Supporters of the All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State erupted in jubilation in the early hours of today (Sunday) when the results of Saturday’s governorship election showed that the candidate of the party, Mr Biodun Oyebanji, trounced the 15 other candidates that partook in the exercise.
Oyebanji, who is the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, won in 15 out of the 16 Local Government Areas of the state. He polled 187,057 votes.
However, his closest challenger, Mr Segun Oni, of the Social Democratic Party, scored 82,211 votes while the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bisi Kolawole, scored 67,457 votes. Kolawole won his LGA, Efon, where he scored 6,303 to beat APC’s 4,012 and SDP’s 339 votes.
Meanwhile, our correspondents who monitored the exercise across the state reported that in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, residents trooped to the streets to celebrate the victory in the dead of the night. At the Government House in the Oke Ayoba area of the town, other APC governors, led by the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, monitored the exercise.
Similarly, in Ikogosi-Ekiti, Ekiti West Local Government Area, where Oyebanji hails from, residents also began celebrating the victory of their kinsman at the poll.
Also in Ikere-Ekiti, where Oyebanji’s running mate, Mrs Monitade Afuye, hails from, residents also began celebration as the results were announced by the respective local government Returning Officers.
In different parts of the state also, some members of the ruling party celebrated the victory, describing it as well-deserved.
Our correspondents observed that prior to the announcement of the results at the collation centre, all the results from the 16 local government areas had been uploaded on the Result Viewing Portal of the Independent National Electoral Commission, known as IReV.
Saturday PUNCH reported that the commission promised to adopt the electronic transmission of results, even though it would be complemented by manual transmission.
As of the time of filing this report at 2.10am, final collation was still ongoing, a precursor to the final announcement by the state’s Returning Officer.
However, there were isolated cases of violence in some polling units. For example, in Ekiti South-West Local Government Area, the APC scored 9,679 votes ahead of SDP’s 4,577 and PDP’s 4,474 votes. The Returning Officer for the LGA, Prof Gbolagade Jonathan, reported that there was violence in Units 5 and 7, where he said some hoodlums from nowhere carted away the ballot boxes, after firing gunshots.
Also, in Ikere LGA, the APC also won with 12,086 votes against the PDP and SDP, which scored 3,789 and 1943 respectively. The Returning Officer, Prof Emmanuel Ajava, announced that votes in Unit 2 of the LGA were cancelled due to violence.
Although the governorship election held across the 16 Local Government Areas and was relatively peaceful, incidents of vote-buying characterised the poll.
Candidates and agents of some political parties also alleged inducement of voters to deprive them of the opportunity of making their free choices.
It was gathered that some party agents were arrested by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged vote-buying at a polling station at Ola Oluwa Grammar School, Ado Ekiti during the election.
A source, who spoke on the development, said the suspects were apprehended with a bag of cash allegedly being used to induce voters.
“One of the suspects, who claimed to be a party agent, was arrested and has been taken into custody,” the source said.
Parties allege vote-buying
The Social Democratic Party’s governorship candidate, Chief Segun Oni, who voted at Ward 2, Unit 6 in Ifaki-Ekiti his home town, complained of vote-buying in Ado Ekiti and Oye Ekiti.
Oni, who described vote-buying as a violation of the Electoral Act, said, “I have been told that selling and buying of votes are going on in Ado and Oye. This is not allowed by the law. I want security agents to move in and stop those doing that.”
Also, the governorship candidate of the African Democratic Congress, Dr Wole Oluyede, who voted at Igele Arokun Ward 3, Unit 6, Ikere Ekiti, said there was brazen vote-buying in the community allegedly perpetrated by agents of the All Progressives Congress.
Oluyede said, “The election today (Saturday) shows that we are not ready for democracy. The unfortunate thing is that those who took money do not want people to exercise their right to choose.
“Whatever is the outcome of the election does not reflect good governance and the wishes of the people. It does not reflect a good election. I wish Nigeria will be a better place for all of us.”
Similarly, the candidate of Action Democratic Party, Mrs Kemi Elebute-Halle, who voted at Unit 8, Ward 10, Odo Ayedun in Ikole LGA, lamented vote inducement, which she said did not make the election credible.
Elebute-Halle alleged, “In my polling unit, the APC gave N10, 000, the PDP gave N5, 000 while SDP gave N3, 000 per vote as inducement. The world is watching.”
The candidate, however, urged people to vote for a credible candidate, saying, “I want to rely on the commitment of our people to democracy. Irrespective of vote-buying, they would vote for me as their choice.”
Also, agents of the ADC and SDP at Ward 2 Unit 8, Iworoko, Ifelofun/Irepodun LGA of the state, alleged that a particular political party engaged in vote-buying.
The SDP agent, Bukunmi Oluwafemi, said the exercise was peaceful, observing that a party was involved in ‘see and buy,’ saying, “The voting went on well. People came out to vote. There is a party that is trying to do ‘see and buy’ but we have cautioned them.”
The ADC candidate, Yusuf Kehinde, who corroborated him, alleged that some people asked voters to reveal the party they voted for and collect money, saying, “They (voters) are showing their ballot papers to agents of a party and we said that shouldn’t be. A particular party is buying votes.”
But an APC agent, Muyideen Fatayo, who countered SDP and ADC agents, said, “There was no problem. Everything went well.”
His claim was also corroborated by the PDP agent in the ward, Matthew Fapohunda, who said the election was held without any hitch.
However, it was drama at Ward 10 Unit 9, Ilupeju along Ikere–Ado Expressway in Ikere Ekiti, Ikere LGA, as some officers of the state command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps allegedly stormed the polling unit and took away huge sum of money from some politicians.
A voter in the unit, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the undisclosed amount of money hijacked by the security men was meant for vote-buying in the area.
“They (NSCDC officers) stormed this unit and harassed the person holding the money. They collected the money from him and took it away. We who voted for APC and waited to collect our money could not get the money. It is disappointing. We were told that the money is over N2m,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, who voted at Are/Araromi/Ayetoro Ward, Unit 009 Ikere Ekiti, said the vote-buying money allegedly seized by security agents was not from his party, APC, saying, “I am not aware of that. And if they seized money, it was not seized from my party.”
The APC candidate, Oyebanji, also denied reports that he wooed voters with money in his hometown.
Oyebanji, in a statement by his media aide, Raheem Akingbolu, titled, ‘Oyebanji didn’t give money to any voter,’ said, “Contrary to the malicious report, neither Oyebanji, nor any of his supporters gave money to anybody at any polling unit in Ikogosi. Aside from being Oyebanji’s town, the candidate enjoys overwhelming support in the community with optimism of recording a 100 per cent result.”
Disagreement among parties
Also, the ADC candidate, Oluyede, who alleged that there was no election in Ekiti on Saturday, said there was not anything fair or good about it.
He said, “In my polling booth, they didn’t start elections until 10am. It was after that the polling officer said that they didn’t have a stamp to complete the process. They brought out of a bag by 10am and it was evident that they were trying to make people get into fracas with one another. We maintained decorum. We didn’t fight but I don’t think anybody trusted anything after. About the security in town, everybody that was arrested today as far as I know was my person.’’
However, the PDP candidate, Bisi Kolawole, who voted at Ward 08, Unit 01, said, “The process has been peaceful. We just hope there won’t be manipulation.’’
Also, the APC candidate who voted at Okelele Ward 06, Unit 003, Ikogosi Ekiti, in Ekiti West LGA, lauded the process, saying, “This is an improvement. I am happy that there was no case of apathy. The security build up has also been impressive. The process has been good and fine.”
Both Oyebanji and Kolawole lauded the INEC and the Bimodal Voter Authentication System technology used, saying it was a great improvement.
In the same vein, a PDP chieftain and former deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, who voted at Ward 2,Unit 7, Okeruku, Ikere Ekiti, hailed the process, saying, “There was no hitch and the process was without any form of harassment in any part of the town.’’
CSOs fault exercise
However, an election monitoring group, Yiaga Africa, which confirmed voter inducement and bribery through its observations, added, “Secrecy of the ballot was compromised as people could see how voters marked the ballots in Igede Ward II 13-13-06-014 in Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA.
Yiaga Africa Executive Director, Samson Itodo, said, “Party agents for the APC, PDP and SDP clustered around the voting cubicle and saw how voters marked their ballot papers. Yiaga Africa also received reports of missing names of registered voters on the BVAS. The voters were prevented from voting despite holding INEC issued PVCs.”
Also, the Nigerian Civil Societies Situation Room’s co-convener, James Ugochukwu, said though security officials arrived the polling units on time and were civil in their conduct, “the impact of their presence was not felt in voters’ coordination at most of the polling units. Also, the police failed to halt the apparent vote-buying witnessed by observers in virtually all the polling units.”
Ugochukwu said, “We wish to remind the police authorities of their responsibilities to halt and apprehend those involved in voters’ inducement and maintain law and order throughout the process and beyond.’’
NYSC hails exercise The Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Fadah, expressed delight at the adequate security provided for corps members working as INEC adhoc staff across polling units in the 16 council areas of the state.
Fadah, who spoke in Ado Ekiti while monitoring the safety of corps members on election duty, said the election was peaceful, adding that, “The corps members in the various polling units are safe. I went round to see my corps members. They are all safe and the election calm.’’
Withdrawal rumours everywhere
Some parties denied reports of their candidates’ withdrawal from the race, describing the reports as fake.
The SDP candidate, Oni, and his ADP counterpart, Elebute-Halle, were rumoured to have withdrawn from the race to support particular candidates.
But the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation described the reports as outright false.
The SOCO Director of Media, Jackson Adebayo, who said Oni’s signature in the letter conveying the withdrawal was forged, added, “We want to say categorically that the release is complete falsehood and forgery which the APC is known for. The fear of the APC from the beginning has been that should Segun Oni participate in this election, their candidate will be disgracefully voted against, hence they resorted to falsehood and forgery.”
Also, the ADP governorship candidate, Elebute-Halle, on Saturday denied stepping down from the race. Elebute-Halle, who said she was set to win the election, debunked the news that she stepped down from the contest, saying, “It is a lie concocted by those afraid of my rising profile. Having come this far, it would be cowardly of me to back out.”
Police arrest four
The state police command arrested about four persons over disruption of electoral process in some polling units in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
The state police spokesperson, Mr Sunday Abutu, who confirmed the development, said the suspects were in the command’s custody.
‘We’ll sue INEC’
Meanwhile, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project has urged INEC to ensure the prosecution of politicians and other party agents arrested by security agents for alleged vote-buying during the exercise.
The group stated this in a post on its verified Twitter page, @SERAPNigeria, on Saturday. It stated that the commission risked a lawsuit if it failed to prosecute the suspects.
Operatives of the EFCC and men of the Nigeria Police Force were reported to have arrested persons suspected to be engaging in vote-buying during the election.
Some of the suspects were paraded at the Oke Ori Omi Divisional Headquarters of the Force. The suspects were reported to have been caught with monies allegedly used for vote-buying.
SERAP wrote, “#EkitiDecides2022: We’re suing to compel INEC to prosecute anyone suspected to be responsible for vote-buying and electoral bribery in Ekiti State and the politicians who sent them.”
Fayemi, monarch happy
The state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi said that the BVAS saved time and aided a large turnout of voters.
Fayemi made the remarks after casting his vote at Ogilolo Unit 009 Ward 11 in Isan-Ekiti, Oye council area. The governor, who voted around 9:15 am, said the process was seamless and a clear departure from the old system where accreditation of voters exceeded actual voting.
He said, “My PVC was still recognised through BVAS and this is the same PVC I have been using since the beginning of this process.’’
Besides, the Onisan of Isan-Ekiti, Oba Gabriel Adejuwon, who is also Chairman, Ekiti State Traditional Council, described the voter turnout as unprecedented and encouraging.
Adejuwon said that the traditional council’s sensitisation and enlightenment prior to the election was yielding the desired results.