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Sun, 08 Sep 2013

The Kwara Council Poll and Lessons on Political Morality

- Admin

 There is a lesson for all politicians in the action of the councillorship candidate who returned a stolen mandate, writes Vincent Obia

Councillorship elections are hardly topics that grab the headlines. But penultimate Saturday in Offa, Kwara State, a councillorship election rerun brought to national consciousness a moral issue that hold significant lessons for all politicians, particularly, as the country approaches critical general elections in 2015.

A Peoples Democratic Party councillorship candidate in Shawo South West ward of Offa Local Government Area, Mr. Jimoh Olawole, who was declared winner of the ward election, rejected the victory, citing malpractices that conflict with his religious faith. He had been pronounced winner by the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission in the poll whose results were protested by the All Progressives Congress.

Olawole renounced what he termed a fraudulent victory, saying, “I am a bona fide Offa indigene, we are noted for our industry and truth. I did not win that election; it was rigged in my favour. I am a true Moslem who will one day stand before God and give an account of my stewardship.”
It was a true confession of faith, one that should challenge the sense of political morality of citizens in a country where major political and economic actors are mainly Moslems and Christians.

But this rather mysterious political act has spawned endless speculation. Some have called it an opposition blackmail scheme targeted at the ruling PDP in the state. Since after the renunciation of the alleged fake poll result, the social media has been awash with arguments and counter-arguments by persons praising or mocking Olawole’s action.

The musings around an act that should immediately attract collective commendation are fuelled by the poll’s antecedents.

It began on January 2011, when a rerun local government election was held in Offa Local Government Area, with PDP and the then Action Congress of Nigeria as the main political parties. The ACN candidate, Saheed Popoola, won, but the PDP candidate, Segun Olanipekun, filed a petition at the local government election tribunal. The tribunal reversed Popoola’s victory and declared Olanipekun as winner of the council poll, but the former appealed the verdict at the appeal tribunal in Ilorin.

The appellate tribunal ordered another rerun election in Offa local government council, which held one before the last Saturday.
As the people of Offa Local Government Area went to the polls that Saturday, all eyes were on PDP and APC, a merger involving ACN and two other parties, All Nigeria Peoples Party and Congress for Progressive Change as well as factions of All Progressives Grand Alliance and Democratic Peoples Party.

As is the wont of ruling party candidates in such polls where interests run high, which are conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commissions, Olanipekun, the PDP candidate, was declared winner by the Dr. Uthman Ajidagba-led KWASIEC. All the 12 councillorship candidates of PDP, including Olawole, were also declared winners.

But Olawole chose to stand up for that essential element that is often missing in Nigerian politics: integrity. He came out to tell the world that it was the candidate of APC that actually won the poll in his Shawo South West ward.      

The timing of the incident was significant, coming at a time when the ruling PDP is going through one of its most challenging periods, with disagreements bordering largely on the question of integrity.

Unfortunately, while many in Nigeria were commending the rare show of integrity by the PDP councillorship candidate, the party launched into a scheme of prevarication. In a strange about face, the party told a press conference on Thursday in Ilorin that Olawole was not a member of PDP and that it had on August 26 written KWASIEC to remove his name from the list of PDP candidates because he had left the party.

At the press conference where the state PDP chairman, Alhaji Isola Balogun-Fulani, was represented by the party’s state secretary, Mr. Yemi Afolayan, PDP announced Mr. Kamarudeen Olalekan as its elected councilor for Shawo South West ward – in place of Olawole.
But the explanation offered by the PDP in Kwara State merely begs the question.

Could the party have gone into an election and emerged victorious without really knowing who its candidate was? How come it was only when Olawole recanted the victory KWASIEC had awarded him that PDP came out to pronounce him an “impostor”? Could the name of a candidate announced as winner of an election by the electoral umpire be replaced on account of a mere letter by a party without an order from a law court?

These are issues that bespeak a credibility crisis around the August 31 rerun council election in Offa, which PDP and KWASIEC, obviously, have no answer to.


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Disclaimer: Content is the Opinion of the Author and is not in anyway representative of the Opinions of the Nigerian Election Coalition, WANGONeT, or the MacArthur Foundation except otherwise stated.


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