Voters in Ekiti State will today, July 14, elect their next governor. Not less than 35 registered political parties fielded candidates for the election. With 913,334 registered voters in the state, only 636,000 collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). A total of 11,000 ad hoc workers and 30,000 security personnel were deployed for the exercise.
Nigerians look forward to Ekiti election for several reasons. It will serve as the litmus test for the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for next year’s general election. Therefore, the outcome of the Ekiti poll will also show the electoral umpire’s readiness for the November gubernatorial election in Osun State. All eyes are on Ekiti as a dress rehearsal for the 2019 general election. INEC’s performance in the poll will indicate how peaceful, credible and transparent the 2019 poll will be under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu.
Although 35 candidates are participating in the election, the contest is between the candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Olusola Eleka and the former governor and ex-Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Considering the controversies and violence that trailed the primaries of some of the political parties, allegations of planned rigging and the usual desperation by politicians, we urge all those involved in the election to ensure that it is peaceful, fair and credible.
It is, therefore, important that the electoral agency, the political parties and their supporters should ensure that the election is peaceful. INEC must ensure early arrival and distribution of electoral materials, accreditation of voters and proper functioning of the card readers. Though INEC has assured that it is fully prepared for the exercise, it should be reminded that the integrity of any election depends largely on the seamless delivery of both sensitive and non-sensitive materials before and during the polls. With complaints by many of the political parties and other stakeholders, every effort should be put in place to address all issues to make the exercise hitch-free. The electoral process should not be compromised. During the stakeholders’ meeting organised by the electoral agency, there were allegations and counter allegations against the security agencies that could compromise the outcome of the election.
All security agencies should be professional, neutral and impartial in the course of discharging their duties during the election. Though security is important for law and order and sanctity of the ballot box, Ekiti should not be militarised so that voters will not be scared away from voting. INEC should learn from the lessons of the governorship poll in Anambra State last year where the exercise was trailed by voter apathy.
It is important that the participating parties hold their supporters in check. Those that would foment trouble should realise that Section 131 of the 2011 Electoral Act (as amended), prescribes stiff punishment – a fine of N1 million or six months imprisonment or both – for anyone found guilty of disrupting the poll. The stakes in the election are high. Any action that could lead to disruption of the poll should be nipped in the bud. We urge INEC to live to its promise to conduct a credible and transparent election. Good enough, the Federal Government has assured of non-interference in the conduct of the election. Also, INEC Chairman, Prof. Yakubu, has promised that the choice of Ekiti people must be respected. Nigerians expect no less from the electoral agency. The collation of results should not be manipulated. We remind Ekiti people that election is a celebration of democracy and a reflection of the will of the people in the choice of their next governor. Nothing should be done to derail the process. INEC and other stakeholders should be reminded that members of the international community are watching. Above all, let the Ekiti poll be free, fair and credible.