As the much-anticipated Ekiti State governorship election takes place today, the electorate will file out, hopefully in large numbers, to decide from among the 16 candidates and their political parties whom they consider fit and proper to pilot the government of the state in the next political dispensation.
Also across the 16 local government areas in the state, 749,065 voters, representing 76 per cent, have collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) and will determine the outcome of the election, according to records by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The resident electoral commissioner, Dr Adeniran Tella, revealed that INEC had deployed 10,269 personnel and taken delivery of 3,346 Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BIVAS) machines for the election.
Also, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, at the stakeholders’ meeting with all candidates of political parties held in Ado Ekiti, disclosed that four national commissioners and eight resident electoral commissioners had been redeployed to ensure a hitch-free process.
Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Johnson Kokumo has also disclosed that a total of 17,000 personnel had been deployed for the poll.
This election is significant on many fronts. This is the first of other major off-season elections ahead of the 2023 polls. As such, its overall outcome will be insightful and instructive for all the major stakeholders in the electoral process to gauge their standing with the electorate.
Also, this election will be used to measure the level of improvements on the complaints made after recent elections. Specifically, it would test some of the recent legal innovations aimed at improving the electoral system, key of which is the use of electronic transmission of results, a long overdue element to our voting technology.
The use of this legally backed technology which seeks to ensure more efficiency, accuracy, authenticity and speed in the result collation process will be of immense interest for all as it sets the stage for a new phase of our electoral system.
The last offseason election, the council election in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was characterised by complaints of the inability of BIVAS to function effectively. Such complaints had also trailed the Anambra State governorship election months earlier.
The FCT situation raised a lot of concerns as to the functionality of the machines and the prompt response system of the commission.
Thankfully, shortly after the FCT polls, INEC promised to review and improve the functionality of BIVAS before the Ekiti and Osun gvernorship polls as well as the 2023 general election. Expectations would be high on this charge.
More so, the impartiality of the commission, as reflected in the conduct of electoral officials, is as crucial to the functionality of the technological devices to the entire process, if not more. The mere perception of taking sides, or a wrong sense of judgment, could weigh badly on an election season heralded by the fervid politics of 2023.
It is, indeed, heartwarming that INEC chairman recognises this concern as, in a special message to the Commission’s staff, he said: “I appeal to you to uphold our Code of
Conduct, display your usual sense of responsibility and professionalism; remain above board and firmly resist any unethical behaviour.
“We must also always stick strictly to the oath of neutrality to which we have all subscribed and continually live up to the trust that Nigerians repose in us.”
Beyond these, the need for the electorate to know that they would be safe in this course of today’s exercise is fundamental. It’s a good thing that over 17000 rank and file policemen would be available for the election.
But we urge that beyond holding operatives to the highest standards of neutrality, the security authorities should ensure that they are fully equipped to secure voters and ward off political thugs who might seek to disrupt the process.
However, the most critical stakeholder in this entire process is the voter who is constitutionally empowered to decide who should be the next governor of Ekiti State.
As much as some desperate politicians would seek to compromise the process, through thuggery, voting buying, intimidation and other means, the resolve of the voter to ensure the process is not hijacked would be as essential as what the security agents and electoral commission put on the ground to ward off such tendency.