The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday refuted allegations that its Returning Officer (RO) for the Ondo State governorship election is a don from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife and an indigene of Owo, the home town of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu who is standing for re-election for another term of four years.
This clarification came from INEC National Commissioner and Chairman (Information and Voter Education Committee), Festus Okoye in a statement in Abuja on Friday.
He said in the statement: “While the commission will not be drawn into speculations relating to the performance of its constitutional and statutory functions, it is imperative to set the records straight for the benefit of the people of Ondo State and the integrity of the electoral process.
“It is the sole responsibility of the commission to appoint a Returning Officer for the Ondo governorship election and does not share this responsibility with any individual, group or political party.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Returning Officer for the Ondo Governorship election is not from Ondo State and not from the University mentioned in the said press conference.
“The Returning Officer appointed by the commission will report to the REC for Ondo State on the date conveyed in his letter of appointment issued several days ago.
“The commission is firmly focused on the conduct of free, fair and peaceful election and implores all the stakeholders to cooperate and play their own part in ensuring a peaceful election and not to engage in unhelpful speculation.
“The main concern of the commission is in ensuring a credible electoral process while the outcome is in the hands of the people of Ondo State.”
According to Okoye, the RO would report to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ondo State on the date conveyed in his letter of appointment issued several days ago.
Recall that the Chairman, National Campaign Council of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, had cried out that the RO for the Saturday election is Profesor Ogunbodede, the current Vice-Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.
Makinde had said, “We are speaking in particular about the appointment of Prof. Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede, the Vice-Chancellor of OAU, Ile-Ife, as the Chief Returning Officer of the Ondo State governorship election.
“The PDP totally rejects Prof. Eyitope Ogungbenro Ogunbodede acting as Chief Returning Officer. He is a known crony of Rotimi Akeredolu SAN, candidate of the All Progressives Congress and hails from Owo, the same hometown as the candidate. He cannot be a fair party in the proceedings by virtue of their association.”