Last Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Osun State was fought almost like a war and at the end only the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came out looking good. Despite all the provocations from the All Progressives Congress (whose officials kept churning out one disgraceful propaganda after another), and the desperation by the Peoples Democratic Party (whose candidate was inciting his supporters to roast, not the corn that became part of his campaign menu but whoever would “rig” him out), Prof. Attahiru Jega and his men never lost sight of what their main objectives were and they delivered.
Yet there are issues that must be dealt with about what transpired in the course of the election beginning with the conduct of the military and security personnel which again came under spotlight. The allegation that some of these men deployed on the streets of major towns in Osun State were hooded and behaved more like licensed thugs should be investigated. Beyond that, it should also worry us that elections can no longer be conducted in our country without deploying as many troops as can successfully take out the Boko Haram insurgents assuming we have our priorities right.
However, as we disaggregate the Osun gubernatorial election result, there is an emerging pattern that should be of interest to those who are desirous of credible elections next year. The question being thrown up is: Are the figures in the Voters Register the true count of those eligible to vote in Nigeria or have they been grossly padded? My bet is that the figures are cooked while it would seem that the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) recently introduced by INEC has become a game changer.
That the Osun gubernatorial poll and that of Ekiti State before it witnessed massive turn-out of voters is not in contention. But there is also an embedded message for keen observers. Except we want to deceive ourselves, in states like Osun and Ekiti, what is usual is for majority of the registered voters to exercise their franchise. In most villages, and I should know as someone who comes from a village, the actual percentage turn-out usually ranges from between 80 to 100 percent as almost everyone is encouraged to vote. Therefore, whenever massive turn-out was recorded everywhere in such a state like Ekiti or Osun, we can easily extrapolate that majority of those who were eligible to vote and were duly registered came out to cast their ballots. Yet at the end of the two elections, the percentage of the actual voters to the number of registered voters raised more questions than answers.
Even before the introduction of PVC, any rudimentary study of stand-alone gubernatorial elections since 1999 would reveal the same pattern about the difference between the actual turn-out of voters and the figures in the voters’ register. For instance, in Anambra State where 1,776,167 voters were registered by INEC, only 442,242 votes were cast to elect the Governor in March this year. That represents just about 25 percent “turn-out” and we are talking of an election that not only recorded impressive number of voters but also included an additional day for supplementary voting! And in case we have forgotten, the Ondo State gubernatorial election held last year similarly recorded a massive turn-out yet by the time the ballots were counted, the real voters were only slightly above 40 percent of the numbers in the register. It was the same with the 2012 Edo State gubernatorial election which produced massive turnout yet could not yield as much as 45 percent of the number of voters in the books.
The implication of the foregoing is that it should give INEC ideas about what has been happening in all those areas where between 90 to 100 percent “turn-out” of voters were usually recorded, especially in presidential elections. In those places, it is safe to conclude that there were no elections and that some people simply sat down to write the results.
Of course this is an issue we must come back to interrogate another day but as INEC takes stock of their operations in Osun State, it is important for the commission to begin to plan how to checkmate those who use the spoof in the voters register to perpetrate electoral heists. That is a critical challenge for the 2015 general elections. However, as stated earlier, Professor Jega and his men in INEC deserve all the kudos they get from Nigerians for the management of Osun State gubernatorial polls. May the honeymoon last.