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Osun highlights imperatives of CUPP on 2019 poll

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Nigerians wait to cast their votes at a polling station during the Osun State governorship election in Ede, southwest of Nigeria, on September 22, 2018.<br />Voters in the southwestern state of Osun went to the polls to elect a new governor amid growing concerns about free and fair voting, six months ahead of a presidential election. / AFP PHOTO / PIUS UTOMI EKPEI

Altough the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) went back in time to re-enact its popular infringement on electoral process by declaring last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State as inconclusive, the exercise has rich lessons for the country’s democracy.

It was as if INEC was eager to rekindle the sad memory of its first faux pas in Kogi, where ‘inconclusive’ became a convenient password for the commission’s electoral misadventure.

As if the electoral umpire was out to do the bidding of some unnamed masters, it reversed itself by declaring the Osun election inconclusive when available precedent pointed to the irregularity of such action.

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INEC must have forgotten, but earlier this year during the Lokoja/Kogi East House of Representatives by-election, the Prof. Mahmood Yakub’s INEC announced Haruna Isah of APC winner after he polled 26, 860 votes to defeat Bashir Abubakar of PDP, who garnered 14, 845 votes in the election, despite the fact that the difference of 12, 015 was less than the 19, 960 cancelled votes.

Well INEC’s argument was that the total number of cancelled votes could not have gone to the favour of the PDP candidate.
Lessons from Osun guber

One vital point that the Osun election underscored is the reality of a two-party system and the folly of a multiplicity of political parties in the nation’s fledgling electoral system.

Out of the 48 political parties that registered their preparedness to compete in the election, it was only five that showed substantial presence on the field.

Based on the suspended outcome, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) would no doubt discover that the Osun people’s verdict translates to a referendum, not only on the tenure of the state government, but also the last three years of the party in Nigeria.

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It was however mindboggling that in a state where payment of salaries was a subject of debate and lottery, that the party in power could garner as many votes as the APC polled in the exercise

What that informs is that either the low performance rating of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was a creation of partisan hype or that the power of incumbency (federal might) played beneficial roles in the 254, 345 votes Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola and APC garnered.

But, in terms of party politics, the two major parties-the ruling APC and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), must have seen from the vote tally how they haemorrhaged from internal bickering within their folds.

Among the five outstanding parties from the medley 48-APC, PDP, Social Democratic Party (SDP), Action Democratic Party (ADP) and African Democratic Congress (ADC)-three candidates, namely Senator Iyiola Omisore (SDP), Alhaji Moshood Olalekan Adeoti (ADP) and Alhaji Fatai Akinbade (ADC), branched out of APC and PDP.

While Adeoti ran away from APC immediately Oyetola received Aregbesola’s anointing to fly the party flag in the September 22 election, Omisore smelt a rat when PDP started speaking in foreign tongues about the likelihood of retaining him as the party’s governorship candidate in recognition of the fact that he was the 2014 candidate.

Berthing easily on the SDP platform, the one-time deputy governor of the state believed that his political clout and Ife base would fetch him the governorship this time around.

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Like the Senator, Alhaji Akinbade, who served as PDP state chairman when the party returned Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as governor, did not waste time when it became obvious that Senator Adeleke was favoured to pick the governorship ticket. He cast anchor on the ADC, which was adopted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo as a special purpose vehicle for the 2019 general election.

Split votes, implications for CUPP

GOING by the vote tally at the point of inconclusiveness of the Osun poll, it could be inferred that had the strategic underpinnings of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) been activated, APC would have lost the election by as a wide a margin as 86, 439 votes.

Under the CUPP arrangement, PDP’s 254, 698 added to SDP’s 128, 049 and ADC’s 7, 681 votes would have netted a total of 390, 428 in the election against APC and ADP’s 304, 089 votes.

It is obvious that the split in votes affected the two major parties.

The implication of this split on elections is that parties should endeavour to evolve durable conflict resolution mechanisms to avert the incidence of emotive defections, just as politicians should learn to play for the collective interests of their parties.

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Interestingly, the electorate in Osun showed that with effective enlightenment the plethora of mushroom parties does not interfere with their choice, to the extent that some parties adopted names that began with the alphabet ‘A’ in a bid to enjoy unmerited votes in the belief that voters would consider the topmost parties to cast their ballots.

But with the disparity in the vote tallies of the parties, it was clear that the electorate went to the polling booths knowing which party and candidate they wanted to vote for.

INEC should however be guided by this to shrink the number of parties and save voting time and cost of ballot papers.

The outcome of Osun election shows that the ruling party could fall the same way it defeated PDP through the machinations of CUPP. Proponents of CUPP should see that the split votes gave room for the declaration of inconclusive an election that could easily have been won by a wide margin.

If the opposition PDP is serious about displacing APC as the Osun poll has hinted, it should realise that each vote that did not come to it could end up in favour of the ruling party.

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The Osun poll apart from giving hope that APC could be beaten, serves as a morale booster to PDP that it is still acceptable to Nigerians and as such is better placed as the party to lead the electoral battle to defeat the ruling party.

Way out for CUPP in re-run

COME September 27, INEC has set up a rerun in the following five units spread across four local councils namely, Orolu (two units), Ife South (one unit), Ife North (one unit) and one unit in Osogbo.

In line with the identified pattern of voting and turn out of voters, it is not possible that the rerun poll would witness more than 25 per cent of the 3,498 registered voters in the cancelled units.
 
What is open for CUPP is to close ranks with Senator Omisore because Ife and Osogbo are considered his strong bases. As the PDP leader, Senate President Bukola Saraki, whose maternal roots are in Osun, could lead the realignment talks with Omisore.

INEC’s impartiality at risk

LAST Saturday’s election, despite the peaceful comportment of the Osun electorate, exposed INEC to further charge of partisanship.

The delay in taking a decision about the outcome of the election created the impression that either the electoral commission was waiting the leading of a higher power or it was out to create room for the ruling party to put its acts together.

INEC has next Thursday to convince Nigerians that it would walk the talk about organising a credible, free and fair election next year.

As things stand, there are many questions waiting for INEC to answer.

For instance, why did the commission not carry through its promise of simultaneous transmission of polling unit results through electronic means?

Was the cancellation of Osogbo unit election not intended to weaken the leading candidate?.


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