CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes on the intrigues ahead of the July 8 by-election in Osun West Senatorial district.
The death of Senator Isaka Adeleke was a rude shock for Osun State and the country. The suspense filled drama that trailed the aftermath of his death – suspicion over cause of his death and autopsy results – caused some tension in the state.
It was learnt that the tension over the death of Sen Adeleke has its links to the November 2018 governorship elections in Osun State, which he is speculated to be interested in.
However the unfolding events in the build up to the by-election to fill his seat is creating anxiety in the state.
It all started with the controversial circumstances which led to the late Senators brother, Otunba Ademola Adeleke, leaving party the APC. The younger Adeleke, now the PDP candidate wanted to fly the APC flags to continue his brother’s mandate.
Conflicting reports about the disqualification of Senator Mudashiru Oyetunde Hussein by the APC Electoral and Appeal Committees had set in motion political intrigues.
When the party’s NWC delivered the final verdict restoring Hussein’s right to contest the primaries, Adeleke sensed political mischief and defected to the PDP. He now holds the party’s governorship ticket.
Signs that the senatorial bye-election had the imprints of a pre-governorship contest began to emerge after the APC primary election in Osun West senatorial district has was postponed two times in two days.
However, the full imprints of the 2018 contest emerged during the separate primaries by APC and PDP. APC held its primary at Osogbo the state capital, while PDP withdrew to Iwo local council of the state.
Security was tense and tight in Osogbo, despite the fact that Hussein was running against himself and Adeleke enjoying a free run as other contestants willingly stepped down for him to emerge.
For political watchers, the emerging scenario gives life to postulations that whoever occupies the vacant senate seat reserves the power to influence the outcome of the November 2018 governorship.
But a new dimension is emerging in the build up to the July 8 date for the by-election as allegations and counter allegations trail plans to postpone the polls.
While the PDP accusing the ruling APC of conniving with the election umpire Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the poll.
But APC has described the allegations as hogwash.
PDP in the state, reportedly listed 13 allegations against the ruling APC, chief of which, was alleged connivance with INEC to postpone July 8, Osun West senatorial by-election and planned rigging of the election.
But the APC describes the allegations as laughable. Its spokesperson, Kunle Oyatomi noted that the PDP is guilty of all the allegations it made against the APC.
With the two major parties already moving round the 10 local government areas to canvass for votes, allegation of electoral violence cannot but rear its ugly head.
But PDP at the national level has joined the allegation. National chairman of the party, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, warned INEC not to postpone the polls.
In a statement by its Acting National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Bernard Mikko in Abuja last Wednesday, Sheriff warned that the PDP would not succumb to the alleged plan to move the election.
The statement said “The attention of the Peoples Democratic Party has been drawn to subterranean efforts of the government of Osun state to precipitate the postponement of the Osun West Senatorial Bye Election from Saturday July 8, to an ostensibly preferred and predetermined date.
“In the meeting of stakeholders last week at the Osun West Senatorial headquarters in Iwo, Mr. Emmanuel Ademusire who is the INEC state director of administration assured all the political parties that the July 8 date for the Osun West Senatorial bye election was irrevocably sacrosanct and announced the deployment of five INEC commissioners to oversee the election.
“We are therefore constrained to warn that any attempt to yield to the antics of these undemocratic forces using spurious or fake security report as an excuse will not be tolerated. Nigerians are sufficiently enlightened to understand the antics of desperate politicians that may want to use their privileged positions to undermine our electoral process and put our democracy in peril. The legitimacy of our leaders is hinged on a credible, fair and transparent electoral process and once the confidence of the electorate is lacking in the electoral umpire, our hard earned democracy will be in jeopardy.
“While it is our hope that the electoral body will not yield to any subterranean blackmail to shift the date of the election from Saturday July 8, it has become imperative for civil society organizations, pro-democracy activists, election monitoring groups and members of the diplomatic community to be vigilant and ensure that all stakeholders abide by the rules and refrain from changing the goal post at the middle of the game. Upholding the tenets of democracy and the rule of law is the only way to credible and transparent electoral process in the conduct of the Osun West Senatorial bye election on Saturday July 8.”
But INEC has denied plans to plan to shift the election. Director of Publicity and Voter Education at the commission, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, was quoted as saying that the commission was not planning to shift the election.
He said, “We are preparing for the election as scheduled and we have no plan to either postpone it or cancel it.
“That claim (by the PDP) that the election was going to be postponed is not true. We are planning for the election and we are going ahead with it. I’m not aware of the plan to shift the election.”
The process of getting a replacement in the Senate for the people of Osun West has provoked concerns. One issue that is propelling the tension in the state borders around next year’s governorship election. More intriguing is that the governorship poll will be contested by no incumbent on the ballot.
As the allegations and counter-allegations continue to mount in the build up to by-election, residents of the state can only hope that the election is conducted in a violence-free atmosphere.