Governor of Osun state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has been officially declared the winner of the August 9 gubernatorial election conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). By this victory, he has gained a second consecutive term of four years. The electoral body gave him the “certificate of return” on Monday August 11.
Going into the election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had hoped to repeat the huge upset it caused in neighbouring Ekiti state in June when its candidate, Ayodele Fayose, a former governor roundly beat the sitting All Progressives Congress (APC) governor Ayodele Fayemi. In the event, it failed, but its candidate denied Aregbeosola a clean sweep.
In the keenly fought contest, Governor Aregbesola won in 22 local government areas of the state while his challenger Iyiola Omisore of the PDP won in 8. The returning officer for the election and Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Bamitale Omole, said Aregbesola polled 394, 684 votes to Omisore’s 292, 747.
The Ekiti upset for the APC provided a tense build up to the Osun poll. It pulled all the stops to ensure it avoided being bested again by the PDP. The latter also campaigned hard, pouring men and materials, including money, into the Omisore campaign. President Goodluck left Abuja for Osogbo to shore up the campaign. Anxiety was high on both sides. Accusations and counter accusations were traded. In the end, the INEC managed to pull off a fairly peaceful vote, the second in two months. But this largely because the INEC relied on 71,000 armed soldiers, policemen and men of the Department of Security Services (DSS) to keep the peace before, during and after polling.
This “militarisation” of elections has been condemned by many, including former President Ibrahim Babangida. Speaking with journalists in Minna, the Niger state capital, on the occasion of his 73rd birthday, he said, “it isn’t the business of the military (to supervise the conduct of elections), but rather it is the constitutional responsibility of the police.” He admitted that military boats might come handy to access difficult terrains, “but to see the military in the streets on voting day, this will amount to militarisation of the electoral process.”
Again, many have asked, if INEC needed as many as 71,000 armed security personnel to police just a state, how many it would require to conduct nationwide elections coming up next year. We believe that greater voter education by the election commission and political parties will help a lot more to deliver violence free polls. Fifteen years into uninterrupted democratic rule, we should de – escalate the place of the military in the nation’s political life.
Another minus in the Osun election was the lack of sportsmanship on the part of both the winner and the loser. Till date, Iyiola Omisere, the candidate of the PDP, has not called his opponent, Aregbesola, to congratulate him on his victory. Not even the fact that President Jonathan publicly congratulated the APC candidate the very day INEC pronounced the winner impressed Omisore. Instead, he is gathering a team of lawyers to challenge Aregbesola’s victory. Neither has Aregbesola expressed magnanimity in victory by promising an inclusive government.
This is disappointing reverse of what happened in Ekiti where former governor Fayemi , in spite of his shocking defeat, promptly congratulated the PDP candidate who won.
All said, it was a successful election, warts and all. It should boost INEC’s confidence, going into next year’s elections.