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Osun Decide: Mahmood warns INEC officials against unethical behaviour

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor), Seye Olumide, Tunji Omofoye, Timothy Agbor (Osogbo), Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Gloria Nwafor (Lagos)
16 July 2022   |   4:27 am
As the electorate in Osun State file out today to elect a new governor, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has urged its officials, ad-hoc and regular staff to resist unethical behaviour during the exercise.

Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

• Thugs Engage Security Operatives In Gun Duel In Osogbo
• Police Vow To Curb Vote Buying Amid Concern
• Court Bars Amotekun Corps From Monitoring Poll

As the electorate in Osun State file out today to elect a new governor, the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu has urged its officials, ad-hoc and regular staff to resist unethical behaviour during the exercise.

The INEC chairman, who gave the charge yesterday in his message to staff of the Commission participating in the governorship poll, warned the officials to ensure that no political party or candidate is accorded any advantage over the other.

Yakubu recalled that the Ekiti governorship election conducted last month was widely adjudged to be free, fair, credible and inclusive, adding that the feat was an elongation of the earlier successes recorded in Edo, Ondo and Anambra states governorship elections.

He said: “The sheer determination, resilience, and competence displayed by all of you, our members of staff, made it possible for the Commission to achieve these lofty goals.

“As you are aware, the Osun State governorship election will hold on Saturday. I have assured our stakeholders and the people of Osun State that the Commission will not do anything to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate. We have made adequate arrangements for the election. We have promised a level playing field for all. The security agencies have assured us of safety.

“The people of Osun State and Nigerians will understandably hold us to our promise on election day. They will observe our attitude and behaviour from the opening to the closing of polls. They will particularly observe our management of the election results and measure the extent of our adherence to the extant laws through every stage of the electoral process.

“I appeal to you to uphold our Code of Conduct, display your usual sense of commitment and professionalism, remain above board and firmly resist any unethical behaviour. You must also stick to the Oath of Neutrality to which we have all subscribed. I have the confidence in your ability to consolidate on our recent successes.”

Yakubu’s charge to INEC staff came amid concerns that many residents may not exercise their civic responsibility because of violence being precipitated by rival cult groups and various transport unions in the state.

This is despite the disclosure by the Inspector General of Police (IG), Usman Baba, that no fewer than 21,000 policemen had been deployed to the state. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps also said it has mobilised over 11,000 of its operatives to maintain peace and order in Osun.

Though the Army, Department of State State Services (DSS) did not disclose the number of their men deployed for the election, hundreds of soldiers and DSS operatives were seen patrolling the state, while others were stationed in strategic locations including violent-prone areas.

But that did not stop some members of some suspected thugs said to be loyal to the Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Oroki Branch, Osogbo, Mr Kazeem Oyewale, popularly known as ‘Asiri Eniba’, from engaging security operatives in a gun duel, causing traders and commuters to scamper for safety.

The shooting lasted over 15 minutes at Ojurin Motor Park, Old Garage, Osogbo, around 12:30pm, before Oyewole could be arrested alongside some armed political hoodlums.

It was also gathered that some cult groups also engaged in sporadic shooting in some communities to cause fears and prevent some residents to perform their civic obligations.

A number of security operatives were stationed at the state headquarters of the INEC in Osogbo where the final results and winner of the contest would be declared.

To ensure free vehicular movement to and fro the INEC headquarters, security operatives had barricaded a lane of the busy road for only accredited stakeholders to ply. This development created traffic snarl around the area, as some travelers moving out and inside the state were stranded.

The police also announced restriction of movement from 12am of Saturday to 6:00pm of the same day.

“But people who are saddled with responsibility with special duties, such as INEC accredited press men and women and election observers are free to move as far as they have their tags.”

No fewer than 1,479,595 electorate, who had collected their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) from the 30 local councils of the state, would elect a candidate from 15 political parties that will participate in the election.

Investigation by The Guardian revealed that while some of the electorate were prepared to sell their votes to the highest bidder, most workers in the state said they had made up their minds on the party to vote for.

However, they quickly added that if the party offered them any amount, they would not reject it, insisting that they have made up minds on the party they believe would not take their welfare for granted.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Inspector of General of Police (DIG), Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, the leader of the election police team, has called for a collective effort toward a free, fair and credible poll in the state. He said the presence of policemen at polling units would discourage vote buying during the poll.

Kokumo, while interacting with accredited observer groups, charged members of the public to alert security operatives whenever they notice electoral anomalies such as vote buying.

He said: “You also talked about vote-buying. I want to appeal to you; whatever you see that is contrary to the Electoral Act 2022, let us know. Call our attention to it. It is not out of place.

“You know our zeal. You have a civic responsibility to discharge and what is that? Join hands with us in curbing crimes and criminality. And of course, this includes electoral offences. We cannot do it alone. If you join hands with us to do it, you would have equally succeeded in doing your bit.

“And the little things we were able to do collectively and equally are responsible for success we see in those elections we have had in Nigeria.”

Earlier, a Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, restrained the Osun Security Network, code-named Amotekun Corps from participating in today’s gubernatorial election.

The court order also mandated the INEC not to make use of the Amotekun Corps as part of the personnel to be deployed to provide security in the election.

The order warned Amotekun not to serve as either security personnel or volunteer in the election.

Part of the order read: “That the 1st defendant (INEC) is hereby restrained from requesting the deployment of the second defendant (Amotekun) as part of the security personnel deployable for the purpose of Osun 2022 governorship election pending the determination of the originating summons filed in the suit.”

But the Osun Amotekun field commander, Amitolu Shittu, yesterday, asked his men to monitor today’s election without wearing uniform. He urged them to comport themselves and ensure that they were armed with what he described as “confirmed African Science Materials.”

Amitolu in a press statement made available to journalists in Osogbo, said all Area and Local Government Commanders should make sure men under their jurisdictions would well organised and peaceful.

He said: “You (Amotekun operatives) are to perform your civic right in mufti. Do not go to any polling unit with any material except your voter’s card. You must conduct yourself in a peaceful manner devoid of any controversy, as the law has no respect for violators.

“Remember to have with you all your tested and confirmed African Science Materials. All your observations and reports must be sent to #AmotekunOsunSituationbase.”

Meanwhile, some accredited observers have called on electorate in Osun State to come out en masse today and exercise their franchise. They also urged voters not to be tempted to sell their vote or be induced in any form by politicians.

Addressing a press conference in Osogbo, while opening its Situation Room for the July 16 gubernatorial election and training of 60 accredited observers, Faith Nwadishi, the Executive Director of the Centre for Transparency Advocacy (CTA), called on political actors not to trigger violence or heat up the polity.

Nwadishi said: “We call on political actors to ensure that their actions and words do not trigger violence and heat up the polity unnecessarily before and after the election on Saturday.

“We urge security agencies to give assurances and make adequate provisions to protect the electorate before and after the election, while discharging their duties professionally. We urge citizens to come out en masse and exercise their democratic rights by voting for candidates of their choice.

“INEC should ensure that the coordination and delivery of the Osun election should be taken a notch higher than the just concluded Ekiti election. Also, that its personnel to be deployed are trained properly on the use of the BVAS machines to ensure free, fair, credible inclusive and conclusive governorship election.

“Citizens must shun vote trading. It is only where there is a willing buyer that there is a willing seller.  We call on parents and youths not to allow themselves to be used as political thugs to disrupt peaceful conduct of the election.”

In the same vein, the Executive Director of Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Dr. Abiola Akiode-Afolabi and Chairman, HEDA Resource Center, Olanrewaju Suraju, decried vote-buying and said the trend could not be curbed by election policing alone.

Akiode-Afolabi said: “A good understanding of the Nigerian politics will show that the phenomenon of vote buying cannot be curbed by election policing alone. Such security architecture can only curb public trading in votes and that is even to a limited extent.

“Vote buying is done more in secrecy. Therefore, there is need to shine the spotlight and preach the homily to the two key stakeholders in the criminal act of vote buying, that is the vote sellers, which are the electorate and the vote buyers, which are the political parties and their agents. We commend the role of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) during the recently conducted Ekiti Election.

“Thus, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre are calling on the well-meaning people of Osun State who are the electorate in the governorship election to shun the criminal act of selling their votes.

“We urge the electorate to come out en-masse to cast their votes and be part of selecting their own leader for the next four years through a credible electoral process. This God-given right should be honoured and not traded. It is not a commodity to sell but a right to be exercised. Selling vote is criminal; casting it is the ideal.

“The implication of vote buying is far reaching – it makes it difficult to call leaders to account since they paid their ways to the position occupied and beyond that, it affects the economy and living conditions as leaders would have no moral obligation to make life better for the citizens. Making public office holders accountable becomes negatively affected where vote buying largely compromised the processes informing their emergence. Under such circumstances, the grip of corruption becomes quick to sight and preventing such becomes a difficult necessity.

“No doubt, politicians and the ruling class have weaponised poverty to perpetuate themselves in power. However, the citizen must, as a matter of necessity breakaway from the susceptibility to cheap inducement of trading a fortune for short-term immediate gain.

“Therefore, we call on the electorate in Osun State and by extension, Nigerians at large, to echo the campaign against vote buying and other forms of electoral malpractices, not only because it is criminal, but also because it is the root of bad governance, insecurity and corruption, a situation which has pushed the country to the brink of collapse. Many of the vote buyers have alternatives and may not be bothered much if the country collapses. However, as a common people, knowing that we have nowhere else to call our own, the need for massive campaign against votebuying cannot be over emphasised.”

On its part, Yiaga Africa expressed worry over the activities of cultists and political thugs in some local councils of the state, describing the development as capable of threatening the peaceful and credible conduct of the election if not contained.

The group insisted that there were also attempts by some political mercenaries to manipulate the process right from the pre-election stage.

In its report signed by Ezenwa Nwagwu and Cynthia Mbamalu, Board Member and Director of Programmes, respectively, Yiaga Africa urged all registered voters in the state to ensure that they perform their civic duties.

Meanwhile, the International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, has tasked journalists on electoral duty in Osun State to adequately integrate safety and security consciousness to the performance of their professional roles.

IPC said the advisory was necessary because many journalists and other media professionals would be on the field for the Osun state governorship elections on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

IPC’s Press Freedom Officer, Melody Lawal, also said the warning was against the background of rising attacks on journalists by various actors including the security agencies and political actors.

“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,” Lawal said.

She also admonished other electoral stakeholders, especially the security agencies to undertake their tasks in a very professional manner.

“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,” Lawal added.”