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OYO101: How To Steal An Election And Get Away With It | Muftau Gbadegesin

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The last week’s electoral heist got many tongues wagging, but the fraud hasn’t been placed in its proper context.

For one, Governor Seyi Makinde has raised the bar in the electoral cheat sheet leaving the OYSIEC chairman, Isiaka Olagunju (SAN), to embarrassingly clinch a seat in the long list of electoral umpires watching the rape on democracy heartily without sounding an alarm.

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Politicians across all divides, not surprisingly, have done their usual thing: traded blame, applauded the poll, asked for cancelation of the exercise, and then move on – leaving the public to shrug off the moment and also, as usual, reluctantly move on. For the most part, many, if not most, of the victims of that fraud, in effect, have cried to high heaven, having spent their money and sweat to contest an election in which the odds appeared to favour them.

But contrary to the cries and hues of the defeated, most beneficiaries have equally rejoiced and basked in their stolen, deceptive, and desultory victories while mocking their rivals for trusting the Governor to keep his promise of conducting a genuinely transparent election. The sound is familiar: a rape of democracy, a defeat of democratic ethos, and an end to an open, free, and fair contest, which is a standard response to electoral defeat by the opposition in the country, Oyo state inclusive. However, for those who benefited from the sham, the illegitimate victory underscores their political savagery, a demonstration of superior thinking, and an undisputable flexing of PDP Power and authority over their adversaries. Damn the consequences, many echoed.

‘No Contest. No Credibility’

It is an open secret that elections for local government councils are shrouded in mysteries. The contest is allowed in many instances, but credibility may not be guaranteed. We’ve seen that repeatedly, over and over again. And the reason is simple: Governors don’t joke with their pots of soup.

Once discovered to be the chicken that lays the golden eggs, most state Governors swiftly devised means to capture local government, stealing not just their money but also their autonomy. The end of local government administration began when arrangements like joint allocation accounts between the states and the councils got the stamp of the lawmakers. In essence, the destiny of the government quickly witnessed a downward spiral, hitting the brick wall of growth and development in the process. But then, Governor Makinde promised an open and fair contest.

“Tell Me No Lies”

In politics, lies are allowed. Politicians call them narratives. The guy who speaks good English might be masking his deception. Or the cool-headed, reclusive, and reserved might say what he does not mean or mean what he does not say. And in an election, a contest is only free and fair when the victory is simply yours. But lies can’t go far without losing its lustre whenever it has the truth to contend with. Last week’s local government election, in other words, tells stories and shares a smorgasbord of electoral manipulation and malpractices – one that was signed and stamped by Governor Makinde through Barrister Isiaka Olagunju (SAN).

Here is what happened: reports across the 36 local government areas indicated that the ruling PDP only declared victory in an election that was never held. Even in places where the ballot was cast, it was simply a smokescreen, an attempt to give the jamboree a semblance of some legitimacy.

In Ibadan, Ibarapa, Oyo, Ogbomosho, and Oke-ogun, the story of electoral officers absconding from their duties got many questioning the intent behind the poll. How could they have run away? But the truth is that they didn’t run away, instead, they were asked to chill and watch as the main opposition ran out of stamina and optimism.

‘Makinde didn’t start electoral malpractice. He only amplified it’

Take Oorelope local government. For all the promises of a transparent contest, the OYSIEC office in the council area was under lock and key throughout the election. Yaqub Ganiyu Adesola, APC campaign Director General for the local government, told newsmen that no election was held in the local government. However, results from the poll showed that the PDP defeated the APC by unimaginable and unbelievable margins. How did PDP and OYSIEC come about the election result: it was written.

A similar scenario played out in other local governments where the opposition APC is considered to have a strong presence and the backing of significant members of the populace. No vote. But the result must come. It is like not having anything to cook while expecting fried and jollof rice to fill your pot at an appointed time. Magic or miracle. That was what the PDP did—a mix of propaganda and abracadabra. Electoral malpractices are as old as Nigeria itself, but the experience of May 27, 2024, has left a sour taste in people’s mouths. In 2021, when the council poll was last held, only a few people cared to lend their voices to the exercise, which only cemented the selection process of the council leaders. But the exercise also gave outgoing council bosses legitimacy, a gift not so much available for the beneficiaries of the last poll.

‘Legitimacy Crisis’

Nobody voted for the next set of council leaders. In places where people exercised their franchise, the ratio of the voters was insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And the public is equally aware of how they emerged. For the next three years, council chairmen will face legitimacy questions. In joints and tarmacs, they will have a tough time establishing their legitimacy. Many will take them with a pinch of salt and dismiss their mandate with a wave of hands.

But this was a deliberate tactic by the Governor: He can only work with acolytes. Lackeys, bootlickers and lickspittle. The only local government that was illegally removed from office in Makinde’s first tenure was a man who had a mind of his own: Hon. Sulaiman Adeniran, aka Santana, former Chairman of Irepo Local Government.

‘My story, trying to vote’

I reluctantly walked out of my apartment last Saturday to exercise my franchise in an election that evoked some sense of excitement, ecstasy, and suspense. But long before I left, I already had a sense of my likely encounter. While at home, I monitored the election through Splash FM 105.5 Ibadan. Callers on the program had all expressed disappointment at the deliberate tactic of the state electoral commission.

They all wondered what was independent in the agency that appears to be an appendage of the political establishment. Many, if not most of the callers, either from Oyo, Ibadan, Iseyin, or Ibarapa, callers who thought a real election would be conducted echoed a similar letdown: there is an electoral heist going on in the state.

So, by the time I stepped out, I had lowered my expectations and only wanted to confirm the obvious: will my experience mirror those of radio callers and others at home who felt the Governor acted contrary to his promise of a free, fair, and transparent contest? I was proven right. Then what?

“When politicians break their promises”, as one anonymous declared, “they break the trust upon which their authority is built”.

OYO101 is Muftau Gbadegesin’s opinion about issues affecting the Oyo state and is published every Saturday. He can be reached via @muftaugbade on X, muftaugbadegesin@gmail.com and 09065176850.

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