The upcoming election for the governorship of the Nigerian state of Osun was already controversial, but the situation has recently been complicated by a purported United States Agency for International Development poll. The poll, which USAID has subsequently denied, put challenger Iyiola Omisore ahead of incumbent candidate Rauf Aregbesola by a margin of 58 percent to 30 percent.
What ensued was a battle of statistics. Aregbesola’s campaign pointed to research firm TNS-RMS’s poll that put the incumbent governor ahead with an insurmountable 73 percent lead over his competitors.
Omisore’s campaign quickly came out with a statement to legitimize the alleged USAID poll.
The statement pleaded, “The public should note that USAID, an international organization operating all over the world with unrivaled technical competence and impartial perspective on Osun political landscape, had put Senator Omisore ahead.”
However, USAID immediately distanced itself from both the poll and the election. The USAID Democracy and Governance Team claimed, “None of USAID Peace and Democratic Governance Implementing Partners support or plan to support any election related opinion polls in Osun.”
Both camps in the Nigerian election sent inquires to USAID asking to back up the poll. USAID could hardly have been more clear. “No USAID poll was taken in Osun.”
This spelled good news for the Aregbesola campaign, but Omisore was ready to strike back. His campaign lambasted the TNS-RMS poll to even the score.
“We urge the public to discountenance this last minute attempt to hoodwink the public. RMS is an APC outfit doing propaganda for Aregbesola. Its poll lacks integrity and [is] totally jaundiced because of a vested interest,” one of Omisore’s campaign workers said.
It remains unclear why USAID was ever brought into the conversation if there really was no USAID poll. Perhaps the organization’s name was used to give the poll gravitas, or perhaps USAID actually did conduct the poll but is now backpedaling.
Though past elections in Osun have been roiled with fraudulent and undemocratic practices, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan promised that “the Osun governorship elections will be very free, fair and credible.”
One way or the other, somebody is lying about the polls. Given the candidates’ willingness to bend the truth during the campaign, it is of the utmost importance that the election itself be free of any trickery.
With the election quickly approaching on August 9, the people of Osun will offer the final word on which poll was more legitimate.
– Sam Hillestad