From the results which first trickled in after voting last Saturday, it was obvious that the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, was leading 19 other contestants in the Osun State governorship election and the majority of voters, especially, in Osogbo and Ilesa were happy about it.
However, many were cautious since the results were not complete and the Independent National Electoral Commission is the only agency vested with the power to declare the winner. Based on this, several hundreds of APC supporters trooped to the INEC office along Osogbo-Gbongan Road but the heavily armed security personnel who barricaded the road prevented them from getting close to the office which was undoubtedly the most secure place in Osun State on that day.
Not perturbed by the restriction of movement, they moved to the opposite space at the entrance of the State House of Assembly where they kept vigil in the cold waiting for the much expected announcement from INEC. Anxiety was heightened among residents and supporters of the APC when rumour began to make the rounds that INEC had been given an order from Abuja that a wrong candidate should be declared as the winner.
Respite, however, came when the Vice Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Bamitale Omole, who is the Returning Officer for the poll led the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Olusegun Agbaje, the Supervising National Electoral Commissioner for Osun Governorship Election, Ambassador Mohammad Wali; Ekiti State REC, Alhaji Halilu Pai, and others to the media centre where journalists who had become fatigued due to the rigours of travelling round the state to cover the poll were waiting.
The announcement of the result started by some minutes past 2am with Ifedayo local government area and it lasted till around 5am when the result from Ejigbo local government area was announced. It was no longer difficult to know that Aregebsola had won but the returning officer announced that there would be a break to enable INEC sum up all the results.
There was anxiety as rumour mongers went to work again stating that there was a break in order to give the Returning Officer and INEC officials room to manipulate the result and possibly to call back some electoral officers to come and represent their results.
After about two hours, journalists at the media centre burst into a protest song: “All we are saying, declare winner!” Omole’s plea fell on deaf ears as the protesting journalists continued with their agitation. The vice chancellor later explained that transferring the results was cumbersome. At last, the final moment came and Omole read the preamble and said, “ Having satisfied the requirement of the law and having scored the highest number of votes cast, I hereby declare Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola the winner of the governorship election held in Osun State on August 9, 2014 and he is returned as the governor of the state.”
There was wild jubilation in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, and other major towns across the state when Aregbesola was declared the winner of the election. The most surprising aspect of the jubilation at the media centre was that party agents from other political parties which contested the election were the first to jump up and started singing victory songs.
All party agents from the opposition parties were extremely happy and celebrated Aregbesola’s victory even more than the leaders of the APC present. However, the Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bola Ajao, who was the PDP agent at the collation centre, was the only agent who wore a gloomy face and he refused to sign the form EC8D which is the result sheet at the state level.
Supporters of the APC who had kept vigil at the INEC office, burst into spontaneous jubilation even before the returning officer could complete his declaration. The celebration started from the INEC office by the APC supporters and other party faithful joined the train while thousands trooped in from other towns and villages to join the jubilant supporters in Osogbo.
At daybreak, broom-bearing kids who joined the adult as well as some aged but agile residents danced round the streets to celebrate the victory. Attendance in some churches was low due to the election and the celebration of the unusual governor. As more people poured into the streets, the joyous crowds headed to the Government House where they celebrated with the governor. Aregbesola, who sensed that the Government House, Oke-Fia, could not contain the surging crowd, directed his followers to the Nelson Mandela Park where thousands of residents gathered within minutes to celebrate.
The governor in company with his deputy, Mrs. Titi Laoye-Tomori, the Chairman of the APC in the state, Mr. Adelowo Adebiyi, and a leader of the APC in Osogbo, Alhaji Fatai Oyedele, popularly known as Diekola, led the residents to dance and sing praises to God.
The governor saluted what he called the unwavering determination of the people of the state to defend their sovereign rights and the integrity of the nation’s democracy. According to him, the determination of the people to come out and cast their votes despite the heavy presence of armed security personnel deployed in the state during the election was a demonstration that in a democracy, power truly belongs to the people. With an assurance that he would neither take their confidence in his administration for granted nor betray their trust, the governor promised to keep his electioneering promises.
Aregbesola said, “After an unnecessarily tense, tortuous and even traumatic process, the Independent National Electoral Commission this morning (Sunday) declared me as the winner of the Osun governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.
“On behalf of my party, we are delighted to claim victory for our hard work, focus and dedication in this election. I thank the Almighty God for our triumph at the polls against all odds. To the good people of Osun State goes our unflinching gratitude. We salute your steadfastness, courage, loyalty, commitment and fierce determination to defend your sovereign rights and the integrity of our nascent democracy. You have demonstrated in this election that in a democracy, power truly belongs to the people. I am humbled and honoured by your trust and abiding faith in me and my party. I pledge that your confidence in us shall never be betrayed or taken for granted. Ordinarily, this should be a moment of joy and celebration consequent upon the hard-earned triumph of the people’s will. However, this election shows that democracy is still gravely endangered in Nigeria. We witnessed a gross abuse of power and, of due process before, during, and even after the actual voting process. It is so sad and unfortunate that what should be a normal, routine process was maliciously allowed to snowball into a needless virtual war by the Federal Government and the PDP.
“Osun State was unduly militarised in an unprecedented manner through criminal intimidation and psychological assault on our people. This election witnessed an abuse of our security agencies and amounted to a corruption of their professional ethics and integrity.
“The security agencies were unprofessionally utilised in Osun to harass, intimidate and oppress the people whose taxes are used to pay their salaries and provide their arms. Hundreds of leaders, supporters, sympathisers and agents of our party were arrested and detained. Also, hundreds of other innocent citizens including women and the aged were harassed, brutalised and traumatised. In spite of this condemnable repression and abuse of human rights, the unflagging spirit of our people triumphed.
“Our victory is due to the steadfastness and resolute determination of our people to assert and defend their rights. The PDP obviously did all it could in a most desperate manner to steal the people’s mandate. A critical analysis of the elections shows a trend of general low voter turnout largely because of the atmosphere of deliberate tyranny and fear caused by the excessive militarisation of the state.
“Despite our victory, it is pertinent to condemn and also point out the fact that the number of accredited voters in most local government areas was less than half of registered voters. Against this trend, it is curious that the bulk of the PDP candidate’s votes came from only four local governments namely: Ife-Central, Ife-East, Ife-North and Ife-South. This suggests an inexplicable large turnout in his stronghold which is a curious departure from the general trend of voting across the state.”
Some of the people celebrating the APC’s victory in front of the PDP secretariat on Sunday were seen defacing posters, billboard and flags of the PDP. However, some elderly persons cautioned them against provoking their opponents.
A strange manner of celebration was seen in front of the Government House, Osogbo, where a supporter of the APC carried a mock coffin. The wild celebration by some APC supporters was said to have led to a fight between them and supporters of Omisore in Ile-Ife, on Monday.
The celebration of the victory which started on Saturday has continued even up till Wednesday. A group known as De Raufs which has its office at Jaleyemi area of Osogbo blocked the road on Tuesday as the celebration progressed into the fourth day. The presentation of Certificate of Return by INEC to Aregbesola which was done on Tuesday provided another avenue for the party to celebrate. Supporters thronged the INEC office where the ceremony took place to catch a glimpse of the man of the moment although many of them were prevented from going inside to witness the ceremony.
However, while Omisore has blamed the former REC of Osun State, Ambassador Rufus Akeju, for his defeat, Aregbesola is also in a subtly manner accusing the same INEC of colluding with Omisore. The governor said the pattern of voting in Ife land, the stronghold of the PDP, did not represent what happened in other areas of the state on the day of election.
Like other public agencies, INEC might not be perfect but its performance under the REC in charge of the election, Agbaje, is commendable.
Now that the celebration is ending and it is clear that Aregbesola will spend four more years in office, the prayer on the lips of the majority of Osun people is that he should live up to his promise of delivering more dividends of democracy in his second term.