For two states that shared the same history of electoral violence and political stalemate in the 2007 governorship election, the news of the discovery and removal of 114, 882 multiple registrants in Ekiti and Osun states by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, precedent to the two states’ June 21 and August 9 2014 governorship elections is saddening indeed. It is an indication that the two states have yet to learn any lesson from the past. It is also suggestive of the ominous development that will attend the 2014 governorship elections if the stakeholders in the two states do not move decisively to check the ongoing untoward development.
For about three years or so, the two states waddled in political wilderness orchestrated by massively flawed elections. Scores of lives and hundreds of millions of taxpayer’s money were lost in both states. The stalemate drew the two states back politically as both had neither governments nor governors during those years of the locust in the eye of the law. It also earned the two states bad names within and outside the country. Indeed, the dust of those political impasses is yet to effectively settle. These sad and embarrassing developments are enough for the two states to say never again to elections that kill their citizens, plunder their limited resources and put them on the grey page of history.
According to the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, after the consolidation of data in the voter registration in Ekiti State, the state recorded 688, 950 voters. But after running the Advance Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), 77, 609 multiple registrations or 12 percent of the total number of voters were detected and deleted. Professor Jega said 76,091 persons registered during the Continued Voters Registration (CVR) conducted by INEC in the state. The electoral body chair said after consolidating the data in Osun State, INEC had 1,355,393 voters, but that after running the AFIS, a total of 37,273 or 2.75 multiple registrations were discovered and removed. The conduct of CVR in the state produced 149, 755 new registrants. The INEC chairman reiterated the resolve of his commission to get to the bottom of the problem, noting, “We are now consolidating these data with what we already have and we are going to run AFIS. In fact, in both Ekiti and Osun, we have seen how our politicians were using vehicles and moving people from one polling unit to another. So we are going to again catch multiple registrations. “You can see that by their attitude we are wasting resources and time because it costs money to do this thing. We have already decided that we are going to run AFIS in Ekiti and Osun states. We will run AFIS in Ekiti State with the neighbouring states particularly with the local government areas because these ones, it is easier to move there to do multiple registrations.” Professor Jega’s revelations and comments are an indictment on the political class in the two states. And it is obvious that for the two states to get close to credible elections this year, other stakeholders should not leave the political space only to politicians. The on-going pockets of desperation, killings and blame-trading going on in Ekiti State are ominous signs that the do-or-die politics that midwifed unprecedented political violence and mindless killings in the state is yet to abate. The experience of 2007 is an indication that Osun State is no different. The state appears relatively peaceful now because the period of political warfare seems distant.
The civil societies and Organized Labour have a duty to intervene through massive enlightenment, political education and close monitoring of the activities of the politicians. Although INEC’s ongoing proactive registration sanitization exercise is a telltale sign that the electoral body may have gradually been weaning itself from the brigandage that made prosecuting free, fair and credible elections in the two states in 2007 difficult, the electoral body’s dwindling pedigree is such that Nigerians will want to reserve their kudos for it until when the elections are concluded and are not only free, fair and credible but are seen to be so. INEC should therefore ensure that issues of credible voter register, fair distribution and quick arrival of voting materials and personnel on election days, fair and equitable treatment of all parties and observance of other extant rules of the commission are faithfully observed.
Governorship candidates are potential faces and leaders of their states. Statesmanship is about character, patriotism and a heart for the people. All candidates in the Ekiti and Osun governorship elections must therefore approach the elections with the spirit of sportsmanship. They must allow the people, to whom sovereignty and power reside, to decide who rules them. They should be magnanimous in victory and gallant in defeat. As players in the elections, incumbent governors of the two states must show statesmanship by eschewing display of power of incumbency and allowing their scorecards and political strategies to benchmark and signpost their campaigns. They should allow their fellow candidates in the race equal an equitable access to apparatuses of government – state-owned media, security, campaign grounds, etc.
Leaders of political parties should educate their members on the need to eschew thuggery and do-or-die politics and enter the race with the integrity of their states and citizens in view.