BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
There seems to be no end in sight for the recriminations between incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and the Governor-elect, Ademola Adeleke. If anything, there has been a spike in it since the July 16 governorship election was conducted and results announced.
While waiting to take over governance from Oyetola on November 27, this year, Adeleke has raised several alarms against Governor Oyetola alleging last-minute efforts by the incumbent governor to completely make the smooth take-off administration impossible by stifling the state financially and making it completely insolvent before he would take over in three months’ time.
Among many allegations that Adeleke and the People’s Democratic Party had raised are that Oyetola was planning to conduct what they termed an illegal local government election, the recruitment of 75,000 residents into the Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme, and subsequently absorb them into the civil service in a bid to pile up the salary overhead burden of the incoming administration.
Others are that Oyetola had been awarding contracts, taking loans, making appointments into the civil service and selling assets of the government in an apparent move to create as many pitfalls in the system as possible before the inauguration of Adeleke in November.
The Point had reported that Governor Oyetola already hinted at plans to recruit 30,000 OYES cadets in the state about two weeks to the just concluded poll. The governor had also announced some flag-off of road projects in the state of which the people of the state were already expecting to be fulfilled.
Speaking, the spokesperson to the Governor-elect, Olawale Rasheed, who did not specify the particular assets and loans the administration of Oyetola has sold off and obtained respectively, argued that Adeleke and PDP were not raising false alarms as alleged by Oyetola and the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Rasheed alleged that Oyetola was planning to leave the state bankrupt and insolvent so that Adeleke would have difficulty achieving his electoral manifestos when he finally takes over the reins of governance in the state.
He warned heads of government agencies and senior civil servants to be cautious of involving themselves in illegalities with the current administration and threatened that the government of Adeleke would probe anyone culpable and bring such a person to justice.
“Despite being constituted close to two years ago with huge resources expended on the commission chairman, the secretary and staff, the commission has failed to conduct any Local Government election since then, until now when the Oyetola-led APC Administration in Osun State has been voted out of power”
He equally alleged that the administration of Oyetola was not cooperating with the Transition Committee set up by Adeleke to interface with the governor and other relevant public office holders in the build-up to the swearing-in ceremony.
“We are not raising false alarms, we are very serious-minded people, and that’s why the people of Osun State reposed so much confidence in the governor-elect, Senator Ademola Adeleke. We have credible information about activities going on within government that we thought are inimical to the well-being of the state, and we also think that when you have an election and you are voted out, the next thing is to be doing house screening exercises and working on the transition, it’s not a time for you to be piling up debts, piling up pay-roll and engaging in unwholesome activities.
“When you are voted out of office, the standard practice, worldwide, is that you as the Chief Executive now sit down and you are winding up, it’s not a time that you now start recruiting and disposing of assets of the state. In all the statements that we issued, we have credible information from the government. Let me start with the issue of disposal of assets, the issue of disposal of mining titles owned by the state government and the OYES matter including high-profile appointments that are secretly going on.
“We are raising the alarm to necessarily call the government to order and to also put the public on notice as to what the outgoing government is doing. It’s not in our place to go into details, the government that we sent the message to is now aware and inside government agencies, ministries, and even the governor’s office and they are adjusting. Since we started releasing the statements, they have already been recalling what they have done.
“Trying to recruit 75,000 OYES cadets is an attempt to further bankrupt the state. We are warning and we don’t want Governor Oyetola to further erode the little goodwill that remains for him.
“The outgoing government should be rounding off and doing house-keeping. Our alarms are in the public interest and they are working because every ministry, director and head of agencies, and senior civil servants are on their toes, because if you commit yourselves to illegalities, you will pay for it by November. They should not allow anyone to drag them into committing illegalities that when they are queried about, they won’t be able to defend. The law is clear, both the collaborator and initiator will be sanctioned.
“Any recruitment now is meant to create challenges and crisis for the incoming government. The intention is to pile up the payroll and cripple the incoming government.
The state is already insolvent and you are trying to add more financial burdens so that the incoming government will have issues in terms of fulfilling its electoral promises. We are saying any OYES recruitment at this point in time is unacceptable to us. We have better plans to engage our youths,” Rasheed noted.
Asked if it was trying to make the incumbent administration docile and ground to a halt when it has not officially handed over, Rasheed said, “We are not grinding the wheel of government to a halt as alleged. We are not saying the government should not run but the government should run with good intentions. The electoral shock is still within the governmental system and they have not been cooperating with us.”
On the alleged plan by Oyetola to conduct local government elections, the PDP in the state said it filed a suit before a Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo against the Osun Independent Electoral Commission.
There has been speculation among the state government officials that OSIEC had slated October 29 as the date for the poll.
Meanwhile, in a statement issued and signed by the party’s Director of Media, Oladele Oluwabamiji, the PDP warned the state governor, Gboyega Oyetola and the election commission against going ahead with the planned local government election saying it was unlawful, illegal and criminal.
“We want to address the minds of Governor Oyetola and the State Electoral Body to a pending suit before the Federal High Court, Osogbo, in FHC/OS/CS/94/2022, by which the People’s Democratic Party is challenging OSIEC on the planned illegal local government election, while at the same time praying the court to restrain INEC from releasing voters register to OSIEC for the reason of non-compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 with respect to giving notice of elections, the nomination of candidates, publication of names.
“The public is invited to note the act of illegality and criminality being embarked upon by the outgoing Governor and his OSIEC, a body which to date has no legal backing for its existence.
“Despite being constituted close to two years ago with huge resources expended on the commission chairman, the secretary and staff, the commission has failed to conduct any Local Government election since then, until now when the Oyetola-led APC administration in Osun State has been voted out of power.
“We affirm that under the Electoral Act 2022, notice of any election must be given not later than 360 days before the election, and nomination of candidates for the election must not be later than 180 days before the election, while publication of names shall be a period not later than 150 days before the election.
“It is to be noted that by virtue of second schedule paragraphs 11 and 12 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, no state electoral law can have precedence over the Electoral Act.
“More so, the Electoral Act 2022 has made it clear that every State Electoral Commission must comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 in conducting Local Government elections.
“Referencing section 151 of the Electoral Act, 2022, the party warns OSIEC that apart from the purported election running the risk of being rendered void absolutely, it is a criminal offence for any member or staff of any state electoral body who conspires or indulges in holding an election contrary to the Electoral Act, 2022.
“We are therefore alerting members of the public to rise against another wastage and conduit pipe through which the resources of Osun people are being siphoned. No product of illegality will be allowed to stand by the incoming Adeleke administration,” the statement read.
Reacting, the OSIEC Chairman, Segun Oladitan described as baseless and unfounded the rumours making the rounds that the council poll has been slated for October 29, 2022, saying that no date had been announced by the commission.
According to a statement he signed and issued recently, Oladitan said the commission is only empowered to announce the election date and that any date coming from any other source aside OSIEC should be disregarded by the public.
Oladitan stated that “at the appropriate time, the commission would come out with the election guidelines to put a stop to the unnecessary rumours being peddled around.”
He expressed the commitment of OSIEC to conduct a credible and acceptable LG election in the state at the appropriate time.
When asked if OSIEC was planning to conduct a local government election before the end of Oyetola’s tenure, Oladitan said, “Let me start by saying that I did not see any controversy or anything going on. What’s the duty of the electoral commission? It’s to conduct elections and if it’s to conduct elections, what’s the controversy about it? Who is to inform the public and the political parties whether there is going to be an election or not? Have you heard anything from me? So, why are they crashing their heads here and there? The political parties are bound to make speculation and clash with each other, but that still doesn’t mean there is controversy.
When I have to conduct a local government election, which is my own duty, we are going to conduct it. So, can you force the sun to rise? Or can you force the sun to set? We will do what we have to do at the appropriate time. I don’t want the commission to be drawn into political controversy. At the appropriate time, OSIEC will make its own pronouncement.
“There is a case in court compelling OSIEC to conduct the election. And if there is a case in court compelling OSIEC to conduct the election and if OSIEC decides that in line with this case in court that we are going to conduct the election, why should anybody say we shouldn’t conduct the election?
“Can you force the sun to rise? Or can you force the sun to set? We will do what we have to do at the appropriate time. I don’t want the commission to be drawn into political controversy. At the appropriate time, OSIEC will make its own pronouncement”
When asked further if OSIEC would conduct an election before the end of Oyetola’s administration, he said, “I will conduct an election when I have to conduct an election.”
About the timeline argued by the PDP that OSIEC has to intimate members of the public, Oladitan said, “Are they lawyers? When people who are not learned are interpreting the law, what do you expect? If OSIEC announces that it’s going to conduct an election, we are going to do it in accordance with the law of Nigeria, even with decided cases here and there. As a lawyer of about four decades, I know I must do things in accordance with the law, anybody who is not pleased can approach the court. Can you stop an electoral management body from conducting elections? What’s their duty then? It’s when they do it and you feel they have not done it well, you have the court to go.”
On whether he has received notice of suit filed by PDP against the conduct of the council poll, the OSIEC Chairman noted that “I have not seen the writ of summons. When I see it, I will react to it appropriately. It’s not every case that is in court that is in court on merit. However, when I see the case, the commission will react appropriately.”
Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Oyetola, Ismail Omipidan, asked Adeleke and PDP to desist from raising false alarms they couldn’t substantiate saying they were attempting to blackmail the current administration in the state.
He debunked a plan by Oyetola to conduct local government election adding that the mandate of Oyetola subsists till November 27 when Adeleke would take over power.
He said, “They (PDP and Adeleke) have been asked to provide evidence that a contract has been awarded after the election and up till now, they have not come forward with one. Yes, he (Adeleke) is a Governor-elect, but it will be absurd to declare our actions as illegal. Until he is sworn in, he doesn’t have any legal instrument to operate as a governor. Which law are we making reference to? As far as we are concerned, our mandate lasts until November 27, and it’s after November 27, that’s when you can declare any of our actions as illegal. If Osun is insolvent, we wouldn’t have been able to pay the July salary. I don’t know where they get their data from to conclude that Osun is insolvent. If indeed Osun was insolvent, the PDP wouldn’t have said they want to govern the state.
“The PDP claimed that we are planning to conduct local government elections and I am happy that the OSIEC Chairman has come out to debunk it. I will appeal to the PDP that we are a responsible government and whatever information they need from us, so long they follow due process, we would oblige them. We won’t succumb to any blackmail. The process for OYES recruitment started before the election, which is ongoing, whether they would be absorbed into the civil service or not, is not a question I can answer at the moment.
“How is it an issue that we started the OYES recruitment two weeks before the election? Was it the only process we started before the election? Did we not flag-off the Lameco-Ilobu road before the election? Did we not start the Hallelujah road before the election? Don’t forget that in January this year, Mr. Governor said though 2022 is a year of election in Osun as a responsible and responsive government; we will not allow politics to take the shine of governance. My principal should be commended for not giving up even after the results of the election were announced.”