Everything should be done to ensure that the election is credible
Shortly before the Osun State gubernatorial election was declared inconclusive last Sunday, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the United States Embassy, Mr David Young, made a significant intervention. He appealed to the candidates of all the political parties and their supporters to be peaceful and respect the results from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). "We request and urge all supporters to be peaceful as this process moves forward. This is part of democracy. We at the United States have had very close elections too. I urge people to be peaceful and respect the result that comes out in the time ahead," he said.
According to the US envoy, the election was unique in several respects with the most significant development being the increased capacity of INEC to deliver on credible elections. "They (INEC) are moving forward and in a positive way. I think this is going to be a very close election. It is going to come down to a very small margin. I think one of the things we need to do is let the democratic process go forward with parties and their candidates raising any concerns they have through the legal process and for the results to be peaceful," Young admonished.
We agree with the US envoy as we also commend INEC, all the candidates as well as the security agencies for the peaceful manner in which the entire process went. We are also delighted that there were no incidences of vote-buying which had been of concern to many people, including the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Osun State, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, before the exercise. "It is not an easy thing to prepare for an election and then some people will come on election day with bags of money very close to where you are having your polling units to see how they can pay voters for a particular candidate", said Agbaje who promised that INEC would rearrange the voting cubicles in such a way that it would be difficult to display ballot paper after voting.
The pledge came against the background of what happened during the Ekiti State gubernatorial election that was a bazaar with votes traded openly. At the end, the decision by INEC to prevent mobile phones inside the voting cubicles helped to minimise financial inducements at the Osun poll. Unfortunately, a winner could not be declared even though the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke polled the highest number of votes among the 48 candidates. But the margin of his victory over the closest challenger, Mr Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was only 353 votes, while the number of cancelled votes stood at 3,498.
The stakes are higher today since the polling units where elections will hold in the state are just seven. The state government, the security agencies, all the political parties as well as their candidates and supporters have a responsibility to ensure peace. When elections become a zero sum game in which dirty money has to be deployed for victory at all costs, then democracy is endangered. As we have said repeatedly on this page, the deployment of money or violence to manipulate electoral outcomes is not only a violation of the law, it also constitutes an abuse of the constitutional right of the people to choose their leaders in a free, fair and credible manner.
While it is our hope that INEC will be allowed to conclude the process it started so that any aggrieved parties can seek legal redress, we wish the people of Osun State all the best.