BY DEMOLA AKINYEMI
Offa, the hotbed of political opposition in Kwara State is again manifesting itself following the release of local government election results which the opposition claims were rigged.
The sight of the “winner” of an election denouncing the results proclaiming him a councillor in Offa Local government area of Kwara State could not have been anything but bewildering.
“I did not win that election. In all the eight polling units, APC won convincingly, we didn’t win. I’m a loyal member of the PDP, but first and foremost I’m a Muslim and as a person I won’t allow anyone to take what belongs to me neither will I take what belongs to another person,” Mr. Jimoh Olawole, who claimed to be candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the Shao South West Ward councillorship election in Offa declared.
His denunciation was about one of the highlights of the rerun election in Offa Local government area which held last weekend. It was an election of ego of sorts.
Offa has until now sustained its legacy of opposition to the ruling class in Illorin. It was as such not surprising that when the PDP successfully caused the annulment of the earlier election won by the ACN that eyes turned on how the party would fare in the area.
Indeed, the ancient town of Offa, has since the time of Chief Josiah Olawoyin maintained its culture of political rebellion against the status quo in Illorin from where the Saraki political machinery projects its influence.
Offa, is also the ancestral home of Alhaja Sherifat Aregbesola, the wife of the governor of Osun State which according to some sources drew the governor and his associates into projecting the election as a must win for the APC.
Indeed, many eyes were focused on the re-run election some natives based outside the state came from as far as Lagos to, in the words of one observer, to “Stand against the Saraki machine.”
The main candidates were Saheed Popoola of the APC and Alhaji AbdulWaheed Olanipekun of the PDP.
Olawore was boisterous ahead of the election. “I know our people will vote for me, I have gone round and I have paid my dues and I’m confident that I will win “he quipped after voting at a polling unit in front of the palace.”
The residents in Offa were determined and the turnout was very impressive just as security was at its best and the election was crisis free. But after that, the crisis.
True to his words, chairman of the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission, Dr. Uthman Ajidagba on the following day after the election, Sunday declared Olanipekun, candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the winner of the Chairmanship seat with a total vote of 35,937 against the 20,161 votes polled by the APC. The declaration was done in Ilorin the state capital, many kilometers from the venue of the election.
He also said that all PDP councillorship candidates won in all the 12 wards in the Local Government area. But in his swift reaction, the Protem Chairman of All Progressives Congress in the state, Comrade Shola Iji rejected the result saying that the result declared by the state Independent Electoral Commission was not the original result of the election.
Comrade Shola Iji while rejecting the result said, “We are not accepting the result because it was not an honest result of Saturday election conducted in Offa.”
The following day, Monday the protest gained momentum as people suspected to be members of APC and sympathisers of Popoola poured to the streets in Offa.
The protests in Ilorin were led by former chairman, Caretaker Committee of the former Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the State, Comrade Sola Iji, campaign director of the governorship candidate of ACN in 2011, Dr Sa’ad Omoya, Otunba Iyiola Oyedepo, Mohammed Dele Belgore’s running mate, Joshua Adeyinka, Rev Bunmi Olusona among others.
The peaceful rally commenced around 10am at the former Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)’s office, Offa Road, Ilorin.
Speaking with reporters, Comrade Iji said the protestors had come to the KWSIEC headquarters to register their rejection of the results.
Said he: “If you have been following events of Saturday up till yesterday and this morning, you will discover that the local government election that was held in Offa, Offa local government area of the state on Saturday; the results were announced at the polling units; the results were collated in all the twelve wards. And we approached the local government collation centres where we expected that the results collated at the wards would be collated for final announcement of the winner of the election.
“Unfortunately, the returning officer who is the local government electoral officer of the Kwara state Independent Electoral Commission (KWSIEC) just disappeared. He absconded and we waited there till about 10pm before the materials were moved to the headquarters of KWSIEC here in Ilorin that night.
But Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of kwara state amidst the raging controversy on Tuesday swore in the PDP candidate Olanipekun. Performing the swearing-in the Government House Executive Chamber, Governor Ahmed charged Olanipekun to tackle the daunting security challenges facing the people of Offa and its environment.
Responding, the newly sworn-in Offa local government council chairman, Hon. Olanipekun promised to use all his experience towards the development of the council and also called on the people of the council to join hands with him in the task of uplifting the socio economic growth of the council.
The development however took a twist on Wednesday at a press conference in Offa where Olawole denounced his victory as a councilor.
He said his denouncement of the victory awarded him by KWASIEC became necessary because, as a true son of Offa, he stands for equity and justice stressing that one day everyone will account for his deeds before God Almighty.
The embattled APC chairmanship candidate, Popoola also said that he will do everything possible,” within the ambit of law and our democratic rights to retrieve this mandate and exercise it to the benefit of the people of Offa and the glory of God”
“We shall not rest, we shall not sleep and we will not be tired until the people’s mandate is respected and the rightful candidate is sworn in”
But the chairman of PDP in Offa local government Engineer Goke Rabiu, however, denied that the acclaimed councillorship candidate Olawole was the PDP candidate in the last election.
He explained that when the party took the then ACN chairmanship candidate and the councillors to court, he did not join in the suit, stressing that all those who joined the suit excluding him were returned the ticket.
Engr Goke also said that the PDP couldn’t have given him the ticket because he has already joined APC and was sighted in many of their campaign rallies.