ONE thing that is clear about the outcome of the governorship election in Ogun State is that the result hardly represents the true picture of the contest. It was a close race in line with most pre-election prognosis, but what is now regarded as the outcome, leaves many grounds for questions.
Just like in the rancorous way the All Progressives Congress conducted its governorship primaries, which from reports were fraught with controversies, certain aspects of the result that was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are still hazy and require clarity.
It is very imperative considering that the general outcome of the 2019 elections, only succeeded in resonating calls for electoral reforms. In declaring the APC candidate, Prince Dapo Abiodun, the winner of the poll, INEC announced that he had 241,670 votes.
The commission explained that Abiodun defeated his closest rival, Mr Adekunle Akinlade, of the Allied Peoples Movement (APM), who polled 222,153 votes to claim the second position. He was said to have won in 11 Local Government Areas, LGAs, out of 20 LGAs in the state.
The Returning Officer, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, who noted that the margin of lead between Abiodun and Akinlade was 19,517 votes, said the figure is more than the total cancelled votes which he puts at 7,100.
However, a breakdown showed that the total number of registered voters was 2,375,003 while the total number of accredited voters was 708,807. The number of valid votes was 680,947 while 20,969 votes were rejected. The total number of votes cast was 701,916.
But a further look at these results showed that so many things didn’t add up.
First, according to INEC guidelines, a clear winner only emerges where the margin of victory is higher than rejected votes. A situation where the reverse is the case, the commission stipulated that the election should be declared inconclusive. But was that the case in Ogun State?
Anyone, who lacks response to the question should consider this explanation by INEC. It said: “Inconclusive election is an election where the total number of registered voters in a particular constituency is sufficient to cause a change in the outcome due to the postponement of election or cancellation of result(s). It may also arise when no candidate meets the criteria for election or threshold to be returned as winner after the initial ballot.”
The rule, however, strengthens the arguments that the 19,517 margin of winning and 20,567 were valid grounds to declare the poll inconclusive. It is on this plank that many people fumed that INEC ought to have declared the exercise inconclusive, like it did in a few states.
Why is Ogun different? Are INEC rules applied selectively? In whose interest did INEC act? Was the commission’s decision aimed at strengthening democracy or deepening absurdity?
Without mincing words, the commission is rightly placed to respond to the questions, if the outcome of the poll would be accepted as credible. But its failure in doing that since the exercise was held seems to be giving credence to suspicion of foul play on its part.
Given the uninteresting history of the 2019 governorship race in Ogun, the least expected was an exercise programmed to favour a preferred candidate. The bitter atmosphere under which the poll held had necessitated a level playing field for all the participants. Such could have resulted in a popular outcome in the popularity contest.
After all, when one looks at the character of the results polled by both sides, it was easy to decipher who is more popular in Ogun State.
What has happened in Ogun was a clear case of electoral robbery, orchestrated by a privileged few. Since we do not live in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where all animals were not equal, I am convinced that the illegality would not stand.
Therefore, it is incumbent on the Akinlade, who was robbed, to seek justice in the court. Challenging the result is not because of him alone but a constitutional requirement to ensure the good of the state and strengthen the electoral process.
- Faleke, a grassroots mobiliser, writes form Abeokuta