The Independent National Electoral Commission has scheduled for next Tuesday a meeting with all the candidates for the November 26 governorship election in Ondo State.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who stated this in an interview in Abuja on Tuesday, said the electoral body would not transfer the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Mr. Segun Agbaje, before the conduct of the election as being canvassed by some people in the state.
Yakubu, who spoke through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, said the Tuesday meeting would also be attended by security agencies, civil society organisations and local and foreign observers that had been registered by INEC.
Oyekanmi, who spoke over the telephone from the United States of America, said the commission was ready for the election and appealed to all aspirants to play by the rules.
Aspirants expected at the meeting are Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party; Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) of the All Progressives Congress; Chief Olusola Oke of the Alliance for Democracy and Dr. Olu Agunloye of the Social Democratic Party, among others.
He said: “The stakeholders’ meeting in Ondo State has been fixed for Tuesday, November 22. It will be attended by all the contestants, the security agencies, civil society organisations both local and foreign, that had been registered by INEC.
“We will want to appeal to all the contestants to play by the rules and also speak to their supporters on the need to have a peaceful election.
“On the side of the commission, we would conduct a free, fair, peaceful and acceptable election. The contestants and the voters however have roles to play in order for us to achieve this.”
On the call for the sacking or redeployment of the REC, Oyekanmi said Agbaje “remains one of the best hands in the commission and would therefore not be relieved of his duty before or after the election.”
He added: “We have no plan to redeploy the Ondo REC, Mr. Segun Agbaje, who is one of the commission’s best and he is also doing a wonderful job in the state.”
Asked about lessons learnt from the just-concluded elections in the United States of America, which were monitored by officials of the commission, he noted that the US had been practising democracy for 240 years.
He said, “Therefore, it cannot be compared outright with Nigeria’s democracy.
“However, the use of technology in terms of electronic voting is instructive.
“Americans also have absolute trust in the integrity of their electoral system. To them, rigging is impossible and if you look at the current protests across US cities by those against the emergence of Donald Trump, nobody has accused the US electoral body of rigging.
“This is a what Nigerians should emulate – they need to have confidence in INEC.”