It is no longer news that the people of Osun State last Saturday went to the poll to elect who will be their governor for the next four years. And with a determination to put their fate in their own hands, they exhibited strong sense of patriotism as they trooped out in large numbers to exercise their civic responsibility.
Besides, the Osun governorship election would go down in history as the most eagerly awaited election in the annals of the history of the state. Men, women; young and old, waited patiently on the queue, defying the drizzling rain with various colours of umbrellas to ensure that they make the necessary change with the only power in their possession, their votes.
Events leading to the Osun State governorship election presented an ominous sign of palpable danger. This perhaps explains the deployment of massive security personnel, including men of the Nigerian Army, the Department of State Services, DSS, the Nigerian Security Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, for election duty to forestall breakdown of law and order.
Curfew was declared in Osun from 6pm of Friday to 6pm of Election Day and this created huge problem, for travellers traversing Osun State on their way to their destinations.
For those coming from Lagos and/or Ibadan, they were stopped from proceeding on their journey at Ikire, the border town between Osun and Oyo states, forcing many of them to return to Ibadan for succour, while many were stranded at the border town till after 6pm on Election Day before they could continue their journey.
Those coming from Ondo State end had their journey terminated at Owena, another border town between Ondo and Osun states and a huge number of them spent the 24 hours that the curfew lasted in the border town.
Travellers from Ekiti also had their journey terminated at Ilesa, where many vehicles converged till after the curfew was lifted at 6pm on poll day. A woman and her two grown daughters also were stranded at Ile-Ife junction by the Ibadan-Ilesa expressway.
Suffice to say that all the stranded travellers were forced to observe a full day fast, as there was no food vendors to cater for their culinary needs. On election eve, a man was arrested with huge amount of money running to millions of naira, efforts by national mirror to find out who he was and how much was found on him were rebuffed by the soldiers who ‘arrested’ him.
The people of the ancient city of Osogbo woke up to a cloudy atmosphere on Saturday August 9, the day set aside for the state governorship election in the state.
The cloudy atmosphere gave way to early shower and despite this weather condition, the people were determined to carry out their civic of picking who is to govern them for the next four years.
The major candidates whose bill boards dominated Osogobo, the state capital were the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, who was also the All Progressive Congress, APC candidate, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore and the candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade.
Massive voters’ turn-out
By 7.00 am on the Election Day, people have already trooped out to the various polling booths waiting for INEC officials. In some of the polling booths visited in Oja-Oba, Alekuwodo, Owode, Igbona, Oke Fia, among others , the electorates gathered under canopies because of the early morning shower.
Chairs were arranged under the canopies and we gathered that those chairs and canopies were provided by the community leaders for the elderly who may not be able to withstand the rigour of staying for long. It was also seen that many aged people were guided to the voting centres.
The young men were also there to provide assistance for the aged and they were encouraged to carry out their civic duty. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC officials arrived promptly in various polling booths with the election materials and accreditation started on schedule in most polling booths visited.
The officials because of large turn-out in the city knew that they were going to be overstretched. One of the Youth Corps member who served as official at the Testing Ground area said they were prepared for the task. Policemen and men of the NSCDC were stationed at each polling booth to provide security, though they carried no arms. There were also patrol of major streets by the mobile policemen and men of the NSCDC. They moved round to forestall any breakdown of law and order. There was also aerial surveillance by the police through helicopters.
Soldiers also mounted road blocks at the major entrance to the city. Rather than being intimidated by the high presence of security personnel, the residents of Osogbo were more determined to carry out their civic duty as some of them who spoke to National Mirror, declared that presence of security operatives would not hinder them from performing their right of electing their leaders.
All the security agencies also behaved well and were civil, even in the face of provocation by the youths who believed that they (the security agents) were sent by the Federal Government to prevent them from voting. Vehicles were not allowed to move except those that have the tag of INEC and were accredited for performing one role or the other and even then such persons and vehicles were subjected to thorough search by the security personnel. By 12.00 noon, accreditation ended and the voting started.
The voting dragged into late in the evening in most areas such as Testing Ground, Olaiya, Oke-Fia, Akindeko, Ogo Oluwa, Ring Road, Kola Balogun because of heavy turn- out of voters. By around 6.00pm counting of the votes had ended and APC supporters trooped out to celebrate, brandishing their brooms, the symbol of their party.
Till late in the night it was jubilation galore. But there was no violence in the ancient city of Osogbo rather it was celebration in a carnival –like mood throughout the night. Parties were also held in different section of the town till the morning of Sunday as television were placed outside to monitor the declaration of election results local government by local government by the INEC.
In Osogbo, one young man, after voting, jumped up and shouted: “Mo gba owo won, mo gba iresi won, mo gba kerosene won, mi o dibo fun won o,” meaning “I collected their money, rice and kerosene, but I didn’t vote for them.”
Returning home to vote
Some voters who registered at a far distance from their homes left as early as 6am and trekked to the polling units for accreditation. At some polling units in ward 4, Ogo- Oluwa Area of Osogbo local government, voters were already on the queue to be accredited by INEC officials who were on the ground as early as eight O’clock.
In Ile Ife, the hometown of the candidate of the PDP, Senator Omisore, and the senator representing Osun East Senatorial District, Senator Babajide Omoworare, the atmosphere was calm while voters in their numbers turned up early in their various polling booths to vote.
At Maku unit 13, Iremo 3, Maku compound in Ife Central Local Government, Senator Omoworare and several of his supporters in the area voted. Also, despite having polling booth few metres to his country home, the PDP candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, had to return to the nearest booth to his compound at Saint Gabriel More, to cast his vote. Similarly, the state governor, Mr. Aregbesola, who left Osogbo, the state capital, on Friday for Ilesa, his home town to exercise his civic duty, voted at Unit 1, Ward 8, Ifofin, Ilesa, the nearest polling booth to Ogbon Arogbo, his ancestral home.
At Loogan Agbaakin, in Ede, the former Speaker of Osun state House of Assembly and running mate to the PDP governorship candidate, Chief Adejare Bello, voted and nearly all the political bigwigs, who might not have been seen near their home towns, let alone compounds returned home to exercise their civic duty. This development constituted major talking point during and after the election. Several commentators on this gave diverse opinions about the significance of the return of the men to their ancestral homes for the poll.
A 60-year old man at Maku Compound, Pa Joseph Falola, just after completing his accreditation said, though Senator Omoworare, usually visit the compound, he added that the period of the poll, provided people of the area with opportunity to spend more time with him. He said the senator spent the whole week of the poll in the compound.
Movements across the wards
Across the state, there were movements by agents of political parties, moving from one ward to another to ensure things went the way they planned. Items and monies were moved by parties in a desperate bid to “buy” voters and this nearly caused fracas in some polling units, where sharing of money was resisted by people.
At a polling unit near Enuwa Square in Ife, a middle age lady, who dressed like a lunatic, but was secretly convincing elderly voters on the queue to vote for a particular political party was arrested. Her arrest was effected when a 70-year old woman alerted security operatives, who immediately arrested her and wisked her away.
In Osogbo, especially in the interior part of the town, sharing of materials for votes were also witnessed, while the situation was not same at the new settlements in the state capital. In Ede and Ikire towns, the situation was the same.
Clash between the multi agencies election security monitors
The clash between policemen and soldiers in Ogbaagbaa, the hometown of LP candidate, Alhaji Akinbade, raised the issue of dangers the usage of several security agencies for election duties would engender. When the issue of likelihood of clash among the security agencies was raised with the Commissioner of Police for Osun governorship poll, Austin Ebakavbokun, he assured that each agency knew its brief and would stick to it.
However, at the entrance of Ogbaagba, a town in Olaoluwa Local Government area of Osun state, a bloody clash was only narrowly averted, when some soldiers that mounted road block, stopped a patrol van conveying about six policemen and demanded that the men should surrender themselves for search.
At the peak of the altercations between the two groups, several gunshots were fired into the air, causing pandemonium in the neighbourhood not far away from a polling booth. The incidents led to the disruption of voting in the polling booth, as many of the voters abandoned the queue and fled the area, until normalcy returned. Concerns over border towns
There were also concerns while the voting was on about the border towns in the state, that there may be trans-border crime by hoodlums, who may use routes that were not known to the soldiers manning border towns across the state. In Ikire, Ifetedo, Ora, Ila-Odo among others and all border towns in the state, heavy security presence were seen. The fear according to a top security source, was consequent upon intelligence that voting may be disrupted by trans-state hoodlums in border towns.
Rumours and conflicting election results
As early as 3pm on the day of the poll, social media platforms were awashed with different results coming from the 332 wards in the state, thus putting many newsmen covering the exercise under serious pressure to file results of the poll as quickly as possible. From indications, nearly all political parties that participated in the poll had made provisions for those that would post results of polls as soon as they were announced onto the social media platforms.
Though, this to a certain extent, assisted stakeholders to follow the trend the election was taking, but in many instances, wrong results were deliberately posted to cause confusion. In many units where important dignitaries voted and were focal points, several incorrect election results were circulated on social media platforms, leading to confusion.
Making ‘brisk business’ on Election Day at Ile Ife
It was however not only the electorate that had their hands full on the election day, given the hype that the election had generated, security personnel that include soldiers, men of the State Security Service, SSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC and police were also not exempted as they were all over the state to prevent break down of law and order.
With restriction of movement and closure of business till 6.00 pm on the day, getting things, including food to buy turned out to be a herculean task. But trust Nigerians, whether in uniform or not, they will always find a way out. This was the case with some soldiers deployed to Mayfair area of Ile Ife, as they decided to help themselves in getting food to eat when the voting exercise was on.
Taking full charge of the junction that led to the ancient city, the soldiers numbering about five with their gun hanging on their shoulder mounted a the road block, stopping those passing with courtesy.
Directly in front of their road block was a young lady, who simply gave her name as Bola, selling fried eggs, bread, indomie and tea. Bola, for close to 25 minutes that this reporter was in the area was on her feet attending to customers with the soldiers directly providing security. While two of the soldiers were attending to motorists on election duty at the road block, the others were filling their stomach with the delicious food provided by the lady. One by one the soldiers queue before the lady and she in turn made food available to them.
From nowhere also was a team of observers who came to join the soldiers and took turn to have their fill of the food courtesy of the lady who certainly will smile to the bank after the election.
With this act by the lady even though not for free, it would not be an understatement that it helped the soldiers in “rightly” performing their duty during the election exercise. And for the lady, she could not but wish that elections should continue to hold, because it not only provided her the opportunity to have security for free while on “duty” but also big business with lots of cash, at the expense of her rivals in the business.