OLUWOLE IGE captures the war of words among some stakeholders ahead the governorship election in Osun State.
THE political temperature in Osun State is getting higher, as gladiators, political parties and stakeholders embark of on intense horse trading and manouevring preparatory to the August 9, 2014 governorship election. For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the task of dislodging the All Progressive Congress (APC) from power must be pursued with all vigour, doggedness and commitment.
Already, the party has fixed April 5 for the conduct of its primaries election for its three governorship aspirants, including Senator Iyiola Omisore, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi and Honourable Oluwole Oke.
Many observers say the outcome of primary election could have a far-reaching implication for the PDP before and during the general election proper, given the calibre of the contenders for its ticket.
From all indications, there is no dissenting voice to the desire of incumbent Governor Rauf Aregbesola to seek re-election, as his party (APC) seems set to field him in again. It is flaunting his achievements as sufficient credentials to secure victory for the APC at the polls.
But, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) seems to be facing a bigger challenge in terms of confidence and trust by leading political parties in the state. The PDP has not hidden its mistrust and lack of confidence in the ability of the state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ambassador Rufus Akeju to conduct a credible, free and fair election on August 9. The party is alleging that Akeju is a close associate of the APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, hence he cannot be impartial in organising any acceptable polls in the state.
At the recent INEC Stakeholders’ Election Forum in Osogbo, where the chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega met with political parties, the PDP made a presentation, in which it detailed reasons Akeju should not be allowed to superintend the governorship election. According to the presentation signed by the state chairman of the party, Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa, the protest of the party against the INEC leadership was based on three grounds, one of which was the rule of law.
The document stated, “The main grouse of the PDP in Osun with the INEC is with the issue of rule of law, relegation of equity, good conscience and fairness which we experienced in the 2011 general election. This we have been clamouring to correct through the courts and through the office of the respected chairman and which our party is no longer ready to condone in all future elections conducted by the INEC.”
The PDP presentation was backed with a Federal High Court ruling on the March 28, 2011, which restrained the commission from recognising Akeju as Osun REC and also barred him from conducting elections in the state pending the determination of the originating summons in the suit between the PDP and INEC.
Akeju, the party claimed: “it is disturbing that INEC and REC disobeyed the extant order of the court.”
The party further quoted Section 14(3)(b) of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution as amended, which specifically provides that the REC shall not be a member of any political party. It alleged that “It is public knowledge that Akeju was a Special Adviser to Senator Bola Tinubu, a chieftain of the APC. Part of our proof of his personal association with Tinubu is the fact that the REC represented him at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) at the public presentation of a book written by Wale Okediran. This was one of the issues we canvassed at the Court before we secured the judgment barring from conducting elections here in Osun State.”
Moreover, criticisms dogging the INEC on the conduct of the coming election in Osun are not limited to the PDP alone, as the national chairman of the APC, Chief Bisi Akande, last Sunday, accused the commission of manipulating the voter register in the state to favour the PDP. Akande, who spoke to journalists after collecting his permanent voter card in Ila Orangun, his country home said, “My assessment of the collection of permanent voter card is uncomfortable. I came for the validation of my voter card where I registered and voted in 2011 today. I was able to collect my card but some people that came after me could not find their names on the list.
“Some names which appeared once on the voter register in 2011 appeared twice now. Some names that appeared in 2011 are not appearing again on the list for the collection of PVC which makes me to be worried and I began to ask questions. Even, in some units where the INEC registered 100 people, the register covered about 60 per cent names.”
“This makes me to doubt INEC which smuggled 100,000 names into voter register in Ondo State and used it to rig the last governorship election in the state. If we don’t act now and let the world know that INEC is inefficient and fraudulent and that INEC has started the manipulation of Osun State election with this exercise, we will doing disservice to Nigerians. I am worried about the credibility of the voter register in Osun State. If the register which will be used for election is fraudulent, then election can never be credible,” he stated.
But, in swift reaction, Akeju described allegation that the INEC was planning to manipulate the voter register as unfounded, arguing that those who did not find their names on the register either registered twice or did not complete their registration. He said, “How can you manipulate the distribution of voter card? What are you going to manipulate there? We insist that nobody should collect card by proxy. We are not manipulating anything and we are going to conduct a credible election far better than the 2011 elections.”
Admitting at a forum in Lagos that the commission was under pressure to redeploy Akeju, the INEC chairman, Professor Jega said moving Osun REC out of his current duty post would amount to disobeying ongoing litigation in court, just as he challenged anybody with credible evidence that Akeju is a card-carrying member of any political party to present it to the public.
For some time, the accusations and counter-accusations have been a subject of public discourse. From the look of things, many of the issues being thrown up as a result of the claims and counter-claims by the stakeholders are bound to dovetail into the election proper. The colour and shape they will crystallise in the coming weeks is a matter of conjecture.