With the conclusion of the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states and the subsequent declaration of Mr. Ayo Fayose and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola as the winners, Nigerians have agreed that there are countless lessons to be learnt from the way the elections were conducted as well as the attitudes of the candidates and their parties.
As the candidates struggled to outdo one another in currying the favour of the electorate, Nigerians coined the new vocabulary, “stomach infrastructure”. Thanks to the attention seeking politicians who ensured that rice (cooked and raw), gallons of vegetable oil and even litres of kerosene were made available to people in surplus quantities.
Apart from “stomach infrastructure”, the term “militarization” also enjoyed wise usage. The leadership of the All Peoples Congress (APC) continually alleged that the heavy presence of military personnel was to manipulate the polls in favour of PDP candidates. The APC has been generous with complaints and criticism of the militarization of polling venues.
Before the elections in Ekiti and Osun states, the APC had shouted it to the rooftops that the PDP had perfected plans to rig the election. The National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu had declared openly that a “rig and roast” approach would be adopted for the Ekiti election.
In the case of Osun, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed claimed that the party was in possession of a rigging manual prepared by the PDP.
Incidentally, the APC’s paranoia did not just start. After being accredited to vote on July 14, 2012, Adams Oshiomole who was the flag bearer of the Action Congress of Nigeria (one of the main parties that fused together to form APC) in the Edo State governorship election discredited the whole process even before voting began. He alleged a grand plan to rig the election. He even threatened not to accept the result of the election which not started! He said “Professor jega and INEC have been an embarrassment to the nation. I am in shock with all the arrangements they have made sensitizing the people and I told them, INEC needs to be sensitized. INEC is the weakest link in the Nigerian democratic chain. I have no faith in what INEC is doing in Benin City. This is designed for where majority of the people are denied the right to vote and this time around, I have told them this country either decides on whether to move on or move back. I see sponsored editorials saying whatever happens, we will go to court, but today, we have to sort out the issues once and for all.” He also personally pronounced a death penalty for election riggers when he said “if they rig, we will kill them there”.
It therefore didn’t come as a surprise to many when Governor Aregbesola called on Osun voters for the elections and fortify themselves spiritually with Psalms and Bible verses for Christians, he urged Muslims likewise to ensure they were well versed in Qur’anic verses while traditionalists should feel free and be ready to defend their votes with the use of amulets and other charms, an indication that even the Governor expected the poll to turn violent.
From a careful analysis however, it could simply be inferred that the party is either afraid of losing or envisages loss before every election.
Even after he was declared winner, Governor Aregbesola still attributed his victory to the fact that voters prevented their mandates from being stolen! Speaking after the election, Ogbeni said “this election shows that democracy is still gravely endangered in Nigeria. We witnessed gross abuse of power and, of due process before, during, and even after the actual voting process. It is so sad and unfortunate that what should be a normal, routine process was maliciously allowed to snowball in to a needless virtual war by the Federal Government and the PDP.
Osun state was unduly militarized in an unprecedented manner through criminal intimidation and psychological assault on our people. This election witnessed an abuse of our security agencies and amounted to a corruption of their professional ethics and integrity.
The security agencies were unprofessionally utilized in Osun state to harass, intimidate and oppress the people whose taxes are used to pay their salaries and provide their arms. Hundreds of leaders, supporters, sympathizers and agents of our party were arrested and detained. Also, hundreds of other innocent citizens including women and the aged were harassed, brutalized and traumatized. In spite of this condemnable repression and abuse of human rights, the unflagging spirit of our people triumphed.
Our victory is due to the steadfastness and resolute determination of our people to assert and defend their rights. The PDP obviously did all it could in a most desperate manner to steal the people’s mandate. A critical analysis of the elections shows a trend of general low voter turnout largely because of the atmosphere of deliberate tyranny and fear caused by the excessive militarization of the state. Despite our victory, it is pertinent to condemn and also point out the fact that the number of accredited voters in most local governments was less than half of registered voters. Against this trend, it is curious that the bulk of the PDP candidate’s votes came from only four Local Governments- namely Ife Central, Ife East, Ife North and Ife South. This suggests an inexplicable large turnout in his stronghold which is a curious departure from the general trend of voting across the state.
The outcome of this election, once again, shows the unswerving determination of our people to ensure that democracy triumphs in Nigeria. We have sent a strong signal to all and sundry that no might is powerful enough to thwart the will of the people. This should always strengthen our resolve to ensure that as from now on, every vote must not only be counted but must count in this country. Nobody or party must ever exercise power unreasonably at any level except in accordance with the will of the people to whom sovereignty belongs.
Let me assure the good people of Osun state that I appreciate that this victory is a reward for our hard work and commitment to the welfare of our people. I promise that we shall not rest on our oars but shall be spurred to work even harder with all well meaning people of the State of Osun and the generality of Nigerians to continue to enjoy your trust and support. You can be assured that we will leave no stone unturned in our continued effort to transform Osun into a land of progress, prosperity and peace for all with renewed fervour. I realise that this victory and the challenges we went through is a call to greater service and sustained commitment to our people. I pledge a rededication of myself to the service of our people and the strengthening of democratic values in Osun and Nigeria generally. Our country remains in political bondage and we must set her free”.
It should be noted that militarization, which the APC complained so much about has its advantages. For instance, in Ekiti, the processes that preceded the governorship election were trailed by violence which resulted in loss of lives and property. With the presence of security personnel however, Ekiti elections went peacefully.
In Osun, it may not be wrong to say that the militarization eventually worked in the APC’s favour as the election for which people had been advised to arm themselves physically and spiritually did not record any violence.
Perhaps the leadership of the All Progressives Congress and of course, all other political parties need to take lessons that would make them realize that in politics, you win some, you lose some. As it stands, the average APC supporter believes no election is credible unless it is won by an APC candidate.
The party is fast giving itself the image of a party that has the habit of crying wolf where there is none.
One of the many questions begging for answers is “how did the APC win in Osun if the military presence was to facilitate rigging?” Or was it that the PDP rigging system failed? If it failed in Ondo where Mimiko’s Labour Party defeated the PDP and APC in 2012 despite heavy presence of soldiers and also in Anambra where the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) trounced PDP and other parties to win the governorship poll, and now in Osun, the noise about the PDP rigging system might be a hoax after all or that the party has lost touch with the rigging system which made it lose by more than 100, 000 votes.