OPINION: Attempted Rigging In Osun: The True Story

imagesDemocracy is a game of consensus in which competing elite groups offer differing ideas of how best to organise society. Their primary theatre of competition is election. Though politics involves conflict, however, the players have at the back of their mind the best interest of their people. After elections have been won and lost, the losers take it calmly and retreat to pre- pare for the next one. This is the fabled ‘spirit of sportsmanship’ that has become the hallmark of developed society, and which makes democracy to serve the best interest of the people ultimately.

However, looking at the events leading to, during and immediately after the August 9, governorship election in Osun State, the conduct of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate, Senator Iyiola Omisore, has left much to be desired. It is like they are at war with the people of the state. They have given the impression that they must win at all costs, or heaven will fall.

One of their assaults on the people is unconscionable fabrication of stories and abuse of media access. It was disturbing to find a syndicated story in many of our national dailies on Wednesday,September 3, 2014, to the effect that two staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were suspended for allegedly colluding with the All Progressives Party (APC) to rig the August 9 gubernatorial election in Osun.

The report is reprehensible because the apparently uninvestigated story projects our newspapers in very bad light. It suggests that they are very shoddy and quite careless in their reportorial duties. The utter falsehood of the story also gives away the unconscionable character of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and, invariably, that of the politicians in its fold.

That the Party will have the effrontery to turn the truth on its head and flip facts over in the service of its failed political bid to foist a candidate on the people of Osun during the August 9 election remains an incomprehensible mystery.

Unfortunately for the party, facts, given their nature, are not easily amenable to the kind of senseless revisionism that the PDP is trying to engage in. For the record, the fact of the matter is this: the two Electoral Officers (EOs) in question were in fact working in cahoots with and for the PDP to subvert the will of the people of Osun State before and during the governorship election.

One of the two culprits was the Electoral Officer (EO) for Obokun Local Government who, along with one other person, wereapprehended with a truck full of election materials a day prior to the Election Day, before INEC officially began to distribute such materials. The INEC official and his partner in crime were handed over to the Police by the youths, only to be subsequently released to a PDP top functionary from Ile. The excuse given for their release was simply and barefacedly, ‘Order from Above’.

The second suspended staff of INEC was the EO for Osogbo Lo- cal Government during the elec- tion. Being the largest voter base in the state, and given the already widely known support for the APC in Osogbo, this EO made spirited attempts to manipulate the electoral process in favour of the PDP. It was the vigilance and persistent complaint by the APC that prevented his brazen attempts from succeeding.

In fact, his suspension was con- sequent upon petition to INEC by the APC about his numerous at- tempts to twist the voting process in Osogbo in favour of the PDP, of which he is a card-carrying member. For instance, it is on record that on Election Day, he released only 64 out of the 227 identification tags he was supposed to release to APC polling agents.

The intent was to deprive the APC polling agents of access to their polling units to monitor the accreditation process. The APC had to call INEC Commissioner for this zone, Ambassador Wali, to intervene. But, he was not done yet. When voting came to an end, the same EO withheld the customised Form EC8C meant for recording collated results for Osogbo Local Government. Again, the APC had to call in Ambassador Wali, who issued him a second query in one day for the Form to be released.

If we put these and other shameless incidents of attempted rigging by the PDP alongside the militarisation of the state, the cases of widespread bullying by gun-wielding agents of the PDP- led Federal Government, the un- lawful arrests of APC party big- wigs, including members of the Governor’s cabinet among many other such horrifying acts, would it not be clear to all which party actually attempted to rig?

That the PDP can now turn around to enrol the media in its reprehensible propaganda to change the facts is quite inconceivable. But, it is even more unfortunate that our media professionals will allow themselves to be co-opted into this kind of disgraceful agenda to turn the victim into the perpetrator, or the accused, overnight.

The cases of attempted electoral manipulation against the two suspended INEC staff are in the public domain and were given good coverage in the media. It is the least any media professional should do in satisfying the requirement of professional ethics to do a proper check of the accuracy of a story before rushing to press.

Against this background, INEC owes it a duty to Nigerians, the people of Osun, and to morality, to come out clearly and say which party the suspended EOs were actually colluding with. Associating the name of INEC with this mendacious story can only drag its name in the mud and give it a taint of partisanship.

The electoral body would lose nothing by coming out to announce which party is involved in the attempt to manipulate the election for which the two EOs were suspended pending the completion of the investigation it is conducting. After all, it is still in the process of investigation.

It is not only a matter of moral obligation for INEC. The electoral body would also be making a strong statement that no political party or partisan group has a right to use its name as a stamp of authority for falsehood.

Ogundele writes from Osogbo, Osun State