As people of Osun State are anxiously waiting the September 22 governorship election, most Nigerians are very expectant that the nation’s electoral empire, the National Electoral Commission (INEC) and indeed the Federal government will avail themselves of the opportunity of the election correct most of the real and imaginary errors and shortcomings witnessed during the Ekiti State gubernatorial poll held on Saturday, July 14, 2018.
Though the Ekiti governorship election has come and gone with some parties contesting the outcome of the election in court, the alleged irregularities still stand as sour points in Nigeria’s electoral processes thus challenging the ingenuity of INEC to use every opportunity to buy the confidence of the electorate ahead of the 2019 general election.
It would be recalled that the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti was won by the former Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who polled 197,462 votes to beat his closest opponent, Professor Kola Olusola Eleka of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 177, 927.
The ripples created by the Ekiti governorship election are still cascading with the usual allegations of card reader problem, insecurity and vote buying. These lingering complaints are not healthy occurrences which should be allowed to drag into the coming contentious 2019 general election.
We insist that some of the ugly incidents which reared their heads in the Ekiti poll as in other elections across the country should be addressed by all concerned using the Osun governorship poll as a pilot scheme.While it is an incontrovertible fact that government must provide security for the voters, voting materials and election officials during any election, we demand that the system must not be so militarized as to be perceived as instrument of intimidation The deployment of 30,000 policemen, six helicopters, 250 patrol vehicles, five Army Generals, six Police AIGs, 300 men of the State Security Services (SSS) and over 165 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) to a single state for the conduct of governorship poll, creates the impression of a people at war with themselves.
The continued hiccups manifest in the card reader which unfortunately, was one of the challenges in the July 14 Ekiti poll must be addressed by INEC using the Osun election as a case in point. The Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, who is also the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate would not have voted but for his personal recognizance by the INEC officials. The same thing happened to the wife of Dr. Fayemi. But we could not ascertain the number of ordinary citizens who have been disfranchised during elections for no fault of theirs other than the malfunctioning of the card reader, a machine with which INEC has been organizing elections without perfecting its usage.
We condemn in its entirety the repulsive issue of vote buying which characterized the Ekiti governorship election the much as we condemned the attitude of law enforcement agents who seemingly looked the other way while parties attempted to outsmart each other with bags of money. Except culprits were arrested and prosecuted in law courts, there will be no end to this unwholesome incident. Osun election presents all concerned the opportunity to check against the era of vote buying.In order to enthrone credible election, we align with those who urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the security agents to probe monetization and commercialization of electoral process.
Another area that should be looked into by both the state and Federal Governments as well as security agencies is the issue of shutting down the economy for the purpose of conducting an election. This is an avoidable loss to the economy of any state not the least the federation. Can election not be held in a state in Nigeria without shutting down the economy of that state? The answer is yes.
We are not saying that security should not be beefed up while elections are being held. We advise that this be done without jeopardizing the health of the economy. Osun governorship election could be used as the guinea pig. It is our belief that if the perceived anomalies and observations in the July 14 Ekiti governorship poll are addressed and not be allowed to be replicated in the September 22 Osun gubernatorial election, Nigerians will heave sigh of relief in the nation’s electoral processes ahead of the 2019 general elections.
This is necessary because what will happen in Osun poll in September will serve as a litmus test to the expectations of Nigerians.
We call for effective sanctions against political parties that engage in inducement of voters to curb the ugly menace.We note that the electorates have roles to play in ensuring good and credible elections. Electorate who sell their votes to the highest bidder should not expect good roads, good healthcare system and qualitative education among other dividends of democracy. Politicians should not be encouraged to see elections as investments.
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