The March 18 governorship election in Ogun State was marked by intrigues and left many unanswered questions in its wake.
The returning officer of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kayode Adebowale, in the presence of the State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Olaniyi Ijalaye, declared Governor Dapo Abiodun as the winner of the election, having polled 276,298 votes.
The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ladi Adebutu, followed him with 262,383 votes while the candidate of the Africa Democratic Congress (ADC), Biyi Otegbeye, got 94,754 votes.
The three were the major contenders in the election that had 10 other candidates.
The governor was thus reelected with a slim margin of 13,915 votes against Mr Adebutu of the PDP.
The governor and his party, the APC, have since been basking in the euphoria of victory in an election that was characterised by violence.
Ballot snatching, violence
But the opposition have warned the APC not to rejoice too early as the party and its candidate face a long day in court.
Many cases of violence, ballot box snatching and vote buying were reported in major cities across the state during the election.
Political thugs, some of whom wore masks, had a field day as they fired gunshots to disrupt voting at polling units.
But the attacks seemed strategically targeted at specific polling units.
Iperu Remo in Ikenne Local Government Area, the home town of the governor and Mr Adebutu, was one of the worst hit areas.
For instance, hoodlums snatched two ballot boxes at Polling Unit 05, Ward 03 in Ayegbami area of the town.
The hoodlums invaded the polling unit on motorcycles and chased away voters.
However, security operatives, particularly police officers at a nearby road intersection, responded with gunfire in the air. But their intervention did not save the Assistant Polling Officer (APO) for the unit, Alalade Babatunde, from being beaten up.
The chaos forced many intending voters to scamper for safety and abandon the polling station.
In another polling unit in at Eleja in Sagamu, thugs set electoral materials on fire, as officials of INEC and voters also ran for dear life.
The same experience was recorded at Itori-Odo in Abeokuta, where hoodlums broke ballot boxes.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that similar cases were recorded in Idowa, Ijebu Igbo, Ijebu Ode and Abeokuta, among other cities.
But the atmosphere was largely peaceful in Ogun Central District, as the disturbances happened mainly in Ogun East Senatorial District.
A voter, who simply identified himself as Adewunmi, accused members of the All Progressives Congress in Itori-Odo of perpetrating the the violence.
In Isara Remo, a PDP chieftain, Sesan Asenuga, was reportedly attacked while in Sagamu one Mrs. Makanjuola was also attacked.
In Abeokuta South, one Quadr Okewunmi was shot beside his house after casting his vote in Itori Odo town in the local government area.
When PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited the Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta, to check on the victim, Mr Okewunmi was being stabilised in preparation for an operation to extract a bullet from his body.
Thugs also disrupted voting in Ward 13, Polling Unit 22 in Itori Odo, Abeokuta South Local Government Area, causing journalists and electoral officers to flee.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that scores of persons suspected of involvement in political violence, including a local government chairman, were arrested by the police during the election.
The state commissioner of police, Frank Mba, confirmed to journalists that 30 suspected electoral offenders were apprehended during the election.
Vote buying across party lines was also observed at the election.
To evade arrest by security agents deployed to check vote buying, a credit card was spotted being distributed to voters while voting was ongoing. The card was more conspicuous in Ogun Central and East senatorial districts of the state.
A voter, Moruf Adelaja, told our reporter that the card would be used to redeem a N10,000 pledge to a voter after voting for a particular political party.
Mr Adelaja refused to mention the party that issued the card.
However, a voter who simply identified herself as Kudirat said the card was from the PDP. But another voter, Idayat Aina, insisted that another card loaded with N10,000 was given to her by an APC leader, who she refused to name.
Votes margin argument
Some political analysts in the state said challenging the result of the election in court will be an effort in futility as it is the usual route of losers after most Nigeria elections.
Curiously, the electoral umpire refused to disclose the total number of votes cancelled in the election. Suspicious opposition political parties said this was to avert declaring the poll inconclusive because the margin of Mr Abiodun’s victory is allegedly lower than the number of cancelled votes.
The Electoral Act stipulates that such should lead to non-declaration of a winner until elections are reconducted in the places where votes were cancelled.
Acting upon that claim, protesters in the state capital demanded a rerun of the election in the areas where elections were cancelled.
The PDP candidate, Mr Adebutu, marched with a large crowd of his supporters to the state INEC office barely 72 hours after the election. The candidate during the protest submitted a protest letter to the electoral umpire.
After this protest, 11 of the 13 political parties in the election rejected the outcome and called for suplementary elections in the polling units where elections was cancelled.
The parties are Social Democratic Party (SDP), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Action Alliance (AA), Accord Party (AP), Allied People’s Movement (APM), Because Of Our Tomorrow (BOOT party), Labour Party (LP), Action Democratic Party (ADP), African Action Congress (AAC), All Peoples Party (APP) and National Rescue Movement (NRM).
At a press conference, the parties said, “it was obvious that INEC stood logic in the head by making a pronouncement of a winner in an election in which the number of cancelled votes tripled the margin of lead between the acclaimed winner and the closest rival.”
The convener of the conference is the chairman of NNPP in the state, Olaposi Oginni. He said: “the Ogun Coalition of Registered Political Parties hereby calls for the immediate suspension of the Ogun State Resident Electoral Commissioner and Immediate arrest and prosecution of Prof. Kayode Adebowale, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan for this heinous crime against our democracy.”
Mr Oginni alleged that the election “was massively rigged with lots of irregularities, including ballot box snatching in over 100 polling units, suppression of voters with thugs under the cover of security agencies, ballot snuffing and other illegalities.”
However, the victorious APC has dismissed the allegations.
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