INEC and the Burden of the Osun Election -By Chiamaka Okafor

Filed under: Political Issues |

The Osun State election is one of the happenings in recent times that will definitely leave its print on the sands of time.
The election, which took place on September 22, 2018 recorded a large turnout of voters who came out to exercise their franchise as against the recent speculations of voter apathy.

Failure to commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the measures put in place to curb vote-buying during the election, which in turn ridicules the credibility of any election and implies that the votes of the common man do not count, as well. This applaud for the electoral body is not because of the total absence of vote-buying during the Osun election, but because to a very large extent, vote-buying declined to the background, to the extent that one would be tempted to think that it had been overcome.

 

Chiamaka Okafor

However, the methodology for vote-buying changed in Osun, and there are allegations that corp members were induced, with mobile transfers made to them to comply with party agents. And on the side of the voters, they were said to have had their names written in a register of those voting for the different parties. Could this imply that while INEC felt it had found a way of curbing vote-buying by banning the use of cell phones in polling booths, the culprits of the crime got smarter and devised a means one would never have thought of?

Another reason why the INEC will be applauded, is for the vast voter education carried out in Osun State, which enlightened a reasonable number of voters on the electoral process and also the effects of vote-buying, thereby stimulating these voters to follow up on their votes, which was the main reason for the so many objections faced at different INEC offices in almost all the local government offices, when figures were miscalculated or otherwise.

It will also be insensitive to ignore the several groups of observers who dedicated their time to make sure the process was relatively free and fair, and the entire citizenry of Osun and Nigeria for actively participating in the decision-making process.

Bone of Contention

Despite all of these achievements, INEC has again entangled itself in what appears to be a political tussle between the All Progressives Congress, which is the ruling party in Osun State and the Peoples Democratic Party, which is in the majority opposition.

On Sunday, after the collation of results at the various local government offices, these were taken to the state office of INEC, where the results were announced again, with the PDP candidate being recorded as having the highest number of votes, and yet the returning officer declared the election as inconclusive.

Some group argue that the basis for which the declaration was made is according to the 1999 Constitution, under section 179, subsection (2b), which states that: “he has not less than one-quarter of all the votes cast in each of at least two-thirds of all the local government areas in the State.” Critically looking at the case in Osun State, none of the two major candidates met this requirement, as neither the APC nor PDP was able to secure two-thirds of the local government areas, which is 20 out of 30, with the former gaining 16 and the latter 11. Nevertheless, one of the parties met the requirement of subsection (2a), which stipulates that: “he has the highest number of votes cast at the election”.

In the ensuing press release, INEC gave reasons for the rerun, which include the fact that the total number of cancelled votes was more than the margin between the two leading parties, while the other reasons are: the (a) malfunction of the smart card readers; (b) disruptions of voting; (c) over-voting; and (d) no voting. The question we should be asking is: do the constitutional provisions mandate a rerun on the basis of the foregoing?

Constitutionally, over-voting is an offence and according to section 53 subsection(2) of the electoral act: “Where the votes cast at an election in any polling unit exceed the number of registered voters in that polling unit, the result of the election for that polling unit shall be declared void by the Commission and another election may be conducted at a date to be fixed by the Commission where the result at that polling unit may affect the overall result in the Constituency.”

Osun indigenes should ask questions about and seek answers to the reasons given by INEC for a rerun to what should be termed a concluded election, as this can be a way towards the strengthening of our democracy.

Suspected Bias

A Lot of people took their grudge on the way the election panned out to Twitter, while others took these to God in prayers. In allusion to the Kogi State bye-election of a few months back, the leading contending parties then were the APC and PDP, which were in very close competition, with the APC topping with 26,860 votes, while the PDP had 14,845. Then the gap between the leading party in that election and the second was 12,015, which was lower than the number of cancelled votes. However, the APC was declared winner, without a rerun election being called for. Similarly, the ongoing Osun State election has the identical issue of cancelled votes being more than the gap between the two leading parties, but unlike the Kogi State precedent where a winner was announced, the election was declared inconclusive, hence today’s rerun election.

The question Nigerians should ask at a time like this when our democracy is being threatened by a select few, for selfish reasons, is why such a decision should be made without ‘reasonable reasons’.

Why the result from Osogbo, the state capital, took almost forever to come through, when all other results had been announced, is still a mystery to a lot of Nigerians. Could it be that all the mysteries to the election happened at this point?

It could also be that while APC expected to win the State without much stress, it folded its arms and PDP took advantage of that and secured a lot of votes.

Equally, it could also be that the people of Osun have lost faith in the APC and decided to try out the next available option.
Some will also say that if INEC wanted to rig the election for APC, as it is being alleged in some quarters, they would have done so ab initio.

There is a failure in the communication mechanism of the Independent National Electoral Commision, and while a lot of us have taken our grudge to Twitter without a good knowledge of what the laws guiding the electoral process say about the declaration of results, it is the responsibility of INEC to educate the common man on what these laws say about the process and on what constitutional basis its decision was made. This would definitely guide the ‘thoughts and talks’ of members of the society.

INEC has ridiculed the law of communication that says that communication is incomplete until there is feedback, although many may say that “it is too early to cast the stone”, yet a body such as INEC should be aware that feedback might as well be the only way to hold the trust that Nigerians have for it, as it is seen as the last ship that will take us to the promised land.

Will the citizenry still trust INEC to conduct a free and fair election in 2019 and give the people a say in the decision made on the leadership of their country?

While citizens seek a better understanding of the situation at hand, the Senate president, Mr. Bukola Saraki, rather than educate citizens on the dictates of the law, serving as the basis on which the election was declared inconclusive, he instead took to issue this statement from his Twitter account: “Let me remind @OfficialPDPNig supporters and the good people of Osun State that this @INECNigeria decision constitutes only a delay in the victory of Senator Ademola Adeleke and our party. #OsunDecides2018”, which could arouse infernal situations across the nation and, of course, strengthen his political ambitions.

This certainly implies that the Senate president does not trust the rulings of the body that brought him to power and equally the Constitution of the land.

Chiamaka Okafor is a final year Mass Communication student of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University.

 

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