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We need free and fair state elections

BARRING any last-minute force majeure that might come from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC(which has formed the habit of postponing major elections), all is set for the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly polls.

Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakubu addresses the audience on February 25, 2019 in Abuja during the presidential elections announcement. – Muhammadu Buhari got off to a winning start in his bid for re-election as Nigeria’s president, as the first result was announced today from weekend polls. The 76-year-old former military ruler won 219,231 votes in the southwestern state of Ekiti, while his main opponent, Atiku Abubakar, got 154,032, the electoral commission announced. (Photo AFP)

Tomorrow Saturday, March 9, 2019, the electorates in the 36 states of the Federation will elect 29 governors (except in the seven off-cycle states of Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo and Osun) and fill the 36 States of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (Abuja) Area Councils. The election to choose the powerful state governors of Nigeria is, perhaps, more keenly-contested than the national or presidential election because “all politics is local”.

At stake is the battle by the various registered political parties to control the state treasuries which will in turn determine the strategic viability of these parties in the next four years. The state governorates are the main sources of sustenance of political parties, and resource-rich states such as Lagos, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Delta States are specially prized.

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The INEC and the security agencies detailed to conduct the elections and protect the electoral materials, voters and party agents must perform their functions professionally and above-board for these elections to succeed.

The Professor Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC is still smarting from the scathing criticisms that went with the Presidential and National Assembly elections which the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is challenging at the Election Petition Tribunal over alleged large scale irregularities and security failures.

Apart from the still-trending massive disenfranchisement of Nigerians in some parts of the country because of their perceived political preferences, there were undeniable evidences of financial stockpiling in private homes apparently for vote-buying.

More than 30 people were reportedly killed in Rivers State alone on February 23, 2019 by gunmen.

We call on the INEC, the Police and all the armed agencies mobilised to protect the vote and voters to keep out of partisan involvement. It is much easier for Nigerians to exercise patience over alleged compromised federal elections, but state elections are a different kettle of fish because they touch more directly on the lives of the people.

We call on the armed agencies to pay particular attention to security-fragile states such as Lagos, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Imo, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Benue, Taraba, Jigawa, Kaduna and Nasarawa.

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Nigerians must be allowed to vote for candidates of their choice. Elections that are not free cannot be fair. They cannot stand, and there might be a breakdown of law and order which must be prevented at all costs.

Nigerians should conduct themselves peacefully and choose their leaders wisely.

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