As Nigerians go to the polls tomorrow, March 9, to elect governors and members of the state assembly, we implore all citizens, especially the voters, to put first the interest of the country. Expectedly, governors will be elected in 29 states and members of the state legislature in the 36 states of the federation as well as election of chairmen and councilors in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) area councils. There will also be elections in some of the places elections could not hold or were inconclusive in the presidential and national assembly elections two weeks ago.
As tomorrow’s polls bring this cycle of elections to a close, we call on all Nigerians to put their differences aside and ensure that the elections are seamless, credible and peaceful. The gubernatorial and state assembly elections are the most important because they are closer to the people. Therefore, the stakes are likely to be high.
To ensure adequate security during the elections, the acting Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, has deployed seven Deputy Inspectors-General of Police (DIGs) to the six geo-political zones. Similarly, 62 Commissioners of Police (CPs) were also deployed to the 36 state commands and the FCT to complement the efforts of the commissioners in the commands.
With this massive deployment of police officers, we believe that they can effectively deal with the problems of thugs, ballot box snatchers and touts during the exercise. However, in view of the violence witnessed during the presidential and national assembly polls in some parts of the country, we call on the government to ensure that security is beefed up in states like Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Kano, Kaduna, Kwara and Lagos. There is the need to ensure that policemen are posted to every polling station to avoid the ugly incident of disruption of the election witnessed during the February 23 polls.
We enjoin all politicians and their supporters to see election as a vehicle to choose our leaders. It is, indeed, a celebration of the freedom of the people and the right to free choice in all civilized societies. Ours cannot be different.
The voting arena should never be turned into a battlefield by politicians and their opponents. Therefore, we must eschew violence as well as the ‘do or die’ approach to politics. No Nigerian should be killed in the course of exercising his or her franchise. We call on the electorate to go out tomorrow and exercise their franchise.
Since the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahood Yakubu, has assured the nation and the international community of a credible exercise, tomorrow, Nigerians will expect no less from him. The electoral agency must ensure that tomorrow’s exercise is better than the polls.
It should also demonstrate that it has learnt sufficient lessons from the lapses of the last polls by giving Nigerians credible polls tomorrow. The late arrival of election materials and INEC personnel at the polling centres witnessed in the last poll must not be allowed to recur.
The card reader should be made to function effectively now that INEC has insisted that it is the only means of accreditation for all voters. The card readers should be made available at all voting points. Effort should be made to curb the emerging political culture of vote buying and vote selling.
We urge the security agencies to be apolitical in the discharge of their duties during the exercise. Above all, let them be professional, non-partisan and patriotic. Nigeria needs peace now more than ever before. The security agencies must ensure that there is peace and unity in the country during and after the polls.
To ensure the success of the elections, INEC officials, especially the state Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECS), collation officers and the ad hoc staff must be diligent in the discharge of their functions.