•We’re ready for credible poll, 749,065 PVCs collected — INEC
•Police to deploy 17,374 personnel
By Rotimi Ojomoyela
TWO days to Saturday’s Ekiti Governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has declared its readiness to conduct a free, fair and credible election.
Credible poll depends on many variables and top on the list are safety and security of voters, election materials, electoral officials and freedom of voters to make their choice without let or hindrance, including financial inducement.
Contesting the poll for the governorship seat at Oke-Bareke in Ado-Ekiti are 16 political parties. Most of the parties have traversed the nooks and crannies of the state selling their candidates and manifestos to the people.
Prominent among the gladiators are Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress, APC: Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Others are Wole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; Reuben Famuyibo of the Accord; Debo Ranti Ajayi of the Young People’s Party, YPP; and 10 others.
Women on the rise
Worth mentioning is the first female governorship candidate in the state, Erelu Kemi Elebute-Halle of the Action Democratic Party, ADP. From the blast of the whistle for this race, she has been consistent and very visible, holding her own and fighting her way into reckoning in the male-dominated race. Despite the fact that all her party executive members from ward to state level decamped to the ruling party, she has been defiant and still on her feet.
The stake in this election is high. It is a three horse race. The coming of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, has changed the calculations from what could have been a straight fight between the two traditional rivals, APC and PDP. The two parties had hitherto maintained a seemingly balance of power, with almost equal followership but the reality on ground today is different. Segun Oni’s SDP draws followers and supporters from both parties and is presently a serious contender.
Ekiti and Osun governorship elections precede the 2023 presidential election, and both will serve as a litmus test of the popularity and general acceptability of the APC presidential flagbearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and it will also signify the political relevance of the outgoing Governor, Kayode Fayemi.
To underscore the importance of Ekiti election, no fewer than 14 APC governors accompanied Tinubu to Ekiti, for the grand final mega rally to campaign for the governorship candidate of the party, apart from the National Chairman and Secretary of the party and other party bigwigs, including the former National Chairman Chief Bisi Akande.
Segun Oni, a former Governor of the state, between 2007 and 2010 is having his last shot at the governorship seat, having failed to stage a come-back on two different occasions through APC and PDP before finding an abode in the SDP.
Former Governor Ayo Fayose’s investment in this race is a fight for political relevance, since all politics is local, a successful enthronement of his protégé in Ekiti, will signpost a big come-back and a significant role in 2023 presidential election.
Signs preceding Saturday’s election are very ominous. Already two lives have been lost. Momentary peace, akin to the peace of grave yard has pervaded the state. Skirmishes, violent clashes among the three prominent political parties are being recorded on daily basis.
Since Monday, June 13 June, detachments of heavily armed soldiers have taken over strategic areas and flashpoints in the state, while combined forces, made up of men from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Police and Army constantly embark on patrols of major roads and highways in the state.
We’re prepared — INEC
Undeterred by the tension in the state, the INEC has told the people of the state of its readiness to conduct a credible election.
Professor Mahmood Yakubu, on Tuesday, disclosed that four national commissioners and eight resident electoral commissioners had been deployed to Ekiti State ahead of the poll.
He said that 749, 065 voters representing 76 per cent out of the 988,923 registered voters in the state have collected their Permanent Voter Cards, PVCs.
He said: “Let me assure political parties and voters that the task of electing a new governor will be left in the hands of Ekiti voters. We won’t take any action that would put any party and candidate in a vantage position. We are going to do everything according to the constitution and provisions of the Electoral Act.
“To underscore how prepared we are, we have provided magnifying glasses and braile ballot papers for visually impaired citizens while the Bimodal Voters Authentication System Machines, BVAS, will be used for accreditation.
Similarly, Ekiti INEC Resident Commissioner, Dr Adeniran Tella, said the Commission would be deploying 10,269 personnel, and 3,346 BVAS equipment for the election.
We‘ll deal with threat to democratic tenets—IGP
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, did not mince words when he declared that any threat to the nation’s bourgeoning democracy would not be tolerated.
Baba said 17,374 police personnel would be deployed to provide security cover for the June 18 governorship elections in Ekiti State.
The police Chief said: “All the 177 wards and 2,445 polling units will be manned by appropriate manpower. Let me say this, the massive deployment is not to scare the citizens, but to protect the sanctity of the ballots and the provisions of the Electoral Act.
This is apart from personnel from the National Security and Civil Defence Corps and other security agencies.
Baba dismissed the insinuation that the heavy security presence would create voters apathy saying that it would rather ensure large turnout of voters during the election
He assured the voters that adequate security personnel are on ground to ward off any security threat that can hinder them from exercising their franchise rights during the poll.
Political watchers are concerned that beyond rhetoric, the electoral umpire and the security agencies are not disclosing measures put in place to prevent financial inducement of voters, a development, which has gained currency in the recent political trajectory of the country. They said if the practice is not nipped in the bud, it could affect the outcome of the election.