In a development many never anticipated, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Sunday declared the Osun gubernatorial election inconclusive.
Many had expected an outright declaration after the PDP candidate, Ademola Adeleke, polled majority votes of about 254,698 while Gboyega Oyetola of the APC came a close second with 254,345 votes, but that was not the case.
The 353 votes’ difference between the two was enough ground for the returning officer, Joseph Fuwape, to declare the election inconclusive.
“Unfortunately as the returning officer, it’s not possible to declare anybody as the clear winner of the election on the first ballot,” Mr Fuwape, vice chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, said.
He explained that the total registered voters in the five polling units where elections were cancelled is 3,498 votes.
Since that figure was higher than the difference between the votes of the leading candidates, a rerun election had to be conducted, the INEC chief explained.
“I, Joseph Adeola Fuwape, hereby, declare this election inconclusive,” he said.
INEC’s election guideline made pursuant to Section 153 of the Electoral Act stipulates a rerun if the margin of victory in an election is lower than the number of voters in units where elections are cancelled.
The electoral body then went ahead to fix Thursday, September 27 as the day of the rerun election.
Indeed, the rerun may be considered as crucial as the election itself and must be accorded a special status by parties involved owing to the complications.
Even though INEC has outlawed campaigns ahead of the rerun, the two major contenders still have some assignment to do ahead of Thursday.
Back To The Drawing Board
A strewn of marriages and compromises will shape the Thursday Osun rerun to be held in seven polling units in four local governments of the state.
Election will be contested by the 48 political parties in Orolu Local Government, Ward 9, polling unit 001 with a total registered voters of 393, polling unit 004, same ward, with a total of 387 registered voters, and another polling unit in Ward 9 in Orolu with a total registered voters of 167.
In Ife North local government area, Ward 15, unit 010, with voting strength of 502 voters, the election was cancelled due to card reader problems. In Ife South, Ward 16, two polling units were affected with a voting strength of 812 and 502 respectively.
In Osogbo, one unit was affected with a voting strength of 884 registered voters. The collating officer had alleged that the presiding officer of that particular unit absconded with the results, and no further explanations came from that.
Omisore, Angry ‘Bride’
Although all the 48 parties that took part in Saturday’s election will take part in the rerun, the rerun election in reality has become a two-horse race between PDP and APC. But the local governments involved takes the battle a little away from them.
With a voting strength of over 1800 combined, the three affected polling units in Ife North and South could be decisive in the rerun.
In the final results declared for both local governments, the APC won in both with a minimum margin of 650 votes over its closest rival in each of the local governments. However in both local governments, a summation of the votes of the PDP and Mr Omisore’s SDP dwarfs the APC votes by over 3,500 votes in each local government. In fact, in Ife South, the SDP defeated the PDP to come second behind the APC.
Mr Omisore who won in the two other local governments in Ife (East and West) is considered a grassroots Ife politician. He joined the PDP after a fallout with party executives of Alliance for Democracy (one of APC’s foundation parties), and then joined SDP after losing out in PDP’s gubernatorial bid for 2018. He was the PDP governorship candidate in 2014.
Mr Omisore’s political prominence dated back to 1999 when he emerged as deputy governor of the state under the AD. His career took an unfavourable dent in 2001 when he was accused of being complicit in the murder of then Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Bola Ige who was murdered in his Bodija Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001.
The two had met shortly before a book launch organised by Ayo Fasanmi, one of the AD leaders.
It was reported that the duo had fierce altercations after Mr Ige insisted Mr Omisore greeted and respected him and the latter refused. Sometimes later, Mr Ige’s cap was removed by thugs at an event at the Ooni of Ife’s palace (an act considered disrespectful in Yoruba land).
Mr Omisore also went ahead to author series of writings against the Mr Ige. One of his interviews with TEMPO quoted him as saying, “Recently too, Bola Ige came on Radio here to insult me and my family, that his last one”.
Few days after the TEMPO interview, assassins killed Mr Ige. Since then, even though he was arraigned and acquitted, some persons still blame Mr Omisore for the murder.
Mr Omisore left the AD in 2001 while his travails persisted and at the peak of the political crisis that engulfed the Bisi Akande led government in the state.
In the Thursday rerun, one of the options that seems not feasible for the APC is to court Mr Omisore into working for them. But if the APC could get a substantial 80 per cent or more in the Ife wards, the party will stands a good chance of winning the election.
This, however, may not seem possible. Many of those who could initiate such talks are direct ‘enemies’ of Mr Omisore.
For instance, it seems unimaginable that Mr Akande would lead a delegation to persuade Mr Omisore into working for his party. But if APC could muster the courage and prosecute this successfully, there may be a gleaning of hope in Ife.
Omisore: Controversial But Useful
Like to the APC, Mr Omisore is still an angry bride to the PDP groom. After leaving AD in 2001, the politician had joined PDP, won election to the Senate twice, contested for governorship in 2014 and intended to in 2018 but that didn’t happen.
He was alleged to have insisted on running for the party’s ticket unopposed, an arrangement the party executives kicked against. His fallout with them reached a head in April when he was alleged to have supervised the burning of PDP flag in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
A state congress which produced a factional chairman of the party Soji Adagunodo, had set the tone for his dumping of the party. In the first week of April, Mr Omisore dumped the PDP with a vow never to return.
This ‘vow’ may be the ego ground for the former lawmaker in rejecting any courtship from the PDP groom in need of an ’emergency marriage’.
Some PDP leaders including a former minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, have already commenced the process of courting with Mr Omisore.
For PDP, striking a deal with Mr Omisore may have to come at an enticing price. They party may have to entice Mr Omisore with Osun East senatorial ticket, a seat currently occupied by the Babajide Omoworare, one of those who lost out in the APC gubernatorial primaries.
If the party considers the lobby option, it would have to initiate talks through his best hands. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki, appears as a ready hand in this regard.
In the fallout of the party primaries, Mr Saraki invited Akin Ogunbiyi who was edged by Mr Adeleke with a slight margin for mediation. Sources close to the senate president said Mr Saraki played the ‘promise’ card with Mr Ogunbiyi promising him a senatorial ticket in the 2019 elections.
Money, Still A Factor
One of the two other towns set for rerun have major contenders but they remain crucial for the election. For Osogbo and Ifon Osun, money politics may settle the score between APC and PDP.
Despite several warnings ahead of election, security agencies arrested vote buyers in some parts of the state on Saturday. In many other areas, party agents collated names of voters in order to pay them later.
With access to names on the voters’ register, the political parties may still explore option of inducing the voters despite renewed threats of sanction by the INEC.
PDP MAKES MOVE
Meanwhile the PDP has expressed the need for an alliance with Mr Omisore.
Former Minister for Aviation and a prominent PDP member, Femi Fani-Kayode, on Sunday said Mr. Omisore is needed to help the PDP pull votes in the affected areas.
“Now is the time for us to reach out and work with others. I will talk to my cousin Senator Iyiola Omisore. He is a fighter. We need him. We must join forces and send the APC demons packing,” He posted on social media
Also, publisher of Ovation international and an in-law to the PDP candidate, Dele Momodu, stated that he is aware of attempts to get Mr. Omisore by the PDP officers.
“I’m aware the President of the Nigerian Senate DR ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI has called him several times today but Omisore was busy. discussions likely tonight,” he stated on Sunday.
Mr Omisore in his official reaction to the election result kept mum on likely alliance with any of the two leading parties.