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Oyo LG Poll: Can This Be Called An Election? | Ademola ‘Bablow’ Babalola

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Oyo local council polls has come and gone, but the negative impression and series of controversy that accompanied the election will forever remain in the archive. From what transpired during the voting activities, Oyo state residents can confidently testify to the credibility of the exercise and how poorly the process was executed by the state umpire, Oyo State Independent Electoral Commission (OYSIEC). People can, of course, confirm whether or not the words of honour and assurance the OYSIEC chairman, Isiaka Olagunju (SAN) propagated before the conduct of the elections were brought to fruition.

This columnist wrote in an article before the contest that the OYSIEC should make sure that all the participating parties were allowed level-playing ground in the polls for the commission to redeem its already damaged image. I mentioned that OYSIEC needed to revive and redefine its name which had long been buried in the mud. That the confidence the electorate had lost in the OYSIEC needed to be rejuvenated by remaining neutral in the conduct of the elections. But did the commission live up to the expectation in the just concluded elections in the state?
There is no doubt that the just executed Oyo local council elections were marred and impaired, either deliberately or inadvertently, by multifarious but avoidable setbacks.
In the polling units across all the local councils in the state, OYSIEC officials were not available in many of the units where they were assigned to. This undoubtedly led many who were anxious to vote for the candidates of their choice, after waiting for so many hours without any sight of electoral materials, to lose hope of casting their votes. They were frustrated and returned to their homes to attend to other things.
In some polling booths where OYSIEC officials were available, ballot papers were insufficient. For instance in Ibarapa, it was reported that in a ward which had about 250 registered voters, only 50 ballot papers were available to the electorate. That is, 200 voters were disenfranchised.
Obviously people’s expectations were very high owing to the unwavering assurance the OYSIEC chairman spread on radios and other social media, but it was unfortunate that the majority of voters were disappointed due to the unexpected occurrences and irregularities that stared them in the face.
Talking about the elections that the OYSIEC had conducted years back, opposition parties always deliberately and intentionally boycotted those elections as a result of the irregularities  that normally went along with the polls. But through the display of sincerity by the OYSIEC chairman, Isiaka Olagunju, about 18 political parties decided and agreed to participate in the polls. They believed the ballots would be different from the ones that had before been conducted, but it was obvious reverse was the case. After the contest, only the ruling party, PDP, and the OYSIEC chairman were satisfied with the contest. Other political parties and millions of the electorate were displeased.
Now that the faith and hope of the electorate have in OYSIEC is disillusioned and let down, what exactly is the solution to the manipulation of elections at the grassroots? Millions of tax-payers money were expended in conducting the local council polls. Yet, the outcomes of the polls rarely reflect people’s desire. So, why the waste?
For a state to develop to people’s taste, the development of local councils in that particular state is very paramount. But how would the state which is full of local councils that are managed by selected but not elected council chairmen develop?
Who exactly controlled or manipulated the OYSIEC in the just concluded elections? Is the commission truly independent? What precisely is the essence of an independent body whose financial capacity is determined by the state governor? “He who pays the piper calls the tune”, they say. Unless the OYSIEC is financially liberated, I do not foresee a free, fair and credible election anytime soon in Oyo state.
Ademola ‘Bablow’ Babalola
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