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 are 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 southwest governors whose reelection bids have been thwarted by the contrary wishes of voters.
The INEC Chief Returning Officer for Osun, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who announced the result Sunday Morning said the Peoples 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 took part 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 increase in the 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 won in 17 of the 30 local government areas. He also won some local governments in the strongholds 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.
PREMIUM TIMES analyses the factors that helped Mr Adeleke to victory.
Inspiration from 2018 election
A major factor which propelled Mr Adeleke to victory can be found in his belief that he won the 2018 election. Although he challenged the outcome in court, he was not successful as his challenge was dismissed by the Supreme Court on technicalities.
Even with the backing of the then incumbent governor, Rauf Aregbesola, Mr Oyetola almost lost the chance to be governor. It took the alignment with third place finisher, Iyiola Omisore, then of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) combined with the use of state security apparatus to secure victory for the governor. This show of performance continued to resonate with the PDP candidate, who did not relent in telling the people that he would win the election in clearer terms this time.
The Aregbesola Debacle
The Osun Progressives (TOP), a faction of the APC, loyal to Mr Aregbesola, waited until the last minute of the campaigns to declare their stand on the election. The declaration was not unequivocal; it also did not contain any support for the APC candidate. It only used the opportunity to further list its grievances against Mr Oyetola although it declared its determination to remain in the APC.
The TOP 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 did not inform or invite him during the campaigns.
It was also not reasonable for the governor to invite his predecessor to his campaign when the latter, on the eve of the election, was supporting those seeking a court judgment to nullify Mr Oyetola’s nomination as the candidate of the APC.
Thus, the party approached the election on Saturday split from the middle. The governor and his advisers failed to make good on their promise to emerge victorious without Mr Aregbesola.
Mr Aregbesola travelled 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 many of his promises to the people. His performance in debt repayment, salaries to workers and stability of the state’s solvency are not under scrutiny.
The people, however, wanted a change.
They held the governor responsible for the high cost of living, insecurity and uncertainty, largely blamed on the ruling APC nationwide. The APC and all its candidates will 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 were “sensitized” to come out en masse partly 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, and so on. One voter even complained that she was supposed to 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, money 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.
Men and women of all ages were involved with 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.
12:00pm Voting ongoing at PU 029, Open Space, Aderin Junction, Aderin area, Olorunda local government, Osogbo.
People Deceive Politicians
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, Polling Unit 003, Ward 1, Ife East is the voting point of the National Secretary of the APC, Mr Omisore. The results for the polling unit were APC, 192 and PDP, 168. Only a difference of 24 votes.
However, the crowd that welcomed Mr Omisore at the unit when he came to cast his vote was overwhelming that one would think he fed them every day and none of them would vote for the PDP. But the result showed otherwise.
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 into office.
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 Mr 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 asked not 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.”
The deployment of BVAS has changed the game to a large extent. Accreditation and results collation has been enhanced through the new system. Even the rate of violence has dropped especially with the recently concluded elections.
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 allowed to come to pass.
Lawrence Adewole, a 78-year-old voter at PU 004, Ward 1, Ife East, recalled that all the elections he participated in since the 1960s were 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 popular view that the transmission of results from the PUs to INEC’s database by polling officers has greatly reduced the chances of manipulation of the election by state actors.
Nigeria Police officers
Demeanour 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. PREMIUM TIMES’ observers 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 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 the process will be more credible.