Following the success recorded in its conduct of the Edo State governorship election in September, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had promised to ensure even more transparent election in Ondo State!
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had few days after the Edo governorship election promised that it would work on the lapses observed in Edo State governorship election with a view to improving on its performance in the Ondo State governorship election.
The INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, made the promise in Akure, during interaction with newsmen ahead of the governorship poll. The INEC boss explained that the interaction was important because the commission wanted to know about the observations of the stakeholders both in Edo election and the pre-election happenings in Ondo State. Yakubu, there, reassured Nigerians that the commission would remain neutral in the conduct of the October 10 Ondo State gubernatorial election.
Judging from various reports from observers who monitored the Ondo governorship election on Saturday, the electoral body kept its words on neutrality.
Of course, there are bound to be dissenting voices on the conduct of the election, as it is usually the tradition in our democracy for losers to accuse INEC of complicity in their loss even when they have no shred of proof or evidence.
The court is always there for the aggrieved! But that is not to say that the election was not with some hiccups. We will get back to that later.
Another important take away from the election, was the relative peace that characterized the election in Ondo. Who would forget the violence that characterized the pre-election campaigns of the three major political parties in Ondo State ahead of the election?
On September 29, it was reported in the media how supporters of the candidates of the All Progressives Congress(APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) clashed at Ipele and Owo towns leaving several persons injured and vehicles damaged. Both parties had accused the other of masterminding the attacks. Also, a few days to the election, the media reported how a clash between supporters of the APC and PDP occurred in the state capital, Akure.
There was violence and threat of violence allegedly by the All Progressives Congress, the Peoples Democratic Party and the Zenith Labour Party supporters, which heightened tension in the state. It took the National Peace Committee to make the supporters of the parties to ‘cool temper’ before the election.
The peace accord signing ceremony was held in Ondo State capital, Akure few days to the election. The candidates who signed the peace accord were Rotimi Akeredolu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Agboola Ajayi who contested under the banner of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
In his address, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, noted that “without peace, our deployment plans, new innovations in result management, safety of personnel, security of materials and above all, credibility of elections will be undermined.”
The Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, who was represented by DIG Adeleye Oyabade, explained that peace must be maintained before, during and after the Ondo election. The Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, also weighed in. He disclosed that the signing of Peace Accord by the governorship candidates is “a way of reaffirming that they must conduct themselves in a professional and peaceful manner ahead of the Governorship election.”
Others who were present at the signing are Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Hassan Kukah; former Bishop of Abuja Diocese, John Onaiyekan, and various traditional rulers, among others. The peace accord perhaps helps in ensuring peace on Election Day, similar to what happened in Edo election in September.
That it takes peace accords for our politicians and their supporters to behave well before, during and after elections is a sad commentary on our democracy.
While the election was relatively peaceful, the politicians across all the political parties allegedly engaged in the shameless buying of votes. A non-governmental organization, Centre for Democracy Development (CDD), called out politicians for vote buying! Idayat Hassan, the director of the organisation called them out in Akure at the weekend while speaking with journalists.
According to her, monies were distributed to leaders of each political parties on the election day in order to buy votes. She noted that politicians still devised ways to engage in vote buying. Hassan said, “We observed a consistent pattern of vote buying, with those engaged in it adopting tactics to induce voters, while evading security officials and election observers. “Our observers documented attempts by politicians to outspend each other by disbursing large sums of money to community leaders for onward distribution to voters.
“Deviating from their previous style of distributing cash discreetly at points close to the polling units, the politicians created outposts where voters can go to collect cash after proving that they voted for the vote-buying party. “Our observers reported that party agents largely stayed away from coordinating vote buying but their parties designated someone who is not a party agent and appears to be neutral to direct voters to their outposts to collect cash.” Similarly, different teams of journalists and observers that monitored the election observed that bribes, ranging from N2,000 to N7,000 and domestic gas cylinders, were freely distributed by majorly the ruling APC and PDP, as well as ZLP, to buy votes from the electorate.
Perhaps the politicians are unaware of the damage they are doing to our electoral
process by vote buying. Vote buying is fraudulent and poses danger to democracy if it is not adequately curbed. It is the responsibility of our security agencies to stop these politicians by arresting and prosecuting them. It is obvious that the security agents looked the other way while the politicians perpetrate this evil against the people of Nigeria. It is also important that agencies of government like the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other civil society organizations embark on massive campaign before elections warning the electorate on the consequences of selling their votes.
However despite the imperfection of the electoral process, in general the Ondo State governorship election was considered free, fair and credible. It produced the candidate of the APC and incumbent governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, as the winner. Congratulations to Akeredolu and the APC. The celebrations should be short, because there is a lot of work to be done in Ondo and indeed across the country.
Ray Morphy – Aluta Continua!