By Dapo Akinrefon & Shina Abubakar
AS residents of Osun State go to the poll to elect a new governor to pilot affairs of the state for the next four years, today, there are concerns that vote buying and violence may mar the exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and security agencies have assured that the election will be violence-free and devoid of any form of inducement by political parties and politicians.
However, there are strong fears from observers of political events that today’s election could be exposed to massive rigging and unprecedented vote buying if urgent steps are not taken to curb the trend.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that unlike the strategy deployed during the governorship election in Ekiti State, some politicians have devised new means to induce voters.
It was further gathered that for some days now, some parties have been wooing potential voters with cash and promises of appointment. Cash payments may not be done near the polling units in some cases as was done in Ekiti and past elections.
Also some All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors are said to be on ground to provide support for their respective candidates as a way of swinging the votes in their parties’ favour.
The parties, Saturday Vanguard gathered, are said to have earmarked between N10,000 and N15,000 to induce voters and may increase the amount to N20,000 in strong holds of the opposition.
A source, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, said: “I heard that vote buying started before the election. The politicians are devising another style to reach out to the electorate, they may not induce voters on the day of the election. They have cornered so many communities and leaders and have given them money. They strategically positioned their link men in these communities.”
It was further alleged that the leading parties have perfected plans to out manouvre each other at the poll.
Expressing worry over this development, a member of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, Election Analysis Centre (EAC), Prof. Victor Isumonah, said at the organisation’s Pre-Election Observation Report on the Osun governorship election that Osun may be worse than Ekiti.
Isumonah said: “This was evident in the Ekiti governorship election and likely to be worse in the Osun State Governorship election. During the 2018 election, three men were arrested for vote-buying by police officers and the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, recorded instances of PDP agents partaking in such activities.
“CDD-EAC observers during the June 2022 Ekiti State governorship elections noted several instances of vote buying and called for stronger monitoring by INEC.”
Aside vote buying, residents are worried that the election may be marred by violence.
This worry was borne out of the remarks and desperation of some political actors in the two major parties.
It was gathered that there have been influx of people, who are suspected to be political thugs and cultists in Osogbo, the capital of the state.
Osun restricts vehicular movement
Already, the state government, yesterday, imposed restriction on vehicular movement across the state as part of effort to ensure peaceful election.
In a statement, the Secretary to the State Government, Wole Oyebamiji, urged people of the state not to entertain any fear about today’s election.
The SSG noted that adequate security will be guaranteed for all law-abiding citizens as all security agencies have their operatives on ground to ensure there’s no security breach or breakdown of law and order.
The statement reads: “Governor Oyetola has directed that vehicles coming into the state should ensure that they arrive latest by 10pm tonight (yesterday). Only vehicles passing through Osun to other states will be allowed free movement.
“Consequently, there will be no vehicular movement tomorrow between 6am and 4pm, except those on essential electoral duties.”
Army personnel take over highways
As a way of preventing breakdown of law and order, Army personnel have mounted check points on major entry points across the state.
Soldiers were seen in strategic areas like Gbongon, Shekona, Ede, Abere and Osogbo, the state capital frisking commuters and commercial buses.
Similarly, police helicopters were deployed to provide aerial surveillance of Osogbo and its environs.
NSCDC deploys 11,226 personnel for effective security
Also, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, has deployed 11,226 personnel to the 3,763 polling units in the state.
A statement by NSCDC’s Director of Public Relations, DCC Olusola Odumosu, stated that the deployment covers flash points, collation centres, as well as critical national assets across the state.
Deployed personnel were derived from the national headquarters and nine State Commands; Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Kwara, Kogi and Edo to supply manpower for the election.
He added that undercover agents from National Headquarters have joined their counterparts on the state for covert operations.
IGP deploys 21,000 police officers for poll
Also, the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba said 21,000 police officers would be deployed for the Osun July 16 governorship election.
The IGP, however, said the deployment was not to intimidate residents but to prevent miscreants from highjacking or disrupting the election process.
15 parties in the poll
Of the 18 registered political parties, 15 fielded candidates for the poll.
The candidates taking part in the exercise include Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the APC; Senator Ademola Adeleke of the PDP; a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yusuf Lasun representing the Labour Party; Dr Oyegoke Omigbodun of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Dr Akin Ogunbiyi of the Accord Party.
Others are Munirudeen Atanda of the Action Democratic Party, ADP; Lukman Awoyemi of Allied Peoples’ Movement , APM, and Busuyi Ayowole: Peoples Redemption Party (PRP)
INEC registers 1.9m voters, delivers 335,298 PVCs
Meanwhile the INEC has put the number of registration areas in Osun at 332 with 1,955,657 registered voters and 335,298 Permanent Voter Cards collected so far.
The Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, in Osun State, Professor Abdulganiyu Raji said his office received 5,305 BVAS from INEC Headquarters on June 24, 2022 adding that the configuration of the BVAS was done at Abuja Headquarters.
“The charging of the BVAS started on Monday June 26, 2022 and is ongoing. Total polling units in Osun is 3,763, total number of RAs is 332, while total registered voters is 1,955,657. The total PVCs delivered in 2022 is 335,298.”
How poll will be won and lost
Already, the two major political parties with brighter chances in the poll are still battling with internal crises which may determine where the pendulum will swing, depending on the side that can best manage its situation.
The two leading parties were, prior to their primary elections, enmeshed in infighting which are still haunting their candidates hours to the election.
While the crisis in the APC led the former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Mr Lasun Yusuf to the Labour Party where he became its governorship candidate, the PDP crisis produced Dr Akin Ogunbiyi of Accord party.
The outcome of the primaries of the parties was a subject of litigation which, to a large extent, is a subject of worry for the various candidates. PDP and APC are faced with difficult situations over the silence of some of their gladiators, who ordinarily are great mobilisers.
Why there’s crisis in PDP — Party chieftain
Mr Wale Adigun, a PDP member loyal to Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, in a chat with Saturday Vanguard described today’s election as a contest between the APC and the Adeleke dynasty rather than the PDP.
Adigun said: “You can’t call this election a contest between the PDP and the APC. This can be likened to a contest between the ruling party and the Adeleke family. You are all aware of how the party’s ticket was ‘bought’ at the detriment of party unity.
“The party in Osun was not founded on the principle of money bag or for personal vendetta, it was founded on the principle of collective bargaining, where the interest of the party supersedes personal interest, but that principle was jettisoned by the National Secretariat and the ticket was handed over to a few who do not understand that election is won by collective efforts.
“As it stands, the founding fathers of the party in the state and power brokers are on one side, including the only elected governor of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola while the party’s candidate and his supporters are on a side too. That is not how to win election.”
Findings further revealed that the only the PDP Governor in the South-West, Mr Seyi Makinde’s body language suggests that he was not so pleased with the prevailing situation in the state. Makinde, the Oyo State governor was said to be backing a candidate against Senator Ademola Adeleke, who eventually picked the party’s ticket.
After the primary, Makinde was said to have stayed away from the party’s activities in Osun.
According to Adigun, Governor Makinde supported a different candidate for the party primary being close to the state and in line with the feelers on ground; however, the national leadership of the party felt otherwise, hence, the Governor stayed aloof on happenings in the Osun PDP.
While acknowledging a crack within its fold, PDP’s Director of Media and Publicity in the state, Mr Oladele Olabamiji, noted that the party is working seriously on reconciliation between and among all the stakeholders, including the founding fathers.
Olabamiji said: “We have been working on settling all the disputes but it is also impossible to satisfy everyone in politics because of diverse interest involved. However, we are making progress with everyone involved especially the founding fathers and Prince Dotun Babayemi, who is now canvassing for the party.
“Meanwhile, we are focusing more on the masses who are the major stakeholders that will determine the next governor of the state. We have many stakeholders in the party, but more importantly, they are more much in the populace, hence, the party focused more on the people than active politicians in order to win election. In anyway, all stakeholders in the party have their eyes on the bigger goal, which is bringing Osun under the control of the PDP and that is what we are working to achieve.”
Some of the power brokers the PDP is struggling to reconcile include Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola; a former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Senator Olu Alabi, Elder Sola Isola, Alhaji Fatai Diekola among many others. In addition, some of its lawmakers are also not cooperating with the party hierarchy.
Like the PDP, the APC is not without its own share of misfortunes as some of its members, unlike in previous elections, have defected to the PDP, due to the wrangling between Governor Adegboyega Oyetola and his predecessor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
Although, the party also received various groups of detectors from the PDP, the party is worried over the lack of decorum within its fold.
A former SSG, Alhaji Moshood Adeoti,who contested the primary election with Oyetola, instituted a suit against the victory of the incumbent Governor but the matter was thrown out.
The Iwo-born politician has not associated with the APC campaign trail.
Such is also the situation with Ogbeni Aregbesola, who openly opposed the choice of the governor as the party’s flag-bearer.
Even after the primary, the Aregbesola caucus within the APC known as The Osun Progressive, TOP, has not openly identified with the campaign train of Governor Oyetola and some of them, notably, Mr Kolapo Alimi, led his supporters to the PDP.
Though, Alimi admitted not to have the blessings of the Minister of Interior to join the PDP, he said he, and his supporters had to leave because they have been marginalised.
However, Aregbesola, at a meeting with leaders of the caucus in Lagos after Alimi’s defection, told them he is still an APC member noting that his supporters must work for the success of the party.
Days after the meeting, notable members of the caucus have been re-aligning with Oyetola’s group to canvass votes for his re-election.
The Chairman of Ede North Local Government of the TOP, Oladejo Afeez, who recently joined Oyetola’s faction, said his decision was informed by the directive given to them by the Minister of Interior, who directed them to work for APC. Afeez, who confirmed his detection, said: “Yes it is true that I have left TOP with my people in Ede North Local Government Area. Aregbesola said we should not work against APC and we should not decamp to another party, that we should stay in the party. I will rather stop being in politics than decamp to PDP.”
Similarly, the immediate past speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr Najeem Salaam, at a gathering of his supporters in Ejigbo, also told his followers to remain steadfast, and support Oyetola.
How they stand
With the APC and PDP having the widest reach and popularity among the populace, the two parties would repeat a two horse race like it did in 2018, but this time, the election is likely to be won in a single ballot.
The APC is likely to win in Osun Central Senatorial District which has Olorunda and Osogbo local government areas, which have the highest voting population.
Other councils which the party could garner votes in the district include Ila local government because of Chief Bisi Akande’s influence; Boluwaduro, Boripe and Odo-Otin council areas.
The PDP is likely to win Ifedayo, while Ifelodun, Orolu and Irepodun council areas will be a battle ground between the two parties.
In Osun West, the PDP is likely to gain an upper hand with major votes from Ede-North, Ede-South local government areas, home of Senator Ademola Adeleke.
In Ede, the traditional ruler of the town had given a directive that all indigenes should queue behind their son, Senator Adeleke. The party is billed to win in Ola-Oluwa, Isokan and Ayedaade local government areas which remain its stronghold.
APC may secure a win in Irewole, and Ejigbo council areas, while Egbedore and Iwo local government areas will be battle grounds.
In Osun East Senatorial District, the influence of Senator Iyiola Omisore may give the APC an edge over the PDP in the four local government areas of Ifeland, while Ijesaland is likely to be a 50-50 affair with APC likely to win in Ilesa-West and Oriade local government areas.
The PDP may secure a win in Ilesa-East and Obokun while Atakumosa-West may go the APC way, as PDP is poised to win in Atakumosa-East local government area.
IPC tasks journalists security consciousness
Meanwhile, the International Press Centre, IPC, on Friday, urged journalists on electoral duty in Osun State to adequately integrate safety and security consciousness into the performance of their professional roles, noting that the advice was necessary because many journalists and other media professionals would be on the field for the exercise.
IPC’s Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, in a statement, also said the warning was against the background of rising attacks on journalists by various actors including the security agencies and political actors.
The statement reads: “It is, therefore, very important for journalists covering the gubernatorial elections to be safety conscious in the discharge of their duties, and to avoid situations that may put them in harms way.
“The security agencies should note that the media is a critical part of the electoral process and should be accorded due rights and privileges to enable them carry out their social obligations as partners seeking to ensure the credibility of the electoral process.”
As part of initiatives to keep tab on the safety of journalists during the elections, IPC said that cases of attacks or threats to journalists should be promptly reported.
Lawal also enjoined journalists to report any threats or act of violence against them to media professional bodies like the National, Zonal and State Chapters of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, and the Nigeria Guild of Editors, NGE.
Get your ‘African science’ ready, Amotekun tells operatives
Yesterday, the Osun State Security Network Agency, code-named Amotekun, charged its operatives to arm themselves with tested ‘African Science’ before going to polling units for observatory role.
In a statement by its Corps Field Commandant, Mr Amitolu Shittu, warned them not to go to their respective units in their uniform, saying anyone that breached the rules should be ready to face the consequences.
The statement reads: “This is to bring to your notice that all commanders should comport themselves in a peaceful manner in the forthcoming gubernatorial election on Saturday 16th July, 2022.
“It is commendable to appreciate the State Government that employed and empowered you. But it is important that you must not be forward in your actions and reactions as law abiding citizens of Nigeria.
“You must conduct yourself in a peaceful manner devoid of any controversy as the law has no respect for violators.
“The Area Commanders and Local Government Commanders of Amotekun in Osun State must conduct and organize the men under them very peacefully. “You are to perform your civic right in mufti. Do not go to any polling unit with any material except your voters card.
“Remember to have with you all your tested and confirmed African Science materials.
“In case any of you foresee or discover any looming crisis in your polling unit of observation you are to relay the information to the Police officer around, the Department of State Security Service officer and other accredited professional security officers saddled with election monitoring responsibilities.”