EKITI ELECTION: LET’S PLAY BY THE RULE
Come next Saturday, June 21, Ekiti people will go to the poll to elect the governor that will pilot the affairs of the state in the next four years.
The three major governorship candidates are the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi; the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party and a former governor of the state, Mr. Ayodele Fayose; and the candidate of Labour Party and a member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Opeyemi Bamidele.
As far as reality and experience go, the success or otherwise of the election will depend on how these three candidates conduct themselves and their followers on the one hand and how the security agencies and the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, discharge their respective statutory roles on the other hand.
In 2007, election in the state wore the do-or-die garb. The contending parties, candidates, electorate, governments and their agencies threw the books to the dogs and observed every known electoral law in its breach. Thus, the election was mired by crisis and fraud.
The election was conducted in a tense atmosphere superintended by the military, the police and political thugs in a war-like milieu. It was glaringly a contest between the Federal and State Governments and the security agencies were polarized along political lines.
The election was initially inconclusive as, in the throes of the violence that attended it, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, 71-year-old Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, disappeared and abandoned the election only to appear two days after ostensibly following ‘appeal and threat from above’ to conclude the election. The Resident Electoral Commissioner eventually announced the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Engineer Segun Oni, as the winner of the election amid protest and violence.
The result of the election became subject of litigation for three years and eventually, the candidate of the defunct Action Congress, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was declared the rightful winner of the election by the Appeal Court in October 2010.
The fallout of the election has gargantuan social, political implications for the state. Apart from the fact that there was political uncertainty in the state for those two years, the state was polarized along political lines till date, innocent lives were lost, persons were maimed, properties worth millions of Naira were destroyed and the image of the state was dragged in the mire.
Unfortunately, seven years down the road, as the state prepares for another election, the political atmosphere seems to be the same and no lesson appears to have been learnt.
In the June 21, 2004 election widely regarded as a test case for the 2015 general election, political acrimony, mistrust, killings, violence and destruction of property have become attendant elements in the last two months. Every campaign by each of the parties has resulted in a free-for-all by political thugs, leaving sorrow and blood behind.
From Emure-Ekiti to Ado-Ekiti, the three political parties have lost souls to political clashes in which each political party has pointed accusing fingers at each other.
In the last scenario, a fan of the All Progressives Congress was killed during a campaign to sweep PDP out of the state and the incumbent governor and candidate of the party, Dr. Fayemi, took up the police who killed the guy over the incident.
This development is unfortunate and grossly unacceptable. The people of Ekiti must be united to deliver their state from the stronghold of apostles of do-or-die politics who routinely convert their only dear state to a theatre of war during elections and give the state a bad name.
An election is crafted to be a fierce battle of ballots and not might, guns and ammunition. The 2012 election in Ondo State, though not perfect, has shown that we can conduct elections in the South-west without shedding blood and without blowing trumpets of war.
While INEC, in an attempt to make the election free, fair and credible, has introduced the Permanent Voter Card to curb multiple voting, it must complement the gesture with impartiality. A lot will depend on the electoral umpire in the June 21 election as every election is governed by rules. In an election in which the Federal and State Governments have vested interests, the nation is waiting to see an umpire that will not only be impartial but is also resolved to save its integrity in a state where it seems to have lost same.
Issues of late arrival of voting materials, non-appearance of voters’ names in the register, hijack of voting materials and allied teething problems witnessed in the 2013 Anambra and previous elections must be addressed.
There is a need for security agencies to be impartial. They must ensure peaceful conduct of the election.
The people of the state must demand a peaceful and credible election. From 1999 to date, Ekiti State has been blessed with hard-working, development- and people-oriented governors, the process that brought them to power notwithstanding. The records are there and they speak. The implication of this is that wherever the political pendulum swings, the state is sure of delivery of the dividends of democracy. But the political gangsterism and violence that have swept these dividends must be curtailed.
There is, therefore, a need for the people and all the statehood era to unite to chase away a common enemy so that their political gains can be sustained.
The experience of the nation since independence has shown that pecuniary gains are not only ephemeral but are an enemy of democracy. Giving and receiving money or any other incentive for electoral gains is anti-governance and development. While the politicians should desist from inducing electorate with money, the electorate should know that collecting money to vote for any candidate is a sure way to shortchanging themselves and posterity. Any voter who sells their vote has lost the right to complain about bad governance — lack of roads, education, good health facilities, etc.
Every election provides an opportunity for a people to elect a candidate that will move the state or country forward. Ekiti people have such a chance on June 21. How they utilize the opportunity will be dictated by the exercise of their thumb, not might. The world is watching.