By Chinelo Obogo
The Ondo State governorship election has come and gone, but it did not turn out according to the predictions of political analysts.
Though, there were over 25 governorship candidates, the tussle was for the candidates of the Peoples Democractic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede, the All Progressives Congress(APC), Rotimi Akeredolu, and the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Olushola Oke.
Ondo State has 18 local governments, and over one million residents registered to vote in the election. Analysts predicted that since Governor Segun Mimiko comes from Ondo town, and Jegede comes from Akure, both of which are in Ondo Central senatorial district, and has the most number of local governments and voters, Jegede would poll the highest votes.
APC is believed to have a strong presence in Ondo North senatorial district where Akeredolu comes from, while Oke was expected to perform well in Ondo South, especially in Ilaje and Okitipupa which are riverine areas. That was not to be, as Akeredolu won in 14 local governments, Jegede won in two, while Oke won in one.
Friday Night, November 25
On the night before the election, many politicians moved round the state obviously to make last minute efforts to woo the voters. Jegede”s camp embarked on a last minute door to door campaign, while it was rumoured that the Minister of Solid Minerals, Kayode Fayemi, and a few governors of the APC were in Akure strategising late into the night on how Akeredolu would win.
There were also reports that INEC planned to use Prof. Kayode Soremekun, the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, as the Returning Officer. He served as the returning officer in the recently concluded Edo elections, and was rumoured to be a personal friend of Fayemi, whom he allegedly managed the defunct Radio Kudirat with. The PDP accused him of bias, and rejected his alleged deployment to the state, even though INEC denied such allegations.
In the build up to the election, there was publicised controversy over who the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election was. Few days to the election, Jimoh Ibrahim, who belonged to the group of the ousted factional national chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sheriff, received a favourable judgment from the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, mandating the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise him as the candidate.
Jegede’s name was removed, and his name was replaced. But that was short-lived, as the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court affirmed Jegede’s candidacy. On Friday, November 25, Mr. Ibrahim defected to the APC, and asked his supporters to work for the emergence of Akeredolu, the APC candidate.
The controversy over who the right candidate of the PDP was and the fact that it was just few days to the election, undoubtedly contributed to Jegede’s loss, as he obviously didn’t have sufficient time to campaign.
The security in the state, especially in Akure was very tight. Many security personnel from the Nigerian Army, the Police, the Federal Road Safety Corps, and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps were on ground and in strategic locations.
From available records, about 26, 000 Policemen were deployed for the election. However, even with the level of security, there was still fear in many quarters that if the opposition party wins, there was going to be breakdown of law and order. Many cited the instance of the level of violence that erupted in 2007 in Akure when the PDP was announced as the winner of the governorship election in the state. Because of the fear of violence, the results of the 2007 election was announced in Abuja instead of INEC’s office in Akure. Another reference was the unprecedented violence that erupted in the old Oyo State in 1983, after the late Bola Ige who lost the governorship election went on radio to ask, ‘Oyo people, do these results really reflect what you voted for me? Treat them how soap treats the eyes.’
Workers salary arrears
Five months salary arrears owed to civil servants may have turned the tide against Jegede.
Akure, which has the most local governments is Jegede’s hometown. It was expected and predicted that since Jegede was from Akure which has a large concentration of voters, it was going to work to his advantage. But what many people failed to put into consideration was that Akure is mainly inhabited by civil servants and non-indigenes. The PDP-led administration in the state still owe civil servants over five months salary arrears, and for a state with a large number of civil servants, it is not in doubt that it worked against Jegede, who is seen as Mimiko’s protégé.
But the women loved him
If elections were contested based only on how good looking a candidate was, political parties may take the option of fielding only handsome or beautiful candidates. Among all the governorship candidates, Jegede was the women’s favourite. He was very well loved by women for his good looks and generosity. I interacted with some female voters in Akure and asked them to tell me what they loved in their candidate of choice. It turned out that they all loved Jegede, and one of the women I spoke with told me, ‘madam, every woman in Ondo loves Jegede because he cares for us. Every Thursday, he holds a programme for women and he always gives us gifts. He is also a handsome and kind man, that that is why we all love him. I have a son who is in school, but, I couldn’t pay his fees of N25,000. I went to Jegede and he gave me N15,000. He is a very caring and kind hearted person.
Securing accommodation was an uphill task because by Thursday, 24, most of them were filled up. Many of those who run Hotels in different parts of the state particularly Akure, were approached long before the election to ensure that enough accommodation was secured for supporters of the leading candidates in last Saturday’s election. This rush made the cost of accommodation go up.
My Akure experience
As expected, most of the hotels in Akure and its environs were fully booked. Despite the caveat from many of the hotels that they would only run their generators from 6pm till about 9am because of the regular power outage in the state, I finally found a fairly decent hotel where I could spend a few nights till the elections were over. Many parts of Akure hardly have power supply and most of the hotels, restaurants, bars and small businesses run on generator.
I settled in my room, took a bath, and ordered dinner to be served. By the time I woke the next day, the hotel had switched off the generator.
As i began getting ready to set out, a young lady suddenly barged into my room(the room lock was faulty) and asked where my male partner was. I replied that I had come alone and had no partner; but she insisted that I had a male partner who had absconded and did not pay for the food he ate. I rebuked her for barging into my room without knocking, and she grudgingly left. Excactly 45 minutes later after she left, I heard a loud knock on the door, and before I could answer, a man had opened the door and asked if I had a male partner. I asked him if I was supposed to have one, and if it was unconstitutional for a young lady to rent a room in a hotel and stay all by herself. He then apologised and left. If I thought the embarrassment was over, I was mistaken. I was dissatisfied with the hotel services, so, I packed my luggage, checked out that same morning, and went in search of a better accommodation within the same Ijapo estate. I walked into a good looking motel and asked a female receptionist I met if there were available rooms.
The lady who looked like she was middle-aged starred at me with contempt and without checking to know if there were vacant rooms, told me to go check elsewhere. I wondered to myself why she looked at me in a condescending manner, until it dawned on me that probably, like those in the previous hotel where I stayed, a young lady in jeans and a t-shirt should not be checking into a hotel alone without a partner. The lady probably didn’t understand why a single lady should be all by herself asking for a hotel room. I chuckled to myself and went away to find myself a room.
Power outage affected card readers
There were widespread incidences of card reader failure which was attributed to the power outage in the State. The card readers are voter accreditation devices usually charged with light. And even though INEC officials assured that there were over 250 card readers for backup, many polling units did not receive back up when the card readers malfunctioned.
In the riverine areas of Ondo State, where the candidate of the AD, Olusola One, comes from, the power outage is almost constant, and many of the card readers could not be charged. In Polling Unit 014 Okeraye/Aye road, Okitipupa 1, there was failure of card readers and there was no back up. 23 incidences of card reader failures were registered, while others were unregistered.
Fear of Fulani herdsmen
The fear that Fulani herdsmen would overtake Ondo with the emergence of the APC as the ruling party in the state, was one that some residents expressed. Some residents I spoke with said they were apprehensive that the incoming governor like many APC governors, may not be able to handle any situation that may arise if there is an influx of Fulani herdsmen.
Cash for votes
In some polling units, cash was freely given during the elections. Some of the voters were reluctant to vote until their palms were greased, because they believed that elections provided the best opportunity to make money. In such places like Polling Units 28/06/11/026, Owode Imagun, Akure, there were reports of vote buying by party agents. The money given to the voters varied from polling unit to the other. For some units, the amount was N3000 but for others, it could be as low as N1000. In Polling Unit 28/05/09/002, Oba-Ile, Akure North, voters were being served snacks by some party agents to influence voting. In Polling Unit 28/06/04/006, Ijobu/Obanla, Akure South, some party agents were also seen engaging in vote buying, but Police officers intervened and stopped it.
The elderly knew their rights
There was mild drama at one of the polling units in Akure South local government area, in Ondo, when an elderly woman in her 80’s fought some youths over her rights to vote.
At the Lisa polling unit 014, near NEPA Water Corporation, in Akure, the Ondo State capital, six young men suspected to be party agents accosted an elderly woman, identified as Mrs. Olarewaju, who was about to cast her vote and tried to influence her decision.
According to INEC guidelines, an elderly person who wants to cast a vote may do so with the aid of a close relative. Based on this, the young men who refused to be identified, told officials of INEC and the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps(NSDC) who were present that they were relatives of the woman.
She immediately raised the alarm, alerting security officials, while insisting that the men were not related to her.
She said she started voting since the days of Obafemi Awolowo, and did not need anyone to guide her on whom to vote for and how to vote.
She said: “I have my voter’s card and I know how to vote. I started voting since the days of Awolowo, and I do not need anyone to show me how to vote. Those men are not my relatives and I have not met them before. I know who I want to vote for and I cannot be induced by money”.
Boats as an asset
On the day before the election, and even the election day, those who were to go to the riverine areas like Ilaje to either observe or vote had to hire a boat at exorbitant rates. Because of the election and the difficult terrain, boat operators charged as much as N25,000 to N35,000. However, there was a mishap when a boat carrying election materials from Ese Odo local government to Akure capsized. INEC officials fell into the river, but were rescued while some sustained injuries.
Food vendors made brisk business
Food vendors seized the opportunity the election afforded to make brisk business. Because of the restriction of movement, most restaurants were closed, leaving most people at the mercy of few food vendors who sold at exorbitant prices.