INEC officials and materials: One outstanding progress made by INEC in this election was the prompt arrival of electoral materials, its officers as well as men of the security apparatus (made up of a mixture of the Police, Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps- NSCDC, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency –NDLEA- among others).
Other conditions on the part of INEC that gave the election a free, fair and credible outlook as received from most reports in other parts of the state gathered from post-monitoring exchange of notes among monitors indicated that the polling units/centers were accessible, electoral secrecy was provided through the ballot cubicle, adequate security were ensured, INEC officials lived above board (except in isolated cases), and the conduct of the electorates was also peaceful and civic.
Besides these, the procedure of ensuring transparency through open display of the sensitive materials such as Result Sheets to the electorates and party agents before the commencement of the exercise, the conspicuous display of names of eligible voters, and the soundness of the card readers were reported in most cases.
Adoption of accreditation and voting simultaneously: This method seemed to be an improvement over the previous method of separating the two. The gain from this was that there was no time lag which could have produced a case of voters accrediting but not coming back to vote, or where accreditation could be tampered with or jeopardized before voting could commence. Adequate provision was also made in the form of splitting a polling unit with large registered voters (usually over a thousand) into 2 polling points for efficiency.
Voting, Collation and Announcement: Voting went on smoothly in most places as well as collation. Most polling units finished voting around 4:30pm to 5: pm depending on the eventual turn out of voters. The average voters’ turn-out was higher than recorded in most previous elections; for instance, a sample record of three polling units (units 18, 19 and 20) monitored in Ward 04, Ataoja ‘D’ constituency in Oshogbo, the average turn-out was between 49-51% which was replicated almost across the state. The collation of the results was followed by an on-the-spot counting and announcement of the results witnessed to by the electorates and party agents and the subsequent pasting of the result in conspicuous places at the polling units accessible to all.
On the average there were very few hitches on the part of INEC in the election of 22nd September 2018 as reported by most observers both local and foreign.
Issues-Based Election: The election was one surrounded by issues considered by the citizens as germane to their welfare and positions in the state. The major issues around which the choices of the electorates revolved were (a) the issue of modulated salaries and its impact on their welfare, (b) the return of school to Christian Missions canvassed as point of strength by some of the parties and (c) the Ajele factor (interpreted to mean the dominance of government by Osun indigenes from diaspora especially from Lagos). This produced some astonishing results in the election with the ruling party unable to break the ice in the first round until the rerun.
Vote-buying: This phenomenon is rising owing to the increase in the sanity of the electoral process from INEC’s side: rigging is becoming increasingly difficult and it is being replaced by vote buying. In Osun however and due to INEC’s strict warning beforehand, vote buying we observed was discreetly done as opposed to previous ones where it was done almost with reckless abandon
Election-Related Violence: in the 22nd of September 2018 elections, there were no cases of violence across the state, except in the four local governments of Ife North (1 polling unit), Ife South (2 polling units), Orolu (3 polling units) and Oshogbo (1 polling unit) where the rerun was scheduled.
Result Declaration and Verdict: Although election results were announced at the polling units, the final collation and announcement was by INEC. After the collation of all results in which the gap separating the two leading parties PDP and APC was 353 votes, INEC declared the result as inconclusive based on an existing electoral provision which envisages that where there are complaints of electoral irregularities, disenfranchisement or tampering with the ballot-such as ballot snatching- in some areas, where the total number of votes not cast (or cancelled) is more than the margin between the two leading candidates, the result will be declared inconclusive and a rerun held. This was the basis for the rerun fixed for Thursday 27th of September 2018
The Re-run: The rerun was generally filled with anxieties from all sides with the horse-trading that went on between the dominant parties. The APC was able to form a merger with the other two runners-up (SDP and ADP) among others, and that may have explained in part its eventual victory
Was the rerun free, fair and credible? From all indications, there were allegations and counter allegations. Prior to the rerun day, some people were arrested while buying voters cards for specific amount of money, obviously as a strategy to mop out the number of available voters. The arrest was made by the ruling party APC which obviously traced the vote-buyers as PDP agents: we expect INEC and the Security crew to make public the result of their findings and to proceed with prosecution forthwith.
There was also the allegation of use of threat against people in certain places daring them to come out and vote. Again, the PDP was accused of placing the threat which was why the election was attended by heavy security presence. However, many other reports had it that the heavy presence of security forces served as a camouflage for the ruling APC to manipulate the election as claimed by the opposition PDP.
The rerun by INEC in terms of the mandatory conditions on it to make the election free, fair and credible was observed to a great extent. What cast a shadow of doubt over the health of the election was the character of our political parties and their desperations to win at all cost which made them resort to tactics like vote buying to crowd out number of voters, threats and intimidation, and ultimately violence. The Security was also alleged to be unfair in the form of being in cahoots with the ruling APC to have the election manipulated in its favour
INEC should be commended for its level of performance in the election and should be assisted to improve upon it.
The Security apparatus deployed for election purposes must be tutored on how to maintain neutrality in electoral contests. The generality of our institutions needs strength and independence to stand aloof of partisanship in the discharge of their duties especially sensitive ones as elections.
It has now become expedient for limits to be set on the cost of procuring an electoral victory. The enormity of money spent for election purposes is in major part responsible for the desperation displayed by parties on one hand, and the inability of elected governments, on the other hand, to provide needed social welfare, as huge election costs have to be recouped with added profits as politics has now become the most lucrative business. From charges for purchasing party nomination forms to other sundry expenses, INEC should be empowered to keep down the cost of prosecuting electoral victories (and defeats) as low as possible.
Finally, the electorates are more in dire need of voters’ education. From reasons why selling their votes is unpatriotic and detrimental to development; to being able to thump print the ballot papers without flaws. There is an increasing number of voided votes in our electoral system (over 46,000) in the Osun election which represents a great number that could have decided the fate of the election otherwise.
Prepared by the
Center for Global Peace Initiative [CGPI]