Twenty candidates have been listed in the contest for Osun State governorship seat tomorrow. Only on Wednesday, nine of the candidates declared that they were withdrawing from the race to support the candidacy of Iyiola Omisore, the flag-bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party. The candidate to beat in the election, however, remains incumbent governor Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of the All Progressives Congress.
The Ekiti gubernatorial poll seems to have notched up the contest in Osun since June 21 when the opposition candidate trounced the incumbent. For seven weeks now, both Aregbesola and Omisore have been trying to outwit and outdo each other in consolidating their hold on supporters and what has now become infamously known as “stomach infrastructure”.
Political strategy has also assumed the tenor of warfare and both sides riled each other with campaigns of calumny and name-calling. The governor’s schools’ reclassification policy has become an issue as much as Omisore’s controversial role in the death of the late attorney-general of the federation and Second Republic governor of old Oyo State, Bola Ige. High-profile politicians switch allegiance like the chameleon changes its colour and the aura of insecurity permeates the entire landscape, making a prescription of do or die a probability.
The jibes from the higher echelons of both parties are also lurid. From the centre, military men, armed mobile and regular policemen, operatives of the Civil Defence Corps and the Directorate of State Services (DSS) are in all the nooks and crannies of the state, ostensibly to prevent a breakdown of law and order. This does not portray a picture of democratic society. It simply has the undertone of institutional intimidation; it is a sign that does not inspire confidence in the general populace.
We call on all agencies, institutions and persons associated with this to be perceptive about the future of the state after the election. Security officers are enjoined to defuse tension or make prompt arrest of electoral offenders without taking sides. It will also be to their eternal credit if they do not intimidate voters and allow Osun people to exercise their franchise en masse.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised a level-playing field for all contestants. We want to see it consolidate on the new technical and logistics devices to forestall electoral fraud. The leadership of INEC and party community leaders would do well to walk their talk by ensuring that missing registers and names, ballot swapping, box stuffing, violence, alteration and allocation of results and sabotaging materials from getting to the right destinations do not become major features of the Osun election. INEC is standing on the threshold of history. Never before has it been so tough for two gladiators in a state election.
We expect the two leading candidates to know that there can only be one governor at a time in the state. The attention that Osun has attracted in the last few weeks should not be turned into sour grape after Saturday. Like good sportsmen, they have professed to be God-fearing persons; we would not like them to march to the Government House on the blood of innocent citizens of Osun. The people’s vote must count and their wish respected.