IN a keenly contested gubernatorial election like we had on Saturday March 18 in Ogun State, it is trite to say that there would be only one winner and 12 losers. Close watchers opined that the winner would either be the incumbent, Dapo Abiodun, or his hard-fighting clansman, Ladi Adebutu. A few pundits thought the immediate past governor, Ibikunle Amosun, could swing it for his lackey, Barrister Biyi Otegbeye, although it was a tall order. History will situate Amosun’s role and that of his predecessor, senator-elect for Ogun East, Gbenga Daniel, in the fullness of time. Given the political and intellectual sophistication of Ogun people, all the known factors in Nigeria’s real politik’s were on display and evidently deployed in the last election. From gerrymandering to ethnicity, campaigns of calumny, idea marketing, endorsements, propaganda, name calling, name smearing, religion tilting, media push, permutations, strategic moves, manipulations, money gifting to curry support were all used. Needless to say, while the APC relied more on the track record and incumbency of its candidate, especially after delivering 100 percent in the National Assembly and presidential election, the PDP on its own had going for it the big pocket of its candidate’s billionaire father, Chief Kessington Adebutu.
However, when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)’s Returning Officer in the state and vice chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Adebowale, announced the result on March 19, the APC candidate scored 276,298 votes to emerge the winner; the PDP polled 262,383 votes to come second, thus trailing the winner with 13,915 votes, while the Amosun’s protégé, Biyi Otegbeye of the ADC, polled 94,754 votes to come a distant third, all hell was let loose. While ADC and Amosun kept sealed lips, the PDP called for a re-run election in polling units where elections were cancelled, submitted a petition to INEC through its state collation agent, Sunkanmi Olajide, and accused the APC of using thugs to disrupt elections in some polling units in the state. According to it, the total number of cancelled votes was higher than the margin of victory. “You will recall that the commission is aware of the level of thuggery planned and orchestrated by the All Progressives Congress to unleash mayhem in some polling units across the state to destabilise innocent voters from freely exercising their voting rights as a result of planned and well-executed action,” the PDP said. “We are aware that the principle of margin of lead as established by the Commission in Section 24(3) is in effect affected by the inability of the population greater than the reflected lead between the assumed winner of the election and the runner-up. Therefore, a re-run is appropriate to address this injustice. We, therefore, implore the Commission to evoke this principle and declare this election inconclusive.”
Ordinarily, playing the role of a judge in one’s own case is antithetical to ethics, logic and even commonsense. But in this case, it is the pot calling the kettle black. Ogun residents and voters will attest that on the day of election, and in flagrant disobedience of the Electoral Act (2022) and the guidelines of the INEC restricting movement on the election day, the PDP candidate, Adebutu, had a free rein, criss-crossing the over 16,000 square kilometre of the state, moving from one polling unit to the other and across all the local governments. The consort was sighted inducing voters with cash, credit cards and transferring funds at will to sway voters against all known democratic norms. By midnight and away from their Iperu and Ipokia bases respectively and hundreds of kilometres away, the band was spotted at the Ado-Odo/Ota Local Government secretariat, which served as the Collation Centre and expected to return the highest figures in the election and at the Oke Ilewo Office of the INEC where collation for Abeokuta South Local Government was taking place. They allegedly fired several gunshots and used tear gas canisters on defenceless staff and party agents to disrupt proceeding, but were boldly resisted by the people bent on defending the power of the ballot.
Earlier that day, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) had arrested four PDP party agents with hundreds of thousands of money credits cards meant to buy votes at Ibara Housing Estate, Abeokuta. Each of these card was pre-loaded with N10, 000 and meant to be activated to cash with a code and yet another PDP agent was arrested with hundreds verve pre-paid credit cards with the name Caroline Oladunni Adebutu Memorial Endowment Scheme at Agbado in Ifo Local Government and over 300 Permanent Voters Cards by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission operatives. It reminds me of Frank Sileo’s admonition using Sally’s anecdote: Sally loves to be first at everything! She is first in line at school. She is first out the door at recess. She is first at dinner finishing her mac ‘n’ cheese! Unfortunately, Sally dislikes losing and this can lead to hot tempers and hurt feelings. She even gets the nickname “Sally Sore Loser” from her classmates at school. With the help of her teacher and her mom, Sally learns the rules for being a good winner and a good loser. She learns to say to herself, “I’ve won if I had fun!”This sends a note to parents with practical tips for teaching children to be good winners and good losers.
Politics and democracy should be about being good sportsmen. What is playing out in Ogun politics where kinsmen turned arch-rivals and one party symbolises do-or-die is reflective of the general bitterness towards the world that George Steinbrenner felt after his basketball team, the Yankees lost their games. One great story comes from after a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1981 World Series in Los Angeles, when George punched a wall and broke his hand. He lied to everyone and told them he beat up two Dodgers fans in the elevator. I’m not sure which story is worse.
It’s asinine that everyone is now to be blamed for Adebutu’s loss: INEC, APC. Gov. Abiodun, the people of Ogun State and perhaps God, who ultimately gives victory.
Rather than doing a post-mortem of the limit of money politics, intimidation and other unwholesome practices that nearly ruined the polls, Adebutu stormed INEC with hirelings, protesting a lost election. Logic has taken a flight and he’s not thinking of the democratic way out. The point should be made that at the time the protesters were threatening to burn down INEC headquarters on Thursday only 99.23% or results from the election have been uploaded by INEC on Irev. It is still being updated. So where is the talk of cancelled votes being more than the margin of victory coming from?
Yes it can be a shameful thing for a politician built in the frame of a heavyweight boxer to lose to another with a small body mass akin to a bantamweight, but a more honourable route that Hon. Ladi Adebutu can take is that of Jong-ll Byun, the former South Korea boxer who took the idea of a sit in protest to a whole new level. After a controversial 4-1 defeat at the hands of Aleksandar Hristov of Bulgaria, Byun sat by himself in the ring for over an hour. Eventually, match officials turned the lights out and left him in darkness. There should be honour even among losers. After all, Biyi Otegbeye, Amosun and the other 11 candidates have taken a sit in deference to the will of the people.
Yes, nobody likes to lose, and in all honesty, it is difficult to always be the most gracious loser. But, there is also a line that should never be crossed. The governor has been magnanimous to offer them an olive branch to them to join in his vision of building the future of the state together. If it’s about the people welfare, prosperity of the State and good governance, the electorates have spoken. Let’s have honour among our politicians.
- Somorin is Chief Press Secretary to the Ogun State governor.