Ondo state Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Sunday emerged winner in the just concluded gubernatorial election in the state.
His victory came amidst mixed reactions from stakeholders.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the incumbent governor winner having polled 292,830 votes to defeat two other major contenders at the end of the contest.
Announcing the result, Chief Retuning Officer and Vice Chancellor University of Ibadan, Prof. Abel Idowu Olayinka, said Mr. Eyitayo Jegede of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) polled 195,780 votes with Mr Agboola Ajayi of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) polling 69, 127 votes.
Akeredolu explains victory
In his response, Governor Akeredolu acknowledged the grace of Almighty God for the outcome of the exercise, saying his victory was an evidence of his acceptance by people of the state.
He said: “I cannot thank you enough for the peaceful conduct witnessed generally in all the local government areas of the state. I thank our security agencies for their professionalism. I thank all those whose resolve for growth in our dear state remains our steady source of inspiration.”
“The renewal of our mandate in this election is an eloquent testimony to the degree of acceptance by you, the good people of Ondo state. It affirms that the confidence reposed in our Administration remains unshaken.
“It is a statement on your assessment of our performance in the last three and a half years. It is unequivocal, direct, inspiring and soul-lifting. It is awesome. It is a reward for hard work, dedication, focus, honesty and patriotism. It is also a challenge to us for rededication to service in the interest of our people. On this, we shall not relent.”
Akeredolu further assured: “We set out on the first leg of this political adventure with the determination to make the whole state our constituency. We have not relented on our mission to bridge the huge infrastructural deficit inherited on assumption of office.”
“Our administration holds the axiom as evident that the welfare of the people should be the only justification for the existence of government. And we have allowed this admonition to be the guiding principle of governance. We are elated to receive a scorecard through this state-wide plebiscite.”
While saying the APC victory “throws an open challenge to all stakeholders not to choose the path of complacency,” the governor assured that the few dissenting voices of protest in the referendum would be listened to.
“We heard them loud and clear. We intend to address genuine grievances. We shall continue to focus on the development of our God-given space, the Sunshine State,” he said.
The governor further said his administration would l not be distracted in the discharge of the sacred mandate with the people at the centre of all decisions.
He said his government was determined “to set the State, progressively, on the path of real development. Self-reliance is attainable. That the state has no business with poverty. Sincere, purposeful and focused leadership should have little difficulty in harnessing the vast resources, both human and natural. We will put in everything to justify the trust reposed in us.”
While congratulating Mr. Jegede of the PDP for participating in the historic process, the governor said the co-contender “patriotism is not in doubt. And that his love for the people is unassailable. He is indeed a worthy adversary.”
The governor-elect thanked President Buhari for the support and love, as well as his courage in the defence of the tenets of democracy, even as he lauded the party leadership at all levels.
CSOs laud INEC
In a major reaction to the poll, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room (Situation Room) has commended INEC on the conduct of the poll.
In a statement by the Alternate Chair Situation Room Esther Uzoma, the group said INEC improved on the gains of the Edo election with improvements recorded in the compliance with COVID-19 protocols, logistical arrangements and commencement of polls.
She said the electoral body’s processes improved and were mostly hitch-free, noting this was also evident in the relatively smooth ward collation process.
The group also observed that Smart Card Readers were widely used to accredit voters and in several instances of card reader failure, technical support was provided to rectify the situation.
It said: “On the positive side also, the reports indicate professional conduct of security personnel. There were, however, isolated incidents of logistical challenges.”
“The menace of vote-buying is still prevalent in the electoral process, with several reports of the trend worsening.
“Although there are concerns over observance of COVID-19 prevention protocols, there was marked improvement from the most recently conducted governorship elections.
“Voter turnout was generally low across the state, which raises questions about decreasing citizens’ participation in elections in Nigeria, and what needs to be done to address the problem, going forward.”
Uzoma said that the group believed that the introduction and use of the Z-pad for uploading of collated polling results was a major improvement on the election process, because of the heightened transparency that this had brought to the elections.
She said upon completion of the voting process, Situation Room observed a 100 per cent complete upload of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in 11 of the 18 LGAs in Ondo state, after about eight hours of close of polls.
The group further observed that although the use of the platform was still relatively new, it urged INEC to keep improving on the technology and practice.
“This is in order to assure citizens of the increased transparency in our electoral system and as a tool for overseeing the results collation process,” it said.
Uzoma said a notable observation by the group was the preference given to persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women and nursing mothers in the voting process.
While acknowledging INEC’s laudable efforts to make special provisions for the peculiarities of PWDs, Situation Room observed that some polling units were inaccessible to this class of voters because of topography and drainage systems.
The group observed that voter turnout was very low compared to the number of registered voters who collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
She said that Situation Room noted, however, that a lot of work needed to be done by INEC, the political parties and civil society organisations to find innovative ways of reducing voter apathy, including civic education, and drive turnout by voters.
The statement also said reports received by Situation Room showed vote buying was evident in a number of polling units and largely went unchecked.
“Voters were seen selling their votes for sums ranging from N4, 000 and N5, 000, to N7,000, depending on the political parties or location.
“The improper positioning of voting cubicles and ballot boxes in some polling units observed, made it easier for party agents to deduce patterns of voting as the secrecy of the ballot was not observed.
“Situation Room calls on INEC, security agents and other stakeholders to seek out more practical ways of enforcing punitive measures against offenders, to serve as a deterrent to political actors and the electorate, moving forward,” it said.
Uzoma said that the poll was relatively violence-free, in spite of the political tension created and earlier signs of likely threats to peaceful elections and the campaigns reaching fever pitch.
She said that with the incidence of vote buying continuing to prevail, Situation Room renewed its call for more effective enforcement of election laws that prohibited vote buying and other electoral offences.
She also called for quick legislative action to be taken on the passage of the Electoral Offences Commission Bill. (NAN)
Buhari, Lawan thumb up Akeredolu
Congratulating Governor Akeredolu on his victory, President Muhammadu Buhari said the votes garnered “show that one good turn surely deserves another.”
He thanked the people of Ondo state for keeping faith with the governor and the APC, saying “the people know the person and party that truly serves them, and have spoken in clear voice and unmistakable terms.”
The president also commended the electorate “for comporting themselves decently and exhibiting conduct that indicates that the country is making progress in its electoral behaviour.”
He lauded INEC for organising credible, free and fair election, as well as security agencies for ensuring orderliness during the poll.
The president urged the governor to be humble and magnanimous in victory, and serve the people of the state even better than he did in the first term.
“When you serve with heart and might, the people respond in like manner, and we can easily get to where we are headed as a country,” Buhari said.
Similarly, Senate President Ahmad Lawan has also commended Akeredolu’s re-election.
In a statement Sunday in Abuja, he said the triumph was well-deserved and heart-warming.
He said the election was a referendum on the governor’s stewardship in the last four years which he had passed.
“By the outcome of this election, the people of Ondo state have spoken in a loud and unambiguous voice that the APC offers the best platform for the pursuit of their development goals and political aspirations.
“The electoral victory in Ondo state is a re-affirmation of the people’s faith in the APC government and the capacity of Governor Akeredolu to continue the transformation of the state by consolidating on his achievements and opening new frontiers of development in the Sunshine state,” he said.
He admonished the governor not to deviate from the path that took him to a fresh mandate from his people, and urged him to continue implementing APC’s progressive programmes for the benefit of the state and its people.
Lawan called on other contestants in the election to join hands with the winner in working for the common good of the people.
Also, Gombe state Governor Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya has congratulated Governor Akeredolu on his victory.
In a statement by his media aide, Ismaila Uba Misilli, the governor described the victory as a validation of people’s trust and confidence in the party and Akeredolu’s leadership.
He said: “It is with immense pleasure that I warmly congratulate my good brother and friend, His Excellency, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN on his re-election for a second term in office.
“I have no doubt in my mind that this fresh mandate is another opportunity to build on the foundation of development and prosperity already laid by His Excellency in Ondo state. I pray Almighty God will continue to guide and enrich him with more wisdom to accomplish the good work he has started four years ago.”
Why we lost – PDP
But the state collation agent of the PDP, Mr. Debo Ologunagba, has described the victory as one procured through the “weaponisation of poverty.”
Ologunagba, who spoke shortly after the declaration of the results, alleged massive incidences of vote-buying by the ruling APC.
“It is unfortunate the governments we have both at the state and the federal levels have weaponised poverty, it is almost becoming a weapon of mass destruction.
“They have destroyed the consciousness and the ability of the people to reason positively. That is what you saw and witnessed in the distribution and purchase of votes. They targeted the poor with N2000, N3000 and they fell for it because they are poor,” he said.
The PDP chieftain also said he had reservations on the conduct of the election in areas where there was violence, where INEC and security officials refused to act appropriately.
He however commended INEC in the area of deployment of materials and coordination of the process generally, saying it was too early determine whether the party would challenge the results at the tribunal until the details of the results were carefully studied.
But the APC agent, Mr. Victor Olabintan said the election was peaceful and free of violence.
Olabintan, a former, a former speaker of the State House of Assembly said the citizens spoke unequivocally with their votes to re-elect Akeredolu for the next four years.
“I can assure you that Ondo state will witness more development in the next four years. The people have voted for prosperity and development, they have voted for an honest and committed governor who will not take their votes for granted,” he said.
Meanwhile, the leadership and members of the APC in the South-west has congratulated Mr. Akeredolu on his re-election as governor.
PDP bad losers -APC
And in its own reaction, the APC described the opposition PDP as bad losers.
Speaking on behalf of the party in Akure, the state capital, Secretary of the APC National Campaign Council Ondo 2020, Mr Mustapha Saliu, said after the Edo election, APC was the first to congratulate PDP.
“The problem is that we have bad losers. We just finished election in Edo State and the party congratulated the governor. That is the spirit of sportsmanship and that is responsibility to the populace. But they are looking for flimsy excuses to just explain their poor performance.
“I think it’s irresponsible and very petty on the part of PDP. I see them as a cartel formed mainly to deceive people and overheat the entire body polity of the country,” the party said.
Saliu said: “I want to tell you categorically and unequivocally that there is a difference between campaigns and rallies. PDP only own rallies because they don’t have manifesto. As an organisation, they have moved from barbarism to decadence without passing through any kind of civilisation because they cannot convince the populace.”
While commending INEC and security agencies for a hitch-free exercise in the state, Saliu dismissed the claims that massive vote-buying characterised the poll.
“To a great extent, people came out to vote willingly, not because of inducement or any other thing. I want to believe that this is one of the best elections I have witnessed in this country,” he said.
In another reaction, chairman of the Coalition 2020 in the state, Hon. Akin Akinbobola, described the re-election of Akeredolu as a deserved victory due to the numerous achievement of the governor across the state.
While commending INEC for a job well done with great improvement over the past, he appreciated the professionalism of the security agencies at ensuring the poll was hitch- free and devoid of violence, with exceptional few instances.
Also, another member of the campaign council said the victories of both Akeredolu and his Edo state counterpart, Godwin Obaseki, defined APC’s ideology-preference for physical infrastructure to the stomach infrastructure of opposition PDP.
In a statement, the member who is also Director General Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, said: “On behalf of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Campaign Council led by the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Babajide Sanwolu, congratulates His Excellency Rotimi Akeredolu for his victory in the Saturday 10th, October, 2020 Ondo state gubernatorial election.
“For us in the APC, his victory and that of His Excellency, Godwin Obaseki, both products of APC in the last four years, have in no small measure defined our ideology-preference of devoting much more resources to physical infrastructural development to Stomach Infrastructure as per PDP.”
Also, the deputy national publicity secretary of APC, Mr. Yekini Nabena, thanked President Buhari as leader of the party and Governor Mai Mala Buni as Chairman of the Party’s Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee for rallying supporters, members and leaders, particularly the governors in total support of the re-elected Governor Akeredolu.
He said: “We also recognise and appreciate the tireless efforts of the Ondo State APC Reconciliation Committee chaired by the Governor of Niger State, H.E. Abubakar Sani Bello and the APC Ondo State Governorship National Campaign Council chaired by the Governor of Lagos state, H.E. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
“Governor Akeredolu’s re-election is indeed testament to the inclusiveness, genuine reconciliation and peace the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker Committee has ensured among party ranks in Ondo State, other chapters and the Party in general.
“The election is concluded; the people have decided and there is no vanquished. We seek general support for Governor Akeredolu as he continues his work to return the Sunshine State to its deserved and progressive standing among states in the country.”
Jegede thanks all
In similar vein, spokesman of Eyitayo Jegede Campaign Organisation, Mr. Gbenga Akinbobola said: “We use this medium to thank the good people of Ondo State who voted yesterday according to their conscience; thanks to the loyal members of PDP at local, state and national levels who took ownership of this project and executed it. This is God’s project and since it remains so, We Wait, Eyi ni ise Oluwa.”