As Ekiti people prepare for the governorship election next Saturday, ALO ABIOLA writes on the preparations of INEC, security agencies, the mood, concerns and the expectations of the electorate.
Residents of Ekiti State are looking forward to the Saturday governorship election with great expectations that it would be as successful as 2014’s.
Some four years ago, precisely on June 21, 2014, the people of the state went to poll to elect the 11th governor of the state.
The election, won by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, Mr Ayodele Fayose, was adjudged by all and sundry as one of the best, ever conducted in the history of the country.
All political actors, interest groups and international community described the poll as free, fair, credible and peaceful with little or no contrary opinion to that effect.
Ekiti people are expecting no less as they are determined to exercise their civic right in a peaceful atmosphere devoid of intimidation, harassment and molestation.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the heads of security agencies, have given their word that the poll is going to be credible and peaceful.
The governorship candidates in the election, their supporters and party members, have also pledged to conduct themselves peacefully before, during and after the election.
On the massive deployment of security operatives in the state for the purpose of the election, residents are holding contrary opinions about the development.
While some see it as a way of securing the voters and electoral officers during the election, others are of the view that it was a tactical move to intimidate people and give undue advantage to the federal government backed candidate.
The commissioner of police in the state, Mr Ahmed Bello, the director of the Department of State Services (DSS), Mrs Promise Ihenacho and the INEC commissioner in charge of Ekiti, Oyo
and Osun States, Mr Solomon Soyebi, at a forum in Ado Ekiti recently, assured that the election, slated for July 14 will be free, fair and devoid of any form of malpractice that could vitiate the process.
At the town hall meeting organised by Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room in Ekiti State capital, Ado Ekiti, Governor Fayose alleged that the massive deployment of what he called compromised security operatives to the state was to perpetrate rigging and illegal arrests.
But CP Bello responded by saying any police officer found to be in political affinity with any of the interested parties, would not be used for the election.
He added that, “I have built a career going to 35 years in the police and I won’t want anybody to bring me down, not even any politician or even your Excellency, Dr Fayose will ask me to rig election and I will comply.
“No security personnel will be deployed in the state to work for any particular candidate in the election. We are going to give equal opportunities to all the parties.”
Soyebi, in his remarks, said the new enhanced smart card readers that will be used at the Ekiti election cannot be outsmarted as they are configured to work at a specific polling unit and cannot be used in polling units they are not designed for.
“There is no way anybody can alter the votes cast at any polling unit. The smart card can’t be configured in advance. INEC is committed to not only good but a model Ekiti election”.
The entire governorship candidates at the forum, were made to sign a peace pact to affirm their commitment to a peaceful poll.
At the INEC stakeholders’ meeting held at the Eagle Hall in Ado Ekiti on Monday, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris, said a total number of 4, 390 combined forces of soldiers and other paramilitary will be deployed to complement the 30,000 policemen that have been drafted to Ekiti to monitor and secure the election.
Idris added that a deputy inspector general of police, an assistant inspector general of police and five commissioners of police would be in charge to give directives and ensure that the election is conducted under conducive and peaceful atmosphere.
The police boss warned political leaders and their supporters to refrain from arming thugs, saying whoever is arrested will be prosecuted in line with the rule of law and laws guiding the conduct of elections.
“We want all party supporters to refrain from all acts that can precipitate violence at the polling booths, such as canvassing for
votes, wearing of party insignias, dissuading voters from voting for candidates of their choices, loitering and blaring of siren on the day of election.
“We will also not tolerate ignoring of restriction of movement orders by the police. Don’t see election as a matter of life and death.
“Let me state that police will not hesitate to deal with anybody no matter how highly placed, found flouting electoral laws.
“Let me call for the collaboration and support of the entire sister agencies and the INEC officials. Police officers have been warned to be of good conduct during and after the election.
“If you notice any misconduct on the part of any police, do not hesitate to report to the senior officers on the ground or contact me directly”, Idris added.
Also speaking, the INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu who tactically justified the heavy deployment of security agents, posited that security and election are inseparable.
He, however, said that it was to make the whole process civil and reduce apathy on the part of the voters.
Yakubu said the commission decided to distribute the Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) to the ward level to motivate the electorate to collect to be able to exercise their franchise rights.
“For transparency, all uncollected PVCs will be brought to INEC office in Ado Ekiti and warehoused for safe keeping until a new date is fixed to resume the PVC collection.
“However, since Ondo and the Anambra State Governorship elections held in
November 2017, we have introduced an additional measure of transparency.
“I wish to reassure that our officials are under strict instruction to remain neutral. We have also accredited credible foreign and local observers to monitor this election.
“We are confident that with the arrangements we have put in place,
Ekiti State Governorship election, will be another good example of free, fair, credible and peaceful election and a further affirmation of the maturity of our democracy”, he stated.
Some of the residents of Ado Ekiti, the state capital, have expressed concerns over the deployment of 30,000 security operatives in the state for the purpose of Saturday’s governorship poll.
They are particularly concerned about apprehension being generated by the security arrangement and build up among the populace in the state.
Majority of the respondents, who spoke to our correspondent, said the development was generating tension and creating fears in the minds of the people.
Some were of the view that there is nothing to fear since the security agents were brought into the state to provide security for the people (voters) and officials conducting the poll.
One such person is a cab operator, Adeosun Ojo, who said he believes the policemen and others are on ground to provide security during election.
“For me, I have no fear about their presence. All I need to do on the day of the election is to vote and return home.
“They are only there to maintain law and order. It is those who may want do anything untoward during or after the election, that may come under their hammer”.
For Mrs Adebola Ajayi, a foodstuffs seller at the popular Kings market in Ado Ekiti, she said it is only normal to see more policemen during election.
According to her, “Election is a national issue anywhere in the world and it is the responsibilities of relevant government agencies to provide adequate security during the process.
“My advise to them is to be civil and professional in their conduct so as not to be seen as threat to democracy.”
A civil servant, who simply identified himself as Mr Kehinde, said many people, including politicians are having the impression that there may be violence during the poll by this singular action of the federal government.
He said the development might discourage quite a number of voters who are intimidated by the heavy deployment of security personnel from coming out to vote.
A student, Adewale Ogunsina, said it is good to have such heavy security in place going by what has been happening among politicians and their supporters in the state in the build up to the poll.
He noted that this is not the first time it will be happening in the state, saying such scenario was witnessed in the 2014 election and it was peaceful.
A 60-year-old farmer, Mr Adegbedan, said he and his family members might not come out of their house on the day of election.
He said there is no guarantee that security men will not maltreat innocent people before or during the election.
“Illegal activities of desperate politicians to win this election at all cost, may be resisted by the armed security personnel drafted to maintain peace and some overzealous personnel among them may decide to embark on massive arrest and apprehend innocent people in the process.”
The influx of the people into the state, since last week, has given a boost to the economic activities of the state, most especially Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
Visitors to the state, in respect of the Saturday election, are the men and officers of all security agencies from across the country, INEC officials, journalists, local and international observers among others.
Since last week, most hotel rooms in the highbrow of the capital city, have been booked ahead by those coming for the election.
Those that are just coming into the town for the purpose of election are now resorting to getting hotel accommodation in towns like Ikere Ekiti, Ilawe Ekiti and others not too far from Ado Ekiti.
Some visitors are making arrangements to put up with friends, relatives and professional colleagues resident in the state capital.
Private and public vehicles plying the road of the state capital are increasing on daily basis with noticeable traffic issues at the Ijigbo Old garage, Okeyimi and Fajuyi areas of the state capital.
Even though people are seen besieging the popular Kings market and other markets in the state capital to purchase their house needs, there has not been an increase in the prices of foodstuffs and other commodities.
The Taxi drivers and commercial motorcyclists, who happened to be most patronized, have not increased their fares either.
It is the believe of every stakeholder, that the election will be free, fair, transparent, credible and hitch-free as pledged by INEC, security agencies, political parties and their governorship candidates.
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