2015 ELECTIONS: Men who’ll decide the fate of contestants in S/West

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By Charles Kumolu

THE December 24, 2014 nationwide redeployment of 37 Resident Electoral Commissioners, RECs, by the Independent National Electoral Commission ,INEC, popped up six men, whose professional wisdom is expected to guide the 2015 general elections in the South West geo-political zone. Notably, these RECs are distinguished from their peers across the country by a common identity, as they are Yoruba—the common race of the south-westerners. None could be described as a rookie in the business of election management, given that they had at various times overseen both controversial and non- disputable polls. This baggage of experience, is expected to be brought to bear in a region regarded as the hotbed of the opposition and the home of the progressively inclined politicians. In the course of their duties, jinx would be broken, records would be made, while history may be distorted. A letter dated December 24, 2014 by the Secretary of INEC, Augusta Ogakwu, stated that the RECs were directed to conclude all handing and taking over formalities yesterday. OYO STATE: Until his recent appointment, the 1973 University of California graduate of Political Science, was the REC in Osun State. Rufus Akeju obtained his Masters of Arts in International Affairs in June, 1974 at the Ohio University Athens, Ohio USA. He earned his Ph.D in Political Science with specialization in International Law/Relations, Public Administration and Policy Analysis, Comparative Politics and Development. The former Ambassador to Cuba was made a REC on July 22, 2010. Akeju, who was born in Lagos May 25 , 1947, hails from Lagos State. His tenure in Osun was not short of controversies, as he was accused of partisanship by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. At various times, there were demands for his removal following allegations that he is a card-carrying member of the All Progressives Congress APC. He was eventually removed from the state one month before the last governorship elections. Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega, in statement, said Akeju was requested by the Commission to step aside against the backdrop of intense partisan acrimony over his person. “He acceded to the request, knowing the effort being invested by INEC to make the Osun governorship election free, fair and credible. He has not been indicted for any offence, and the appeal by INEC for a stay of execution of the interlocutory order restraining the Commission from recognising him as Osun REC still subsist,”Idowu state. Akeju, who once served in the administration of Bola Tinubu in Lagos State, is believed to be a strong ally of the APC leader. OGUN STATE: Timothy Ibitoye, who before now was the REC in Kwara State, is from Osun State. He assumed office as the REC in Kwara State in 2010, after which he conducted the 2011 governorship elections that ushered in Abdulfatah Ahmed as the state governor. Since the state is not known for rancorous transfer of power, his four-year tenure in Kwara was bereft of controversies. OSUN STATE: The Oyo State born Ogunmola, is resuming in a state where his predecessor was virtually in the eye of the storm while he presided over INEC . The man he succeeded was enmeshed in controversy leading to demand by major opposition parties that he be redeployed over allegations of partisanship. He hails from Oyo State. LAGOS STATE: The man, who will supervise the 2015 elections in one of flashpoints of the opposition, is an indigine of Ogun State. Prior to his secondment to oversee the exercise in the most priced state in Nigeria, Akin Orebiyi had been the REC in Ondo State, where he successfully conducted the election of Olusegun Mimiko. The product of Olivet High School, Oyo, also conducted the contentious Ilaje/Ese-Odo House of Representatives by-election. EKITI: Mr. Sam Olumeku, who hails from Ondo State, was the REC in Ogun state before his redeployment to Ekiti State. He has assumed the mantle of leadership in a state, where the immediate past REC is famed for conducting one of most credible governorship elections in the country. With such template, expectations of an unquestionable performance from him, are widespread. But the state’s sobriquet of a theatre of political absurdities, may naturally place Olumeku in the eye of the storm. ONDO STATE: From the comfort zone of Kogi, Mr. Segun Agbaje was temporarily moved to Osun, where he conducted the last governorship election. His interim leadership of INEC in that state, was a fallout of stringent calls for the replacement of Akeju ahead of the gubernatorial polls. Agbaje consequently, resumed duty in Osun State in July as directed by INEC headquarters in Abuja. His supervision of the August 9, 2014 exercise, was not devoid of complaints, as the PDP candidate, Oyiola Omisore alleged that the election was flawed. ‘’We affirm that the announced outcome of the August 9, 2014 gubernatorial election in Osun State are not a true reflection of the votes cast in the election, and rejected in all its entirety. We shall seek to retrieve our stolen mandate that was freely given to our candidate and party, using legal means as provided for by both the constitution and electoral laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Omisore alleged.

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