On Saturday, July 14, 2018, the electorate in Ekiti State will file out to elect the next governor of Ekiti State as the tenure of the incumbent governor, Ayo Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is coming to an end. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) a total number of 40 candidates on the platforms of various political parties are to contest for the governorship seat of Ekiti State. The INEC recently published the names of candidates who emerged from the primary conducted by their parties.
Like in most elections in Nigeria, there are fears that the election may be marred by irregularities and violence. This was heightened when an All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship aspirant and formermember of the House of Representatives, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, and nine other party members were shot by an unknown mobile policeman, who allegedly released a barrage of bullets after a rousing welcome rally organised by the party to receive its standard bearer for the July 14 poll, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Aside the fear of violence, is the accusation and counter accusation by the two major political parties in contention for the governorship seat; the PDP and the APC. Both political parties have accused INEC of allegedly planning to rig the election in favour of the other.
The candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Kayode Fayemi, had raised the alarm over a ‘collusion’ between officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission and the state governor, Ayo Fayose, to compromise the governorship election. The former minister alleged that three top officials of the INEC headquarters held clandestine meetings with Mr Fayose in the guise of being in the state for official duties. He urged the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and the Director General of the State Security Services, Lawan Daura, to investigate the allegation and bring the culprits to book.
Similarly, the outgoing Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is rooting for his preferred successor and candidate of the PDP, Professor Kolapo Olusola, accused the police and Department of State Services (DSS) of reposting security aides of former Governor Kayode Fayemi to Ekiti State to coordinate the rigging of the governorship election. In a state broadcast, the governor restated his allegations that a National Commissioner with the Independent National Electoral Commission, and three other officials were working with Fayemi. INEC denied the accusations.
However, the Independent National Electoral Commission promised to ensure hitch-free exercise. The INEC National Commissioner in charge of Ekiti, Osun and Oyo states, Mr. Solomon Soyebi, and his counterpart in charge of Election Operations and Logistics, Mrs. Amina Zakari, said the commission is prepared to surmount all challenges to ensure that the exercise is free, fair and credible, adding that every polling unit would open for the election by 7am. They stated this in Ado Ekiti at a pre-election preparation workshop organised for electoral officers, assistant electoral officers and head of departments.
And to ensure hitch free election, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Sunday said that non-sensitive electoral materials for the governorship election in Ekiti State have already been distributed. INEC said the materials were distributed across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Ekiti State, Abdulganiyu Olayinka Raji, reportedly disclosed this during a security meeting with heads of political parties and the candidates contesting in the election. The meeting, held at the Ekiti State Police Command, Ado Ekiti, was attended by political parties representatives and heads of security chiefs in the state.
Raji said the distribution of the non-sensitive materials was proof of the electoral body’s readiness and preparedness to conduct a free and fair election in Ekiti.
He explained that INEC would be transparent in its dealings with all the political parties, adding that the electoral body would continue to maintain a robust relationship with all the political parties in the state before, during and after the election.
Alongside INEC’s assurance of free and fair election, is the determination by the federal government to provide adequate security for the election.
The police have reportedly deployed 30,000 operatives, two helicopters and 250 patrol vehicles, including five Armoured Personnel Carriers, for the governorship election. The Force Public Relations Officer, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, said in a statement in Abuja that the security operation for the poll would be supervised by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, Joshiak Habila, who would be assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, eight Deputy Commissioners of Police and 18 Assistant Commissioners of Police.
The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has also revealed that an additional 4,390 combined forces of soldiers and other paramilitary outfits will be deployed for the election. The deployment, Mr Idris said, would complement the 30,000 police officers already drawn up for deployment at the election.
With the assurance given by INEC to conduct free and fair election, Nigerians will hope that there will be no violence. The Ekiti election will also be another opportunity to test the preparedness of the electoral umpire to conduct successful general elections in 2019.
It is common knowledge that some politicians are sore losers who may resort to violence to vent their frustrations. The security agents must look out for such politicians and stop them before their actions result to loss of lives and property. Politicians should see Saturday’s election like the final of a football match in which a winner must emerge. They should be ready to accept the result like good sports men. Political aspirations should not be a do or die affair.
Elections are periodic way of choosing leaders in a democratic society. Elections should not lead to loss of lives and property. The people of Ekiti should not allow desperate politicians whose stock in trade are politics of acrimony to destroy the peace of the state.