“It should be noted that Bayelsa and Kogi States’ governorship elections are two major elections that will be conducted simultaneously. They are major polls for the INEC, Nigeria and indeed the international community who are already laying in wait to see how much that the country is willing to learn from the mistakes of previous elections. The elections are the first after the contentious general elections of 2019. People would be interested in the outcome of the elections if they must measure Nigeria’s growth on issue of electoral reforms.”
As the clock ticks for the Saturday, November 16, 2019 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi States, most Nigerians are anxiously waiting to see how the electoral empire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will use the poll to right the perceived shortcoming witnessed during the Ekiti State gubernatorial poll held on Saturday, July 14, 2018 as well as the general elections held March this year.
No doubt, political bickering, maneuvering and permutations among political bigwigs are in top gear in both states, the political parties and other stakeholders should work towards free, fair and credible elections.
This is necessary because the November 16 governorship polls in the two states will serve as a litmus test for INEC on whether or not it has improved on the conduct of elections in the country.
It should be noted that Bayelsa and Kogi States’ governorship elections are two major elections that will be conducted simultaneously. They are major polls for the INEC, Nigeria and indeed the international community who are already laying in wait to see how much that the country is willing to learn from the mistakes of previous elections. The elections are the first after the contentious general elections of 2019. People would be interested in the outcome of the elections if they must measure Nigeria’s growth on issue of electoral reforms.
Though the February and March 2019 polls have come and gone and the winners emerged, the alleged attendant irregularities are still being contested in the various Election Petitions Tribunals and other law courts by the contenders who felt shortchanged.
While some cases have been decided, there are others that are still pending either at the Appeal Court or the Supreme Court. The Presidential Election results are still being contested at the apex court by the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ahaji Atiku Abubakar, against the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) and its presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
For the forthcoming Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections, the contests will, no doubt, be tough. As at September 9, 2019, 101 contestants will slug it out in the two states. We have 91 male contestants, representing 90 per cent and 10 females, representing 10 per cent.
Fifty two nominees are from Bayelsa State alone (six females and 46 males) while 49 are from Kogi (45 males and four females). These contestants are from 64 political parties that conducted primaries in Bayelsa State and 59 in Kogi State.
While we continue to campaign against the high number of political parties and their candidates in every election, it can be seen that INEC and security agencies have critical roles to play to ensure smooth conduct of elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states. We appeal that no stone must be left unturned in ensuring free, fair and rancour-free polls in both in the November 16 governorship elections.
This has become important considering that since the declaration of the polls’ results of the elections conducted so far starting from July 14, 2018, there have been allegations and counter-allegations between the loyalists of especially the two major parties over the conduct of the elections by the electoral umpire.
We believe that some of the issues raised in the conduct of the previous polls should be addressed by all concerned in the coming Bayelsa and Kogi polls in order to have free, fair and credible elections. INEC must buckle up and ensure that it has improved tremendously in handling the polls effectively in the country.
The deployment of adequate materials and other logistics including personnel (both regular and adhoc) by the INEC should be paramount.
The problems associate with the card reader project, which posed great challenges in previous polls should be addressed by INEC.
We believe that the card reader must have been tested and trusted by the INEC engineers and certified okay for any election. It does not augur well with a country as big and rich as Nigeria for vital election materials as the card reader to be declared invalid on the day of election. We advocate for the total blocking of the vote buying syndrome.
While it is an incontrovertible fact that government must provide security for both voters and voting materials during and after any election especially in volatile places, the number of the security personnel to be deployed to such places must not be seen to be outrageous.
In the November 16 polls in Bayelsa and Kogi States, we urge the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to avoid a situation where voters and other Nigerians will accuse the police of bias against any particular party or candidate.
Inspector-General of Police has announced that 25,000 policemen would be deployed in Kogi poll with the assurance that everything would be done to prevent outbreak of violence even as we worry that militarization of election amounts to intimidation of voters and other stakeholders. Nigeria need not create the impression of a nation at war each time she embarks on any election. We advice that winners should be magnanimous in victory while losers should be gallantry in defeat. There should be no room for vindictiveness which usually leads to violence.
If we are allowed to declare that election is a call to service, we will then be free to demand that elected officials should be ready to work towards the provision of basic amenities to citizens and improve infrastructure to provide conducive environment for investment, business and location of manufacturing industries.
Elected governors in particular should try not to make life difficult for the commoners. They must strive to achieve better life for the populace.
Since INEC had assured Nigerians that it was ready for the polls in the two states on November 16, all hands must be on deck to support the electoral umpire to deliver free, fair, credible and conclusive election.
For a better society