By Ikechukwu Amaechi
After the Osun State governorship election, Nigerians have moved on. It is needless, they will tell you, crying over spilt milk. You are told, if you insist on a modicum of decency in our national conduct, that there is nothing anybody can do about the mess or to those responsible for the muddle.
Our penchant to easily resign to fate smacks of fatalism. Some claim that power only comes from God even when they are prime witnesses to the intrigues and shenanigans behind the acquisition of such powers.
As a people, moving on has become our trademark. We sidestep problems and by so doing, pretend, like the ostrich, that they will simply grow wings and fly away.
They never do.
Sadly, Nigerian leaders fully understand this psychology; our uncanny and inexplicable lack of appetite to demand accountability from them and call them out when they refuse to. Holding the feet of those in authority to the fire is a taboo.
The consequence of this lethargy to civic responsibility is the barely disguised contempt of the leaders for the people as was demonstrated in Osun State last month.
Dramatically different outcomes
The outcome of the September 22 governorship election, particularly the re-run poll on Thursday, September 27, on the basis of which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Gboyega Oyetola winner, still irks me, as it should every well-meaning Nigeria.
I won’t bore you with the details of the stand alone poll. Suffice it to say that there were two elections conducted by the self-same INEC but with two dramatically different outcomes.
Everyone knew it would be a titanic battle between the ruling APC, whose candidate has been the Chief of Staff to Governor Rauf Aregbesola for eight years, and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with Senator Ademola Adekele as its flag-bearer.
All eyes, local and international, were on the bucolic state and both political parties threw everything they had into the contest because it was apparent that its outcome would reverberate far beyond the shores of Osun.
It became, in a sense, a proxy war for the 2019 elections.
In the September 22 poll, PDP won. Prof Joseph Fuwape, Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), who was the Returning Officer, said Sen. Adeleke polled 254,698 votes against Oyetola’s 254, 345 votes.
The election was adjudged free, fair and credible by all. Yet, INEC declared it inconclusive because according to Fuwape, a total of 3498 votes were cancelled, which was higher than the 353 votes that separated Adeleke and Oyetola.
In the re-run poll on Thursday, September 27, all hell was let loose in the seven polling units of Ife north, Ife south, Orolu and Osogbo.
Unlike the peaceful September 22 poll, the re-run election was marred by violence and intimidation. Accredited observers were denied access to polling units and duly registered voters were prevented from participating in the electoral process by thugs and apparently compromised security agents.
It was so bad that EU, UK and U.S. election observers dispensed with diplomatic niceties to say unequivocally that there was widespread intimidation of voters, journalists, and civil society observers by political party supporters and security agencies.
Leading local civil society groups echoed their findings.
“In contrast to our overall findings on the vote of September 22, we were concerned to witness widespread incidents of interference and intimidation of voters, journalists, and civil society observers by some political party supporters and security agencies.
“Many of our findings mirror those of leading civil society groups that observed the election,” they said.
A civil society group, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), concurred, stating categorically that the conduct of some key players in the poll ran contrary to democratic norms, standards and best practices in the conduct of credible elections.
“CDD frowns at the conduct of the security agents and political party stalwarts who took steps that were inimical to the conduct of a free, fair and credible election … CDD field observers deployed to observe the process and ensure its credibility, especially in Orolu and Osogbo LGAs, were intimidated, threatened and in some cases arrested by security forces,” the group’s director, Idayat Hassan, said in a statement.
To them, the re-run poll did not meet with the minimum standards for free, fair and credible elections, as it fell short of global best practices in democratic elections.
Another civil society group, The Integrity Friends for Truth and Peace Initiative (TIFPI), put it more starkly.
“The election was a direct opposite to the widely celebrated September 22, election. We observed widespread violence, intimidation of voters, observers, party agents and journalists by security agents and political thugs,” said Livingstone Wechie, founder and executive director of the group.
Nigeria’s tragic situation
At the end of the day, it took INEC well over 10 hours to collate and announce results in just seven polling units across four council areas with about 2000 votes and Fuwape now declared the poll conclusive saying that Oyetola won by scoring 255,505 votes against Adeleke’s 255,023.
It is a sad irony of Nigeria’s tragic situation that INEC declared an election adjudged possibly the best it had conducted in recent times inconclusive while validating the poll adjudged the worst and returning a winner on its basis.
Of course, the rank and file of APC are beside themselves with joy over their Pyrrhic victory. They are ululating. An unmerited electoral victory was handed over to them on a platter of INEC’s mischief.
We have moved on from the Osun election debacle or so it seems because we love being politically correct. A winner has emerged and in fact presented with the Certificate of Returns by INEC on Wednesday, October 3.
So, why drink Panadol for somebody else’s headache as our brethren in Warri would say? It is Adeleke’s palaver, so let him carry the can.
The end must always justify the means. Those who triumphed in Osun are politically more sophisticated.
But isn’t that the reason why we are where we are today; at the very nadir of all global development index?
Shamelessness is powerful
The All Progressives Congress and its apparatchik must be operating on the assumption that shamelessness is powerful.
The sad reality is that with APC, particularly the party being recreated in Adams Oshiomhole’s duplicitous image, Nigerians no longer expect sincerity, mutual respect and sobriety in response to serious national issues. Instead, knee-jerk dismissals of inconvenient truths have become the norm.
Every well-meaning Nigerian must be embarrassed by what happened in Osun in the name of election.
It was an unconscionable subversion of the people’s electoral will, or if you like, sodomisation of democracy, as some have aptly labelled it. Frighteningly, some believe that the Osun governorship election debacle is only but a dress rehearsal, a foretaste of the dish of election malfeasance that will be served to Nigerians in 2019.
What is even more ominous is President Muhammadu Buhari’s reaction. While congratulating the “winner,” he told the “loser” to seek redress in court.
Of course, that call cynically mimics Obasanjo’s gas-lighting method in his days in Aso Rock when after every dubious election cycle, he would admonish those holding the sticky end of the duplicitous electoral stick to seek illusive redress in court.
Déjà vu! Isn’t it? The vaunting ambition of the powerful still trumps democracy ethos in our country. But I don’t blame them. I would rather blame our naivety and impotence.