In the keenly contested Ondo State gubernatorial election held November 26, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu (SAN), was declared winner. He polled a total of 244,842 votes to defeat other contestants in the race to the Alagbaka Government House, Akure.
His closest rival and the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), came second with 150,380 votes, while Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) got 126,889 votes to place third.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) explained that Akeredolu scored the highest number of votes cast and secured more than the statutory requirement of 25 percent of votes cast in two-thirds of the 18 local councils in the state. Giving a breakdown of how the leading candidates fared in the election, INEC’s Chief Returning Officer, Prof. Abdulganiyu Ambali, said that Akeredolu won in 14 local councils while Jegede and Oke won in two local councils each.
The PDP has, however, rejected the results and urged its candidate, Jegede, to head for the tribunal. But the leadership of the PDP in the state, personified by the state governor, Olusegun Mimiko, accepted the poll results and has congratulated Akeredolu. The APC candidate has already been given a certificate of return by the electoral umpire.
We congratulate Akeredolu and urge him to be magnanimous in victory. He should carry everybody along as he has promised and fulfill his promises to the people of the state. We also congratulate all the stakeholders in this election. It is commendable that they all behaved in a civil and orderly manner that made it possible for the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to achieve a credible outcome.
The poll was generally peaceful. It was devoid of violence and many of the other problems that marred some of the recent elections in the country. Above all, it was conclusive, having produced a clear winner.
Although some people have criticized the election because of the late court rulings which proclaimed Jegede as the candidate of the PDP in the exercise, the outcome of the election as a true reflection of the votes cast on election day has not been strongly contested. The argument in some quarters is that INEC should have postponed the election to give Jegede time to campaign more, having just been adjudged the candidate of the PDP a few days to the election. It must be recalled, however, that INEC’s postponement of the recent Edo poll earned the electoral agency many knocks from those who felt the action conferred advantage on one party over the other.
We, therefore, urge those who lost out in this poll to abide by the rule of law on the matter in the best interest of the state. All the politicians should bear in mind that public office is for service to the people and those who are not satisfied with the outcome of the election are free to seek redress at the electoral tribunal as provided for in our electoral laws. On no account should any candidate resort to self-help or any action capable of breaching the peace of the state.
We commend the electoral umpire for conducting a conclusive election this time around. With Ondo poll, INEC has broken the jinx of inconclusive polls. We expect it to continue to improve in subsequent elections in the country.
The Ondo election was generally adjudged as peaceful, free and credible by local and international observers. It is good that it did not witness any major untoward incident. The poll is, indeed, an improvement on previous elections in the state and some other parts of the country that were marred by electoral violence and other malpractices.
Reports on the election showed that the law enforcement agents, including the Police, the Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Commission officials, prevented the breakdown of law and order in all polling units in the state.
Despite the peaceful conduct of the poll, there are some aspects of the polling process that need to be improved on. The malfunctioning of card readers during elections should be properly addressed. We have said it before that INEC should ensure that card readers are functional at all elections. The sad incident of malfunctioning card readers should become a thing of the past. It is either the use of the card reader is perfected or we jettison it. We cannot continue to lament over malfunctioning card readers in every election. If card readers can fail in a state election, there will be more of such in the 2019 general elections. Besides the failure of the card readers, there were some allegations of voter inducement. Nigerian politicians and the electorate should strive to rise above this anomalous practice. Cases of electoral malpractices and ballot snatching were said to be minimal. All the stakeholders deserve credit for this.
However, the restriction order across the state shut down business and vehicular traffic, which affected motorists plying the Shagamu-Ore expressway to other parts of the country. In future elections, movement of people, especially those travelling through major expressways to other states, should not be restricted.
We commend the people of Ondo State, INEC, security agents and other stakeholders who made this gubernatorial poll a success.