Ahead of the July14th governorship election in Ekiti State, accusations and counter-accusations have started flying around over plans by major political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC), to compromise the process. ALO ABIOLA writes on how this is making the challenge before Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) more herculean.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is the body put in place by law to organise, conduct and oversee state and federal elections in Nigeria.
INEC was established in accordance with the Section 153 (f) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, (as amended).
Its functions as stipulated in part I of the third schedule to the 1999 constitution included, to organise and supervise all elections to the offices of the President and Vice-President, the Governor and the Deputy Governor of a state and to the membership of the Senate, the House of Representatives and House of Assembly of each State of the Federation.
Other functions of the electoral body included, registration of political parties, monitoring of their activities, registration of persons of voting age as well as preparation, maintenance of voters register for the purpose of election.
The commission is also saddled with the responsibilities of monitoring political campaigns, provide rules and regulations governing the campaign activities of the parties and ensuring that electoral commissioners, electoral and returning officers take and subscribe to the oath of office prescribed by law among others.
It is also to be guided by values of autonomy to carry out its functions free from external control and influence, display openess and transparency in its activities and maintain truthfulness and honesty in its dealings with all stakeholders in any election.
INEC is also expected to be impartial in the conduct of all elections by creating a level playing field for all political parties and display high level of credibility by making sure that no action is taking in favour of a candidate or parties to the detriment of others and making fairness and justice in dealing with all stakeholders.
The electoral body has been living up to its duties over the years by conducting free, fair and credible poll across the country.
But in spite of this, it is a common place to hear candidates and their political parties accusing their opponents of conniving with the body to rig an upcoming poll.
This has always been the situation whenever state or National Assembly election, governorship or presidential poll are to be held in any state of the federation or the country at large.
Accusation and counter accusations of rigging an impending election is common between the ruling party in the state and major opposition party in the state or country.
It is therefore not different in the case of Ekiti State, as ahead of July 14 governorship election in Ekiti state, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, have been accusing each other of plotting to rig the poll.
Even though, no fewer than 35 political parties have been announced by INEC to participate in the election, none of the remaining 33 parties have come out with such allegation against one another, except the APC and PDP.
Drawing INEC into the antics being employed by the parties to get sympathy of the electorate has always been a source of concern to the electoral body in the state.
INEC at different fora have severally allayed the fears of the candidates, political parties, electorate and other stakeholders in the election that it will conduct a free, fair and credible poll that will be acceptable to all in Ekiti State.
The Ekiti State Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Prof. Abdulganiy Raji, at an event recently in Ado Ekiti, the state capital assured that the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State and the 2019 general elections will be better than the previous polls conducted by the commission.
Raji said part of what will make Ekiti gubernatorial election a huge success was the fact that Ekiti was ranked the best state in Nigeria in terms peaceful conduct during elections based on the outcome of the 2014 governorship election.
He spoke during a voter education programme tagged: ‘Vote Not Fight: Election No Be War,’ organized by a non-governmental organization the New Generation Girls and Women Development Initiative, NIGAWD.
Raji, who was represented by the commission’s Public Relations Officer in the state, Alhaji Taiwo Gbadegesin said, “The 2015 general elections people said were largely successful will be nothing compared to the elections that will be conducted in Ekiti and 2019.
“During the June 21, 2014 governorship election in Ekiti, there was no case of ballot snatching, no killing and this had made the INEC to rank Ekiti the best in Nigeria. As we speak, Ekiti is leading on INEC records.
“Let me advise Ekiti people and Nigerians to have confidence in us. They should forget the noise that the election will be rigged. No election can be rigged again in Nigeria with the kind of technology we had put in place.
“The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu and our REC are distinguished academics and they have said no pressure can make them rig elections.
“We appeal to our governorship candidates and particularly the youths to be good ambassadors of this state, so we can have a hitch-free election in Ekiti.
Few days after, the Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, raised the alarm that the APC and the INEC are colluding to preload card readers to be used for the July 14 governorship election in the state with a view to manipulating the poll in favour of the APC candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
The governor, who stated this while featuring on a live radio and television programme in Ado-Ekiti, the ‘Governor Explains,’ alleged that the criminal act is being perpetrated in Akure, Ondo State in collaboration with the Ondo State Government.
A statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Mr Idowu Adelusi, quoted the governor as saying that over 550 polling units spread across the state were targeted to be preloaded with between 50 and 200 votes in favour of the APC.
He said, “I don’t want to bring this picture out yet, but those who said preloading is not possible are lying. Right now, they are doing manual preloading in Akure as I speak. For polling units with over 1,000 voters, they spread the preloading to between 50 and 200 votes per polling unit. In Ikere, 58 of such polling units were targeted and Ado-Ekiti has 158 of such polling units. They want to get people they will stuff with the ballot papers and dump such papers in the ballot boxes at such polling units.
“They are also printing fake voter’s cards in Akure with support from the Ondo State Government. They are also working to bring in about 14,000 people from Ondo State to come and vote here. They have already issued fake 7,000 voter’s cards and they are daily printing this. They promised to give each person N15,000 if they help them stuff ballot boxes with fake ballot papers they are printing.”
Fayose therefore urged the people of the state to be vigilant during the election and challenge any strange face they see.
But the Director of Media and Publicity of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation, Wole Olujobi, in swift reaction said that Fayose’s allegation that the APC candidate is manipulating ballot in Akure, Ondo State capital, ahead of the July 14 poll, is the consequence of the ghost of the Federal Government-backed 2014 poll fraud haunting him.
Olujobi in a statement said, “We are not surprised that conscience, for the first time, is pricking Fayose over his unprecedented, historic and historical 2014 poll fraud criminally masterminded by him to win that election.
“All Nigerians and indeed peoples of the world heard how Fayose led top PDP members backed by the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to criminally manipulate the electoral process that returned him to power.
“That experience is now haunting Fayose, who believes that President Muhammadu Buhari is also a crime-inclined President who will take his pound of flesh for the 2014 election heist that returned Fayose to power.
“All over the world, Fayose’s voice was heard on the popular Capt Sagir Koli’s audio tape harassing a Major General of the Nigerian Army and forcing him to carry out his orders to assist him in the manipulation of the electoral process through illegal arrests and intimidation of the opposition to enable him win the election.
“Fayose’s voice was heard in the audio tape talking about how he collected sensitive copies of INEC materials that he said he printed to win the election.
“In the same audio tape, he spoke about how he collated election results in Efon-Alaaye on Thursday 19, 2014, two clear days before the June 21, 2014 election.”
In the same vein, the APC governorship candidate, Dr. Fayemi, has accused some top officials of the INEC of conniving with Governor Fayose to rig the coming election.
He accused three top INEC functionaries from Abuja of holding a secret meeting with governor Fayose in the Government House some days back under the guise of being in the state for official duty.
The former minister urged the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris and the Director General of the Department State Services, DSS, Mr Lawan Daura to investigate the allegation and bring the culprit to book.
Addressing a press conference in Ado Ekiti, the Deputy Director General, Ekiti South, of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Council, Hon. Bamidele Faparusi, said three electoral officials, namely, Egharevba John, Festus Aisien, Igidiogu Kelechi and one Ishaku Abbo, a former INEC staff are allegedly working with Fayose to compromise the poll.
Bamidele said one Ishaku from the Northern part of the country, whom he alleged of brokering the deal on Fayose’s behalf, had allegedly been living in the Government House in Ekiti in the last six months.
He said, “We have it on good authority that an election expert, one Ishaku, a former INEC official, has been living with the governor in the Government House since January this year.
“After these illegal activities in the Government House, there was a secret meeting held with three top officials of INEC from the national headquarters in the Government House.
“Curiously, these three top officials hold strategic positions in election management. One is from the Admin, one is from Stores and distribution dept while the other is an ICT top official.
“For the reasons best known to them, only the Government House was their exclusive port of call; APC was never in the picture.
“After this evil agenda, Fayose stormed the media to raise allegations that the APC was in Ondo State Government House to manipulate the ballot to give it an edge in the July 14 election.”
Faparusi alleged that findings revealed that sensitive INEC documents have been illegally produced in the Government House with the help of some ‘unscrupulous’ INEC officials.
He added, “Documents already produced include stamps, PVCs, Result Sheets (Form EC 8A) and INEC accreditation forms. We are calling on INEC headquarters to note these atrocities being perpetrated by its corrupt officials to tarnish the image of the electoral body.
“You will recall Fayose’s illegal activities in the 2014 election as contained in Captain Koli tape. We don’t want a repeat of that experience.”
But INEC Public Relations Officer in Ekiti, Gbadegesin, said the electoral body didn’t receive any official from Abuja, saying none of their officers visited the governor on any scheduled or emergency invitation.
Gbadegesin assured the people that INEC would conduct free, fair ad credible election in Ekiti, saying the technology that had been put in place will make rigging difficult and unachieveable.
According to him, “There is no form called accreditation form in the first, accreditation will be done with smart card readers and the four staff mentioned were our staff but they have not visited Ekiti for any reason.
“Let me also tell the public that form EC8A is with the CBN and it will be deployed to Ekiti with ballot papers. They are coded with serial numbers and can’t be duplicated by anybody.
“As part of our openness, we sent the voter registers to all the political parties. Our doors are open to all political parties, so APC is free to come here and make verifications, rather than making unsubstantiated allegations.
“Our politicians should know that some of the INEC staff here are strangers, they should not make Ekiti look too peculiar and difficult terrain to work.
“But we want to say that this election will be credible. 2015 elections were superb and I want to assure that this election will be better.”
Also reacting, the campaign organization of the PDP governorship candidate in the state, Prof Kolapo Olusola, described allegations by the APC candidate, Dr Fayemi that Fayose was compromising INEC as a function of “a frustrated desperate politician who is already smelling electoral defeat.”
Director of Media and Publicity of the Campaign Organization, Lere Olayinka, said it was clear that Fayemi was raising the alarm to cover up his plans to manipulate himself to power.
Olayinka, who maintained that the PDP position is that the July 14 election must be free, fair and transparent, added, “Those banking on federal might to foist themselves on Ekiti people are the ones now crying just to divert attention.
“We have been preparing for this election since 2016 and Ishaku Abbo was engaged as a consultant since then.
“Whereas, Fayemi is just running around trying to market a battered image to the same Ekiti people that he maltreated when he was governor and did nothing when he was minister.
“Our question is; did we prevent Fayemi and his ilk from also engaging a consultant? Are we the ones who made them to rely solely on federal might instead of the might of God and the people of Ekiti?
“If they are now being faced with the reality of a failed believe in federal might, shouldn’t they just accept defeat instead of this childish attempt to create an excuse for their impending electoral failure?
“As for us in the PDP, with the support of God and Ekiti people that we enjoy, we are sure of winning the election in a free and fair atmosphere and we are hopeful that INEC will prove Nigerians wrong by conducting a free, fair and credible election in Ekiti.”
While the scheming and exchange of tirades between the two major contending political parties are on, ahead of the poll, it is hoped that INEC will emerged the ‘winner’ of the poll against all odds.
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