By Josiah Oluwole
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has scheduled the conclusion of the Osun State governorship election for Thursday September 27.
The election was declared inclusive with the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polling the highest number of votes among the 48 candidates.
He was, however, not declared winner because the margin of his victory was only 353 votes, and could not earn him victory when weighed against the number of votes cancelled, which amounted to 3,498 votes, INEC said.
The Returning Officer, Joseph Fuope, who is the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, while declaring the final results, said he could not “fairly” return Ademola Adeleke as the winner because of the provisions of the law regarding cancelled votes.
The total cancelled votes in seven polling units amount to 3,498, a figure far exceeding the margin with which the PDP candidate defeated his All Progressives Congress opponent, Gboyega Oyetola.
The wisdom of the law suggest that the volume of votes cancelled could substantially determine the outcome of the election when taken into account, particularly in a situation where the margin of victory is very slim.
In Orolu Local Government, Ward 9, Polling unit 001, and with a total registered voters of 393, the election was cancelled after hoodlums snatched ballot boxes and ballot papers.
Also in the same ward, at polling unit 004, with a total of 387 registered voters, ballot boxes were snatched resulting in the cancellation.
INEC also mentioned that a polling unit in Ward 9 in Orolu was also affected 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 walked away with the results, and no further explanations came from that.
The INEC Commissioner in charge of Voter Education and Publicity, Solomon Soyebi, in his address to the press, said the the difference between the two leading parties is just 353 votes.
“The number of voters in the units where the elections were cancelled is 3, 498. To that effect, as a returning officer, it is not possible to declare the party a fair winner of the election,” said Mr Soyebi.
“I will like to thank voters for their respect for the rules. We also thank all stakeholders including the political parties, election observers, security agencies and traditional rulers for their unprecedented cooperation before, during and after the election.
“Notwithstanding the successful conduct of the election, the returning officer Prof Joseph Fuwape, Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, has communicated to the commission his inability to make a return in accordance with the laid down rules and INEC guidelines.
“This is as a result of areas where results were cancelled or where there was no voting or there were disruptions.”
He went ahead to mention the affected areas and noted that elections would only hold in those areas with all the 48 political parties involved.
“Based on the results collated by the returning officer, the margin between the two leading candidates is 353 which is less than the total number of registered voters in the affected areas,” Mr Soyebi stated.
“Extant law, guidelines and regulations, provide that if this situation occurs, a return or a declaration may not be made. In the light of the foregoing, the commission met, and decided that it would remobilise and return to the affected polling units on Thursday, 27th of September, 2018 to rerun the elections, conclude, collate and make a return.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the rerun elections will only take place in the affected polling booths; there are seven of them. So let us be very clear. In Ife North we have one polling booth, in Ife South we have two, in Orolu we have three and in Osogbo, we have one.”
According to INEC, there will be no campaigns any more, noting that all campaigns ended on September 21 and that the election was simply a continuation and not a separate one.
Mr Soyebi assured that the next governor of Osun State would only be decided through the ballot and no other means.
It will be recalled that there were several allegations of manipulation raised by the PDP candidate, and the change of results of the PDP from 10, 836 to 9,836 from Ayedaade local government area, gave credence to the alarm raised by the opposition party.
The unusual delays in the submission of the results by the collating officers also raised fears that all was not well in the conduct of the entire process.
Although the PDP had expressed misgivings on the outcome of the election, the APC commended INEC for the decision, hoping to make up for its lapses in the second round.