THE scheming and deft moves among political actors in respect of today’s governorship election in Osun State have reached a crescendo.
As of late Friday evening, bigwigs of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), continued to map out strategies to ensure victory in the poll.
Saturday Tribune gathered on Friday that no fewer than three APC governors and four PDP governors had stayed put in the state holding meetings to shore up the chances of their candidates.
Credible sources told Saturday Tribune on Friday that in the camp of the APC, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Dapo Abiodun and Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Lagos, Ogun and Kano states, respectively, were working round the clock with stakeholders in the party, including the party’s standardbearer, Governor Gboyega Oyetola, for the success of the party in today’s poll.
One of the sources said: “We have three APC governors on the ground here. I am very sure of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State and Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State. I cannot confirm now if Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is still around.
“We cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in ensuring victory for Governor Gboyega Oyetola and our party, the APC tomorrow (today). Though we are optimistic of victory with the prevailing variables, we still have to strategise and finetune our actions towards a successful outing.”
On the other hand, Saturday Tribune learnt that the vice presidential candidate of the PDP and governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa; Edo State governor, Mr Godwin Obaseki, Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State and their Sokoto State counterpart, Aminu Tambuwal, were on ground to support the governorship candidate of the opposition party, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
A former national officer of the PDP from Osun East Senatorial District told one of our correspondents in a telephone interview that “apart from the four serving governors of our party, former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki, is also around.”
He said: “We are prepared for this election and the masses of Osun State are solidly behind us to oust the incumbent governor, Gboyega Oyetola. For this election holding tomorrow, we are good to go. By the grace of the Almighty, we are going to win.”
Meanwhile, Osun State is under a total lockdown as election holds today to elect governor that will run the affairs of the state for the next four years.
Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of security for the poll, DIG Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, confirmed that the state had been placed under both land and aerial surveillance by security personnel by different agencies.
According to him, an earlier directive by the Inspector General of Police, Usamn Alkali Baba, for the mopping up of arms, due to the increasing activities cult groups in the state culminated in further massive security deployment to the state ahead of the election.
He underscored the heavy security deployment with the fact that no fewer than 21, 000 officers and men of the Nigerian Police were already on ground to guarantee the peaceful and crime-free exercise before and after balloting.
In 2018, a similar poll went into a rerun following the declaration of the first ballot as inconclusive by the Independent National Commission (INEC).
The commission declared the candidate of the APC, Algaji Agedegboyega Oyetola, winner against the candidate of the PDP, Senator Adeleke.
At least five DIGs, and other senior officers deployed for the purpose of the election have been joined by 11, 226 personnel of the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Speaking on Friday on today’s election, DIG Kokumo justified the massive security deployments, which include surveillance on the waterways on the fact that unlike Ekiti State with 16 local council areas, Osun has 30 local government areas.
The police top brass who featured on NTA Good Morning Nigeria programme monitored in Ibadan, disclosed that special law enforcement personnel would be on standby not far from polling units where they could swiftly response to distress calls and fend off persons with ulterior motive to disrupt the election.
For tactical reasons, he declined to reveal details of the plans by the law enforcement agents against the unholy practice of vote-trading, but confirmed there was synergy among all the critical stakeholders, especially the security arm and the INEC after serious engagements towards curbing vote buying and vote selling during the Osun poll.
He expatiated: “In Ekiti State, we had 16 Local Government Areas, whereas in Osun, we are having 30 local government areas. The deployment for Osun governorship election in 2022 is far higher than that of Ekiti. In osun, we have littoral community, Asejire, the boundary between Osun and Oyo states and in the coastal community, there is adequate deployment by the police marine formation.
“Before now, what we have been witnessing in Osun was increased incidence of cultism; that of course, was before the election and what the Police have been able to do was to have an anti-cultism unit that has consistently fought cultism. And before now, there was a clear directive by the Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba that the Osun State Police Command should embark on a mop up exercise; mopping of light weapons from circulation. This, of course, has been done and currently, we have put a security arrangement in place to ensure the border towns are adequately policed to ensure that criminal elements do not make incursions into Osun State with such dangerous weapons to be used during the election and of course, after the election.”
This is how Kokumo further explained the rationale for the heavy security presence in today’s poll in Osun: “Because of the number of local government areas, for instance, we are deploying over 21, 000 policemen and these include land deployment; deployment on the waterways and of course, deployment of our air arsenal and we have three helicopters for mission-specific surveillance.
“On the land, we have our tactically unit, SPY; we have the explosive ordinance unit; we have the conventional policemen equally and strategically deployed to the polling; “We have a total of 3,733 polling units for this Osun election. We have deployed to the polling booths. By practice, policemen are not supposed to be seen at the polling units.
“So, at a reasonable distance to the polling units, we have created armed units that can quickly respond to violent situations so that criminal elements will not have chance to attack policemen deployed to such polling units to protect both the electorate, INEC officials and election materials.”
Speaking on preparations for the election, Director of Programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbawalu, had listed a number of issues still begging for attention in spite of lauding INEC for the level of preparations for the poll.
She was concerned that the final data of voting population was still under works by the commission hours to the poll, days after the INEC declared that out of the 1.9 million registered voters, only 1.4 million had collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs).
Mbamalu, who also alluded to the activities of cultists in the state, raised concern about the distribution of voters to polling units, saying whereas the ratio ought to be 750 per polling unit, there are still cases of between 2000 and 3000 voting population per polling unit for the election. Other areas she raised issues include arrangements for logistics because of the big size of Osun State unlike Ekiti; need to factor in contingency plans in case transporters disappoint on the movement of materials and personnel for the election and need to provide more BVAs in places where there is imbalance in voter population. Coupled with this was what she described as the confusion arising from the inability of prospective voters to locate their names at centres, especially located in new settlements.
Head, Department of Allocation of Voters and Party Monitoring, Mr Shehu Muhammad, said there was cordial relationship between the commission and all other stakeholders and agencies on the conduct of the poll.
He confirmed that INEC had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with commercial vehicle owners and operators, as well as commercial motorcycle riders on the movement of materials and personnel during the election.
He also confirmed that the commission was as at Friday morning still compiling the final list of voters that had collected PVCs in the state. Muhammad underscored the significance of the Osun election saying it was only the last offseason one to be conducted by INEC but that it would also set the benchmark for the 2023 general election in the country.
The election is perceived as an acid test for the integrity of the INEC and neutrality of law enforcement agencies as the poll is expected to set the benchmark, template and tone for2023 general election, thus the incredible local and international attention and engagement by stakeholders on the conduct of the poll.
A total of 13 candidates, among whom is the incumbent Governor Adegboyega Oyetola, who is seeking reelection on the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Peoples democratic Party (PDP) and Dr Akin Ogunbiyi of the Accord. APC presidential candidate for 2023, Senator Bola Tinubu, national chairman of the party, senator Abdullahi Adamu and governors elected on the ticket of APC rallied support for Oyetola at a rally held in Osogbo on Tuesday.
Similarly, PDP standard-bearer in next year’s presidential poll, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, national chairman of the party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu and governors and other PDP chieftains were also in Osogbo on Thursday at a grand rally for the governorship bid of Adeleke.
Labour Party (LP) presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi galvanised party supporters at a rally held in the Osu n State capital on Tuesday to shore up the chances of Honourable Lasun Yusuff as LP candidate in tomorrow’s poll.
Operatives of the economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are on guard following the worsening trend and culture of vote-buying during elections, widely alluded to by most observers and other concerned stakeholders, during the June 19 governorship poll in Ekiti State to checkmate vote buyers. INEC said it had relocated polling units from palaces and controversial points, as well as converted 753 polling points into polling units in the buildup to the Osun election expected to be monitored by a total of 79 observer groups, comprising 79 domestic and eight international organisations in all the 332 wards of the state.
According to INEC boss, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, out of 1,955,657 registered voters, a total of 1,479,595 voters had picked their permanent voter cards, which is about 76 per cent as at last week.
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