Osun Re-run Elections not Free, Fair or Credible – TMG Says 2019 Under Threat
As part of its mandate to engage electoral democracy in Nigeria, the Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) observed the Supplementary Governorship Elections which took place on the 27th of September, 2018. TMG deployed observers across the seven (7) polling units across the four-local government councils, namely Orolu, Ife North, Ife South and Osogbo where elections where cancelled and a rerun ordered by INEC. In the four-local governments, there were 3,498 registered voters, 2,637 number of PVC collected, while number of PVC not yet collected were 861 as at the time of the elections. The elections were cancelled for the following reasons amongst others; disruptions of the elections by hoodlums, hijacking of materials, presiding officers absconding and other forms of irregularities.
TMG deployed observers including supervisors and roving observers across all the 7 PUs. TMG observed Election Day processes, the conduct of election managers as well as key issues that could inform key learning for engaging future elections in the country.
TMG’s observation effort is intended to help promote credible elections in Nigeria that are conducted in accordance with international and regional standards as well as the laws of our country by providing real time independent non-partisan information on the conduct of all stakeholders on Election Day processes – setup of polling units, accreditation of voters, voting and counting.
TMG Observations are as follows:
A. INEC PROCESSES
The observers reported that INEC officials arrived early in most of the polling units across the four local governments and in all the Units the polling officials conducted themselves professionally and were able to handle complaints and issues arising from the voting process effectively, this could be an indication of proper training of the polling officials and a good understanding of the processes. Persons with disability (PWDs), the aged and pregnant women were given priority in the voting process even though the location of the polling stations still posed challenges of access for these groups especially for PWDs.
One major concern is the protection of the secrecy of voting; TMG is of the opinion that INEC needs to devise a more effective strategy that will further protect the secrecy of the votes. We observed that most of the voting cubicles were situated in the open, making it possible for persons, other than the voter to view voters’ preferences. While it wasn’t observed that INEC officials were in anyway complicit in the act, the reconfiguration/rearrangement of polling stations, the voting cubicle and the ballot box will help a long way to stem this brazen practice as earlier observed in past elections.
B. Violence, Arrests, Intimidations and Harassments
TMG observers reported several incidences of intimidation and harassment of voters. In Orolu Local Government in particular, some observers and journalists were arrested and detained by some security agents, while some other observers were prevented from accessing the polling units, by some hoodlums. By these acts, we observed that sizeable number of voters were therefore prevented from performing their civic duties particularly in Kajola, Orolu Local Government, Oyere and Osi in Ife South Local Government. Our observations also show that several party agents were prevented from observing the process.
There were also sporadic gunshots in some locations in Osogbo and Ife.
Furthermore, TMG observers report also show that some PVCs were found with people who were not the owners and who had tried to use same to vote. Particularly in Osi, we got report that INEC officials actually intercepted and seized 3 of such impersonated `PVCs.
C. Massive Deployment of security agencies and personnel
The TMG is concerned with the massive deployment of security agencies and personnel during this election, the country should be working towards a less policed electoral process. This is even more worrisome considering the level of reported incidence of violence, harassment and intimidation from security agencies during this particular election.
As a group that has been involved in the electoral process since the return of democracy in 1999, the TMG is of the opinion that the development in the re-run if not addressed quickly has the potentials of undermining the confidence people have built overtime on the electoral system and could send ominous signals for 2019 general elections. We therefore call on INEC to conduct a thorough investigation into all reports of infractions from the field by both local and international observer groups. INEC should work with all stakeholders, particularly observers, law enforcement agencies and political parties to device innovative and effective means of curbing the growing brazenness and excesses of some desperate politicians and other criminally minded people whose conduct threatens the credibility of outcomes of our electoral processes.
TMG particularly wish to admonish the political class to have a rethink and shun acts that could jeopardize the nation’s growing democracy and throw the country into avoidable turmoil.
Politicians must learn to conduct politics and elections in sportsmanship manner devoid of the desperation and recklessness that currently being witnessed.
Finally, TMG condemns the acts of desperation of the political class which has grievous implication for the credibility and legitimacy of the entire Osun rerun exercise. We seize this medium to appeal to all citizens of Osun to continue to maintain the peace and avoid any acts of violence and lawlessness. We advise any aggrieved political party not to have any recourse to self-help but rather explore the constitutional means of seeking redress.
Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi
South-West Coordinator, MG