Ogun guber: Narrow escape for a sitting governor
Prior to the March 18, 2023 Governorship and House of Assembly Elections in Ogun State, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and some political gladiators thought the poll would be a mere walkover. But Governor Dapo Abiodun didn’t think so. If he did, then he saw something on time and began a last minute fire brigade and bridge-building efforts across the state to avert a looming danger. At last, he escaped narrowly.
Many thought the March 18 poll would also go the way of the February 25 Presidential election, which was a clean swept for the APC, winning all the available federal parliamentary seats.
However, the reality across the state till the eve of the poll showed that it was going to be a three-horse contest between the APC; former Governor Ibikunle Amosun’s sponsored – African Democratic Congress (ADC); and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And true to the permutations, the APC had to sweat it out to retain the state.
Unlike in the presidential elections, which were generally adjudged peaceful, the Governorship and House of Assembly elections, were characterised by ballot box snatching, vote-buying, sporadic shootings and what could be described as low turnout of voters, among other hitches.
The Guardian learnt that despite hyped endorsements by weak opposition parties, movements and other groups, only a small fraction in the state supported the governor’s re-election bid. Others, based on what they termed underdevelopment of the state, marginalisation and abandonment of his predecessor’s projects, among other grievances decided to end governor Abiodun’s tenure this year.
Even the civil servants that spoke with The Guardian during the election were praying against his re-election, considering the backlog of unpaid deductions, marginalisation of promotion beneficiaries and other allegations bordering on anti-workers’ policies.
Despite his last minutes empowerment programmes and fence mending, the determination of the electorate to vote him out actually showed in the slim margin with which he defeated the PDP governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu.
Despite winning 12 Local Councils – Odeda, Yewa North, Yewa South, Ewekoro, Ijebu North, Ijebu Ode, Abeokuta North, Ipokia, Imeko Afon, Ado-Odo/Ota, Obafemi Owode and Ifo, Abiodun only managed to poll 276,298 votes. Adebutu polled 262,383 votes from eight councils, while the ADC came third with 94,754 votes.
For the House of Assembly election, APC won 16 seats, PDP won nine out of 26, while the remaining seat – Ifo 1, where the Speaker, Taiwo Oluomo comes from was declared inconclusive, with a rerun planned for a latter date.
Till now, many are still shocked, including the main opposition party, how the figures, which were in their favour as at Saturday night of the election day turned by Sunday evening when the State Returning Officer, who is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Kayode Adebowale declared Abiodun the winner.
Aside the power of incumbency, The Guardian can report that many factors actually led to the surprise victory of APC. These include – Senator Solomon Adeola’s factor cancellation among others.
While voter apathy was recorded in major parts of the state, especially Ogun Central and East Senatorial districts, where the electorate stayed indoors, it was a clear departure in Ogun West, especially Ilaro, the country home of Yayi and the ADC flagbearer, Olubiyi Otegbeye, Owode, Iwoye, to Oja-Odan, among other areas, which recorded massive turnout of voters.
The turnout was credited to efforts of the Senator, who reportedly mobilised the electorate financially to vote Abiodun, an indigene of Ogun East, against their son, Otegbeye of the ADC. This was evident in the final result, as the ruling party won in all the five councils in the senatorial district –Yewa North, Yewa South, Ipokia, Imeko-Afon, and Ado-Odo/Ota. In addition, all the House of Assembly candidates in the area also defeated their opponents.
One of the areas the PDP is contesting regarding Abiodun’s victory is the number of cancellations, which the party claimed would have given it victory. The party accused the APC of using thugs to disrupt elections in polling units where the PDP had some advantage, claiming that the total number of cancelled votes (33,750) were higher than the lead margin.
During the collation exercise at the INEC office, Magbon, Abeokuta that Sunday, the PDP State Collation Officer, Sunkanmi Oyejide alleged that some of the areas where cancellations took place were strongholds of his party, noting that INEC should have declared rerun in those areas, especially when the votes cancelled were more than the margin of the lead by the candidate of APC.
To confirm the party’s position, it was reported that the poll, which took off on a peaceful note, suddenly turned violent in Governor Abiodun’s town, Iperu Remo, Ikenne local council, as hoodlums suspected to be political thugs snatched two ballot boxes at Polling Unit 05, Ward 03 in Ayegbami area of the town.
The hoodlums, whose number could not be ascertained, invaded the polling unit on motorcycles and started shooting into the air with the aim of chasing away voters.
They escaped with one of the ballot boxes, before security operatives, particularly the policemen on election duty at a nearby road intersection responded with corresponding gun shots, while the Assistant Polling Officer (APO) for the unit, Alalade Babatunde was beaten to a pulp.
The development resulted in chaos, forcing many of the electorate to scamper for safety to avoid being hit by strayed bullets. The same scenario was recorded in a handful of polling units in the senatorial district and beyond, which the PDP believes didn’t work in their favour.
Another major development noticed across the state during the poll was vote buying. Despite the presence of operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), all the political parties bought voters.
The Guardian learnt that it turned to a case who was the highest bidder. While the ruling party paid between N2, 000 and N3, 000 to a voter, the ADC reportedly paid N5, 000, while the PDP operated a cashless policy through the issuance of a customised payment card containing N10, 000.
Though the ruling party is still basking in the euphoria of the victory, the PDP is not leaving any chance to challenge what they termed travesty of victory. For instance, since last Monday, it has been protest upon protests, as the governorship candidate, Adebutu has been leading his supporters to besiege the Magbon, Abeokuta office of the electoral umpire.
Just last weekend in Abuja, the PDP asked INEC to urgently review its declaration of the Ogun State governorship election. The party, at a press conference presided over by its national publicity secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said it has reviewed the conduct of the Saturday, March 18, 2023 Governorship election and observed with concern that the result as declared by INEC was completely at variance with the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022 and Guidelines it issued for the conduct of the election.
“Specifically, from the summary of collated results at the governorship election, it is evident that our candidate was in clear lead before compromised officials of INEC connived with the defeated APC to cancel PDP’s thousands of winning votes and brazenly declare the candidate of the APC, Mr. Adedapo Abiodun as winner, in violation of the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022,” the opposition party said.
The party drew the attention of INEC to the fact that with the cancelled votes, the margin of lead between Abiodun and its governorship candidate, Oladipupo Adebutu, is not in excess of the total number of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) collected in Polling Units where election did not hold or were cancelled by INEC, citing disruption of polls.
“Whereas the number of PVCs collected in places where elections were not held or cancelled is 33,750, the margin of lead between the two candidates as announced by INEC Returning Officer is 13,915, thereby invalidating the declaration and return made by INEC,” the PDP disclosed.
It stated that: “In such circumstance, Section 24 (3) (4) of the Electoral Act, 2022 expressly mandate INEC to appoint a new date for the conduct of polls in the Polling Units where election did not hold or were cancelled before any return can be made.
“Section 24 (3) reads: “Where an election has commenced and there is reason to believe that there is or has been substantial disruption of election in a polling unit or constituency or it is impossible to continue with the election occasioned by threat to peace and security of electoral officials and materials, the Commission shall suspend the election and appoint another date for the continuation of the election or the process.
“(4) Where the Commission appoints a substituted date in accordance with subsections (2) and (3), there shall be no return for the election until polling has taken place in the area or areas affected.”
The PDP believed that the hurried declaration of the APC candidate by the INEC Returning Officer as winner was a declaration made contrary to the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2022, Regulations and Guidelines stipulated by INEC for the election.
“In situation such as this, the only option available to INEC is to exercise its powers under Section 65 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 to review the wrongful declaration and return made within seven days.”
The PDP cautioned INEC to save the state an imminent breakdown of law and order by reviewing the declaration and return made. Efforts to get the position of the APC in the state were unsuccessful as the State Publicity Secretary, Tunde Oladunjoye, failed to pick calls put across to him.
But a group, Ogun Integrity Vanguard, has tasked security agencies in the country, particularly the Nigeria Police Force, to ensure comprehensive probe of the electoral infractions allegedly perpetrated by PDP and its governorship candidate – Adebutu, during the March 18 poll.
The group, in a statement signed by its secretary, Duro Thomas, made reference to incidents during the polls, where PDP agents were arrested in the Agbado area of the state by Agbado Police with cash, more than 300 PVCs and Verve prepaid ATM cards.
They pointed out that the action was a clear contravention of the Electoral Act. It said: “It was not only the police that arrested agents of the PDP and other parties carrying out such devious acts.
“As amply documented by the spokesman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Femi Babafemi, operatives of the agency on election stop and search duty, intercepted four party agents with hundreds of money, and credit cards meant to buy votes at Ibara Housing Estate, Abeokuta.
“Each card contained N10, 000 and was meant to be activated with a code. The suspects, who were PDP agents, were subsequently handed over to the police. It is clear that Adebutu’s bloated image is underpinned by corrupt tendencies,” the group alleged.