The United States Agency for International Development [USAID] has disowned a poll which the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] says puts its candidate, Iyiola Omisore, ahead of his All Progressives Congress [APC] counterpart, Rauf Aregbesola.
The source of the said poll is unclear but the PDP has in the last few days been promoting it as evidence of Mr. Omisore’s imminent victory in the August 9 governorship election in the state.
In the purported survey, Mr. Omisore led the pack of other contestants with 58 percent tally, followed by Mr. Aregbesola, the incumbent governor, with 30 percent.
On Friday, Mr. Omisore’s campaign organisation issued a statement saying the purported USAID poll was by far more credible than the one done by Lagos-based research firm, TNS-RMS, which puts Mr. Aregbesola far ahead of Mr. Omisore.
“The public should note that USAID, an international organisation operating all over the world with unrivalled technical competence and impartial perspective on Osun political landscape, had put Senator Omisore ahead with 58 percent to Aregbesola’s 30 percent,” Diran Odeyemi, the campaign’s director of media and strategy, said in the statement.
But USAID has now said it did not conduct any poll on the Osun election.
“None of USAID Peace and Democratic Governance Implementing Partners ( P/DG IPs) support or plan to support any election related opinion polls in Osun,” the USAID Democracy and Governance Team said.
The Acting Public Affairs Officer of the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Rhonda Watson, also said, “NO USAID poll was taken in Osun.”
Watson and the USAID Democracy and Governance Team were responding to an enquiry by two officials of Mr. Aregbesola’s campaign organisation – Olusola Adeyeye and Semiu Okanlawon – who wrote to ask whether USAID conducted any poll on the Osun election.
Mr. Adeyeye, a professor, had on July 30 written to the U.S. Consulate as follows:
“My attention has been brought to the outlandish findings of an opinion poll purportedly conducted by the USAID.
“In my capacity as the Chairman and Director General of the Aregbesola campaign, I am seeking to verify whether or not the USAID conducted a poll on the pending gubernatorial election in the State of Osun.
“If such a poll was conducted, it is only fair that its findings be freely disseminated to all rather than what now appears to be a clandestine circulation. Accordingly, I am requesting an authentic copy of the results of whatever poll was conducted by the USAID on the pending election in Osun.
“Needless to say, the good name and reputation of the USAID should be jealously guarded from being shredded or damaged by certified crocodiles in the murky waters of Nigeria’s partisan politicking.”
In a response on July 31, USAID and the U.S. Consulate wrote back to say they did not and had no plan to conduct any poll on the political activities in Osun State.
The correspondences between the USAID/U.S. Consulate and Messrs Adeyeye and Okanlawon were released by the APC on Friday.
PREMIUM TIMES later independently verified the authenticity of the letters. Officials at the U.S. consulate said the documents were genuine and that agencies of the U.S. government do not conduct polls on elections holding in foreign countries.
“Our only interest is for the election to be fair and credible,” the official, who preferred not to be named because she was not authorised to speak on the matter, said.
When PREMIUM TIMES contacted Mr Omisore’s campaign organisation, an official insisted that USAID released a poll that placed Mr. Omisore ahead of the other aspirants.
“They cannot say that (they did not conduct a poll). It was in the paper. The USAID is a credible organization, how can they deny what they said?” Mr. Odeyemi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Reacting to the development, the Osun state chapter of the APC described the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State as a “band of liars” for circulating information based on what it called a non-existent poll.
“The PDP in Osun are a band of liars who cannot be trusted with the finances of the state,” the party said in a statement by Kunle Oyatomi, its Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy.
“The greatest weapon of a thief is an incredible ability to lie without scruples. If such people as PDP liars have access to the state treasury, they will loot it empty.”
A HATCHET JOB?
Mr. Omisore’s team has however also described the poll conducted by TNS-RMS as a hatchet job concocted to favour Mr. Aregbesola.
The poll, released on Thursday, placed Governor Aregbesola in pole position to win the election.
Messrs Aregbesola and Omisore are the two major contenders among the 20 contestants for the governorship ticket.
“We urge the public to discountenance this last minute attempt to hoodwink the public. RMS is an APC outfit doing a propaganda for Aregbesola. Its poll lacks integrity, incredible and totally jaundiced because of vested interest,” Mr. Odeyemi said on behalf of Mr. Omisore.
In the two-phase survey by TNS-RMS, conducted over a period that stretched from June into the third week of July 2014, the poll stated that Mr. Aregbesola was the candidate of choice by Osun voters with a 73 per cent lead over other candidates,
“The incumbent (Mr. Aregbesola) remains (the) main voting choice. Voting choice for Senator Omisore declined by 2 per cent and seem not to pose a threat to the incumbent’s chances of re-election as he remains firmly ahead of the race,” the study noted.
But the PDP rejected the poll, describing it as a ” careless hatchet job” by TNS-RMS.
“We read without surprise the TNS-RMS poll in which the embattled Governor of Osun state , Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was awarded a whopping 73 percent rating in the August 9 poll,” the PDP said in a statement, Friday, by Mr. Odeyemi
“The poll is a careless hatchet job by a client for its benefactor and therefore lacking any basis in political reality in which over 90 percent of Osun indigenes have rejected the incumbent.”
Last Friday, operatives of the Department of State Services, also known as SSS, stormed the corporate head office of the Lagos based TNS-RMS, holding its staff hostage, ransacking its offices and premises and whisking away three of its personnel.
Mr. Omisore said that it was in pursuance of the relationship between TNS-RMS and Governor Aregbesola that led to the former maintaining a “criminal silence” when the Osun State government issued a statement condemning the SSS invasion.