About 1,246,915 voters are expected to troop to the polling booths in Osun State today to elect the successor of the incumbent governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola.
The votes will be shared among 48 candidates of different parties standing for the election. Of the 48 candidates, however, only five are regarded as major contenders. The five include Gboyega Oyetola of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Iyiola Omisore of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Moshood Adeoti of the African Democratic Party (ADP), Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Fatai Akinbade of the African Democratic Congress (ADC)
Addressing reporters at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Osogbo yesterday, the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Segun Agbaje, said the commission, through painstaking effort that involved data consolidation and fingerprint identification, had produced a credible register of voters made up of 807, 598 (48%) male and 874, 897 (52%) female voters. From the foregoing, he said, about 1,246,915 voters had collected their permanent voter cards (PVCs), representing the number of eligible voters across the state. “Don’t forget that those without PVC cannot vote,” he said. “The cards not collected are being kept in our strong room here in Osogbo.
“It is not true also that we released them to a particular political party to be used by their supporters. ‘The PVC can only work where it was issued. So, it is funny when we hear such thing that we have given the remaining cards to some politicians. It is not true. “Come with me to the strong room here and I will show you the remaining cards.” Agbaje said the smart card readers that would be used for the election had been further enhanced in order to be more effective, adding that 4,761 of them would be used across the state during the election.
Clarifying the stand of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the use of smart phones, cameras and other devices by voters and other stakeholders during voting, Agbaje said there was no truth in the rumour that the commission forbade voters from going to voting units with their smartphones and cameras. But Agbaje, who urged Nigerians to be ready to make sacrifices in order for the nation’s fledgling democracy to further grow, insisted that the commission would not allow anybody to go into the voting cubicles with a smart phone or a camera. He said the decision was part of efforts being made by INEC to curb vote buying during the governorship election. He said enough voters’ awareness had been done by the commission to sensitise the people on why this became necessary.
Agbaje said: “What we said was that no phone will be allowed into the voting cubicles. This is part of efforts to curb the embarrassing menace of vote buying. “We are of the strong opinion that once it becomes difficult for voters to prove who they voted for in order to be paid by unscrupulous politicians, it will become unattractive for politicians to promise cash in return for votes. “We didn’t say people should not come to polling units with their phones.
That was just a deliberate misrepresentation of our position by those who want us to change our stand on it. “But as at this moment, we are resolute on our position that no phone or camera will be allowed to follow any voter into our cubicle. We urge Nigerians to bear with us. ‘It is not too much sacrifice to do without our phone for the two or three minutes we will be voting in order for us all to ensure the credibility of the entire process.
“It is not only INEC that is being embarrassed by vote buying, the whole Nigeria and Nigerians are being embarrassed, and we must be ready to end this national embarrassment.” Explaining how the voting will go, the REC said there will be simultaneous accreditation and voting at all the polling units in the state, beginning from 8.00 am and ending by 2.00 pm. He however said all voters already on the queue before 2 pm will be allowed to vote while those who come later than that will not be accredited to vote.
He added that sorting and counting of ballot will follow immediately. According to him, collation of results will be done at the RA, LGA and state levels. “Declaration of results will be done by the State Returning Officer.
The general public should note that only INEC can declare results. It is only the commission that is vested with the right to announce the winner of the election,” he said. Speaking further, the Osun REC disclosed that his commission is more than ready to deliver a free, fair and credible election in the state. “He thanked all stakeholders for their cooperation and promised that he and his men were committed to ensuring that the most popular candidate emerges as the winner of the governorship election. ‘All we are interested in is for the people to have their way while their votes count.
To the politicians, we are saying don’t induce voters and to the voters, we appeal, don’t collect money to vote,” he said. “Vote buying is a criminal offence, and so is vote selling. It is against the provisions of section 124 of the electoral act as amended. Those found wanting are liable to 12 months in prison. “Our security men are battle ready to ensure that whoever tries it does not go scot free. That is why we are appealing to our voters to be wary of those coming to lure them with cash for their votes. “We have also heard the rumour that we secretly engaged members of the OYES corps to participate in the election across the state.
This is another lie from those who have something to fear. “We didn’t recruit OYES people. We don’t even know them. If you find them anywhere during the election, please expose them for the world to see. “As ad hoc staff, we have recruited about 16,000 people sourced from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Osun State, students of both the Federal Polytechnic, Ede and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, as well as some staff of federal establishments in Osun State. No member of OYES or any other state owned parastatal is working for us.
“On all these ad hoc staff, and even our own permanent staff, we have administered the oath of neutrality in order for them to maintain a very high level of integrity, honesty, transparency and zero tolerance for corrupt practices during the election across the state. “We have also put in place adequate security to ensure peaceful conduct of the election through the Inter Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES). “There will be three security personnel at each polling unit across the state,” he said.
Sensitive materials received from the Cental Bank, Osogbo Branch were mobilised yesterday to the 30 local government areas of the state to avoid any form of delay in their getting to the polling units. This was done with movement tracking of each vehicle involved in the mobilisation exercise. They all got to their destinations without any itch. From there, they will be properly distributed to the various polling units.