I listened to Aare Isiaka Olagunju on Fresh FM radio program this morning.
As usual, the Oyo state Chairman of the State Independent Electoral Commission, (OYSIEC) spoke to his commitment to organize a free and fair Local Government Election next year.
In his characteristics manner, he told the story of how he got Governor Seyi Makinde’s promise and commitment that he was not going to take the job except he was assured of non interference from the Governor. A commitment he claimed he got.
He talked about the success of the 2021 local government election which he conducted.
Great and convincing as his promises are, my personal problem with Olagunju is that his talks and dos are clearly in opposites when it comes to the discharge of his duties and I have my facts.
Cleverly, throughout the interview, he did not talk about the ugly incidents that took place in both Ibarapa East and Ido Local Governments during the 2021 Local Government Election organized by him.
During the 2021 Local Government Election, the two local governments of Ibarapa East and Ido were keenly contested.
In Ibarapa East, a group of young men provided stiff opposition to the ruling PDP. It was a straight fight between the PDP and the Labour party while in Ido Local Government, it was a fight between the PDP and the Zenith Labour Party.
I was one of the stakeholders who led the young guys in the Labour Party in Ibarapa East.
On the eve of election, the PDP, faced with the danger of imminent loss, called for the mobilization of thugs from Ibadan and by the evening of that day, hundreds of Buses loaded with thugs invaded the towns of Eruwa and Lanlate, led by the former Chairman of the Park Management System, Mukaila aka Auxiliary.
The 19th and 20th of May, 2021 are days Ibarapa East will never forget in a hurry.
Auxiliary and his gang took over the towns, shooting, beating and maiming any perceived opposition party member.
I was on the phone with the then state Commissioner of police, who in fairness to her called the DPO of Eruwa police station who later brought the situation under some control.
I also bought the attention of Mr Olagunju to the ugly incidents and I remember advising him to please suspend the election in Ibarapa East in line with section 44 of the OYSIEC Law, an advice he turned down.
Despite the threats and warnings and despite the fact that Olagunju had the power to postpone the election due to threats of violence, the election went on as scheduled the following day and by about 10 am on the day of election, Eruwa and Lanlate became a war zone and the violence resulted in four deaths!
The unfortunate thing is that when the violence erupted, I was also on the phone with Mr. Olagunju and the state Commissioner of police. I also called on him to cancel the election, telling him that people might die but instead of the OYSIEC to suspend election in Ibarapa East, It suspended that of Ido despite the fact that no violence was reported in Ido at the material time. I later discovered that it was a strategy to isolate the two local governments.
The election in Ido was conducted on the following Wednesday after Ibarapa East was already captured and it was also a repeat of the violence in Ibarapa East. Though, the people of Ido, having seen what happened in Ibarapa East days before and having seen Auxiliary and his gang decided to offer any resistance.
Unfortunately, from the killing field of Ibarapa East, the OYSIEC went ahead and declared the PDP winner of the local government election in Ibarapa East with extremely wide margin and a magically high turn out of voters!!!
That surely was the fifth wonder of the world. In a Ibarapa East where even people decided to stay indoors for days after the election for fear of further attacks and pupils abandoned schools for days, Mr. Olagunju and his OYSIEC magically recorded a voter turnout of about twenty thousand.
Up till today, the OYSIEC was unable to conduct the councilorship election in ward 5 of Ibarapa East.
I have carefully explained the antecedents of the OYSIEC under Mr. Olagunju so that opposition parties will not totally fall for his promises but rather get prepared.
One of the panelists on the program put him on the spot when he asked him questions relating to his conscience.
I was so glad when he exonerated Governor Seyi Makinde from his actions as Chairman of OYSIEC. In other words, we could hold him responsible for his actions and inactions past and present.
Opposition parties, apart from taking his promises for just a mere statement must take Mr Olagunju up on salient issues.
How will he appointment Adhoc staffs on election day?
What I saw in 2021 was a complete surrendering of the election process to the PDP.
All the polling officials beginning from the polling clerks to the Returning officers were PDP ward chairmen, Local Government excos and stakeholders.
This must change. It robbed the election of transparency.
Where will results be announced? All results of the last election were announced at the OYSIEC headquarters in Ibadan.
I think this is against the law and illogical. Opposition parties must clear this and Mr Olagunju is duty bound to correct the illegality.
What will be the position of OYSIEC if election is threatened due to violence?
Opposition parties must also be weary of attempts to postpone election without valid reasons.
I also notice that contrary to Mr Olagunju’s claim of total independence, the OYSIEC, Government and of course, with due respect to the Judiciary are in consonant.
I remember vividly well that prospective aggrieved parties who wanted to file petitions against the conduct of the charade of 2021 could not file their petitions due to some antics of the Judiciary Staff Union Of Nigeria, Oyo state chapter.
We were able to file in Ibarapa East only due to the Grace of God.
Guess what, during the trial, the Lawyer who defended OYSIEC was at the material time a member of the Oyo state Judicial Service Commission, the body responsible for the recommendation of Judicial officers in the state!
Now that the APC, the main opposition political party in the state will be involved, I think Mr Olagunju does have another chance to correct the mistakes of the past.