James Sowole, in Akure, writes that the results of opinion polls conducted by two different organisations have generated controversy ahead of the election
The world over, one of the instruments used in measuring the popularity or acceptance of candidates before the electorate during an election is opinion poll conducted at intervals before the election. In most cases, the results of the polls, though they may not be 100 per cent accurate, tally closely with the real results.
In the past elections in Nigeria, some results of opinion surveys conducted by organisations had come to pass while some at the end of the elections turned out to be mere academic exercises that could not stand the test of time.
Conflicting Opinion Polls
As the October 20 governorship election in Ondo State draws nearer, two different opinion poll agencies have released results of polls conducted separately on the election, where three main candidates are battling for the seat of government.
The three main candidates are Mr Rotimi Akredolu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Chief Olusola Oke of the Peoples Democratic Party, and the incumbent governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party. Apart from the three main contestants, there are 10 other political parties that have presented candidates for the election.
The two organisations that have released the different opinion poll results are POLLSTAR, an opinion poll and survey agency based in Abuja, and Gallop Poll Nigeria Limited.
According to the executive director in charge of special projects at POLLSTAR, Mr. Obi Benedict Ekene, the agency periodically conducts opinion polls on topical issues cutting across politics, policy, and economy, business while also offering consultancy services in the area of social impact assessment to clients in and outside Nigeria.
One unique feature of the results of the two organisations is that each separately rated the candidates of PDP and LP as leaders of their polls.
Releasing its second week result on the poll, POLLSTAR in the result signed by Ekene, indicated that the PDP candidate, Oke, was leading with 26 per cent while the LP candidate, Mimiko, followed with 20 per cent and the ACN candidate, Akeredolu, came third with 19 per cent.
The scores for other political parties, according to POLLSTAR, are: ANPP 9 per cent, CPC 6 per cent, NCP 5 per cent, PPA 5 per cent, ACPN 3 per cent, NSDP 3 per cent.
POLLSTAR stated that the result had an error margin of plus or minus 3.
Ekene, who also attached the results of the 2011 presidential election opinion poll conducted by POLLSTAR, said the agency exercised the highest level of objectivity in generating and analysing data leading to a factual result which reflects the reality on ground.
He said the PDP candidate could be considered a formidable contender in the race for Alagbaka Government House given the massive political machinery at his disposal coupled with his sagacity and ability to strike accord with the youths across the state.
Ekene added that the LP candidate also stood a chance in the race through his populist programmes and policies, which makes him to still maintain popularity among the electorate. He said the agency employed the use of straw approach, where respondents were interviewed by the company’s agents spread across the 18 local government areas of the state, without them (electorate) knowing the identity of the agents, before analysing the data collected.
However, barely one week after POLLSTAR rated the PDP candidate as leading others, a survey conducted by another body, Gallop Polls Nigeria Limited, revealed that the incumbent governor, Mimiko, was leading others with wide margin.
In the result, the company stated that no fewer than 77 per cent of the respondents who participated in a week-long opinion poll it conducted on the forthcoming governorship election preferred the LP candidate.
Principal consultant of the firm, Chief Anthony Chigbo, while briefing journalists on the result, said 11, 164 respondents, out of the 14, 500 that participated in the exercise, voted Mimiko, who is contesting for a second term in office.
Chigbo also said 1, 420 respondents, which is about 9.8 per cent, voted for the ACN candidate while 1, 230, representing about 8.5 per cent, voted for the PDP candidate.
According to Chigbo, 150 respondents, representing 1.0 per cent, voted for the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, Mr. Soji Ehinlanwo, while 276 respondents, which is 1.9 per cent, had preferences for the other candidates.
Chigbo, who said “a plus minus one per cent margin of error was observed in the empirical exercise,” added that 260 entries, representing 1.8 per cent of the voters, were voided.
He said, “Entrance and exit polls is our next goal. Entrance polls shall be conducted via sms on Friday the 19th of October, 2012. Eligible registered voters are expected to vote for the candidate they made up their minds to vote for the following day.
“Respondents are expected to send Ondo AK to 31077 and vote for the Action Congress of Nigeria while those voting for Peoples Democratic Party should send Ondo OK to 31077. The electorate, who wish to vote for the Congress for Progressive Change, should send Ondo HE to 31077 while those wishing to vote for the Labour Party would send Ondo OM to 31077.
“Exit polls take place immediately after voting on October 20 when respondents are expected to use the same format to text the candidate they voted for to 31077. Voter participation in the next two polls is highly encouraged because it predicts without flaw, the expected result.”
Chigbo urged all registered voters in the state to participate in both the entrance and exit polls because it would be a weapon to defend their votes and make them count.
Two days after Gallop Polls released its result, POLLSTAR again released another result, which it said was the outcome of the third edition of its survey.
In the result, Ekene claimed, “In what can be considered a dramatic realignment of political forces, the gap had widened between the PDP candidate, Chief Olusola Oke, and his closest rival by topping the chart consecutively for two weeks with a very big margin between him and his nearest rival, Olusegun Mimiko.”
Giving details of the latest opinion poll result, Ekene said Oke scored 29 per cent, Mimiko 22 per cent, ACN 18 per cent, ANPP 5 per cent and CPC 4 per cent. Others were NCP 3 per cent, PPA 1.5 per cent, ACPN and NSDP 1.3 per cent, while others representing about 5 per cent were undecided.
The POLLSTAR director said the PDP candidate maintained high popularity among prospective voters and had widened the gap at the top in the race, adding that the high performance in recent weeks may not be unconnected with the massive PDP political machinery at his disposal and his robust grassroots campaign.
Ekene blamed the LP situation on the fact that more people were disenchanted about the performance of the incumbent administration, particularly in projects execution and type of projects executed.
“The ACN candidate can also be counted as a serious contender given his impeccable career in the legal profession. Putting into consideration the short term and long term political calculation and permutations and given the prevailing political set up and current alignment of political forces, the swing votes will likely tilt more towards the PDP candidate and to some extent he ACN candidate,” he said.
Expectedly, the results of the opinion polls released by the two organisations have generated controversy among politicians and stakeholders in the state.
When POLLSTAR released its second week result, which favoured the PDP candidate, it was hailed by supporters of the party while the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Kayode Akinmade, described it as the outcome of a sponsored exercise that cannot stand the test of time because it did not reflect the reality on ground.
Reacting to the third week result, which revealed by the PDP was still leading by a wide gap, the Director of Publicity and Media Relations of Mimiko Campaign Organisation, Mr Kolawole Olabisi, said the organisation was unperturbed by the result.
According to Olabisi, “We are not worried by whatever opinion poll which must have, from all intents and purposes, been manipulated by one of the political parties to favour it. In the last three and a half years, several opinions polls by credible organisations have rated the government of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko as one of the best governors in the country.
“The countless accolades, even from members of the oppositions, and from renowned authorities such as the World Bank, World Health Organisation, the United Nations and others from far and wide have been given for the innovative giant strides of Dr Mimiko in Ondo State. These are indications that we have performed and the people themselves are happy with us.
“We have no iota of doubt that come October 20, the people will vote overwhelmingly for a performer in the person of Dr Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party. To us, one trillion opinion polls either counterfeit or genuine cannot hoodwink the people of Ondo State not to vote for the person who has touched their lives positively. So we are not worried and as you can all see, we are on the field from morning to evening selling our manifestoes to the people and also commissioning many projects which the people themselves chose.”
Reacting to the poll results that favoured the LP candidate, the deputy director of publicity and media of Olusola Oke Campaign Organisation, Mr Rotimi Ogunleye, described it as an outcome of a research conducted in secrecy.
“The gallop result did not say in clear term the class of the respondents, how they were selected. It also fails to tell the whole world how they administer questionnaire on their chosen population. It is a common knowledge that the economy of individuals, most especially common men, are in shambles. Asking them to send SMS will certainly limit a large number of the electorate whose votes are important than the men of the government who feed fat on the fund of the state,” Ogunleye alleged.
“How do you think the fishermen in Mahin, garri farmer in Ajowa and eriti, cocoa farmer at Igbatoro, Ala and Igbolodumare will participate in a skewed SMS opinion collation? It is all targeted at implementing the rigging agenda of the incumbent. It is a research conducted to pave way for Dr Mimiko to rig the election. Unfortunately for him, the people of Ondo State are wiser than dishing out a jaundiced research result that was prepared by the commissioned agents of the government.
“The governor is only popular among his research agents and those who still profit from the largesse that were stolen from OSOPADEC, the abandoned dome project, Arigidi Tomato project and other money draining projects that are still ongoing since the inception of his administration. The PDP exists today in the minds of the majority of the electorate and that is where our electoral strength lies, not on packaged paper strength.”
The executive director of POLLSTAR said the organisation expected the reactions. Ekene, said, “As an opinion poll and survey agency, we rely on our past records and credibility. Whenever, we release results to the public, we are always conscious of our image and credibility.”
In any case, the real opinion of the Ondo State electorate will be known on October 20.