BusinessDay

Ekiti elects 7th governor since return of democracy

…Unusual voter turnout signposts 2023 …Situation room laments widespread vote buying …INEC commended on improved logistics deployment

Today, Ekiti State, created on October 1, 1996, will have its seventh (7th) democratically elected governor since the return of Nigeria to a civil rule in 1999.

Indigenes and residents of the state Saturday went to the poll to elect the successor of the incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi, whose tenure expires on October 16, 2022.

Fayemi was first elected governor of the state in October 2010 and left office in October 2014.

He was succeeded by Ayodele Fayose, who had earlier governed the state from May 2003 to October 2006.

Shortly after the creation of the state, Mohammed Bawa was appointed the first military administrator on October 7,1996 which expired on August 1998. Navy Captain Atanda Yusuf succeed him as another administrator from September 1998 to May 1999, following the successful election of Niyi Adebayo as the first democratically elected governor after the return of the country to civil rule that year.

When in 2006 Fayose’s administration was suspended by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Friday Aderemi acted as governor for one day (October 17, 2006). The next day, Obasanjo announced Tunji Olurin as a military administrator of the state.

He left on April 2007 paving way for Tope Ademiluyi to act from April 27, 2007 to May 29, 2007 when Segun Oni was inaugurated as the next elected governor.

Oni was succeeded by Kayode, who was also succeeded by Fayose. Fate however, smiled on Fayemi, who once again returned to the state from Abuja where he was a serving minister, presiding over the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development.

Meanwhile, the large turnout of voters across Ekiti State for the Saturday’s gubernatorial election could just be an indication that Nigerians have decided to take more seriously the issue of elections and to also participate actively in the electoral process.

It is believed that this reawakening would lead to a better voter turnout and citizen participation in the 2023 general election.

The exercise was however, marred by widespread vote-buying that has already received condemnation from various quarters.

As at 8am, hundreds of voters had trooped to polling units in the three senatorial districts, even when election materials and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had not arrived.

This is despite the presence of heavy security officials from the police, Civil Defence Corps, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC).

Reports said that despite the restriction placed on human and vehicular movement, many voters trekked long distances to their polling units to cast their votes.

This is, however, amid reports of inducement of voters in several polling units across the state.

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), sixteen political parties presented candidates for the gubernatorial election.

Pundits predicted that the contest would be straight fight between the three leading candidates; Biodun Oyebanji of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Olabisi Kolawole of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

There are also indications that from the results trickling in, the APC may carry the day.

Unlike in 2018, which was largely characterised by voter apathy and heavy dose of violence, Saturday’s exercise was markedly different, as it went peacefully.

Report by Yiaga Africa had indicated that only 45percent of eligible voters voted in the governorship election in 2018. While inducement of voters, election results manipulation and violence was prevalent in several parts of the state.

However, the situation is not peculiar to Ekiti alone; voter apathy has become a regular recurrence issue in elections across Nigeria in the last two decades.

But in recent years, it has assumed a worrisome proportion.

For example, in the 2019 general election, the country recorded the lowest rate of voter turnout since the return to democratic rule in 1999, with Nigeria recording 34.75 at the presidential election according to the European Union report.

Similar situation was witnessed at the last November gubernatorial election in Anambra State, where observers said the electorate showed low interest in the election.

Several reports had said that the election recorded historic low turnout of registered voters. A report said only 10 percent of registered voters in the state voted in the governorship election.

Meanwhile, with the recent completion of party primaries and emergence of candidates of various political parties at all levels ahead of the 2023 general election, there appears to be a new awakening among Nigerians, especially among the youth.

This is seen in the rush in recent weeks, to register in the on-going Continuous Voters Registration exercise (CVR) to get their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC).

Observers say that the large voter turnout in Saturday’s Ekiti governorship election was perhaps part of what to expect in next year’s general election in Nigeria.

They say that it was a sign of growing confidence in the nation’s electoral process occasioned by the new amendment of the Electoral Act.

“Everyone is surprised with the turnout in Ekiti, but maybe Nigerians are becoming conscious of what to do, especially the on-going campaign, especially in the social media for people to get their PVCs and make their votes count. Let’s watch, but it could just be a sign of what to expect next year,” Kunle Okunade, political analyst, said.

Speaking on the large turnout of voters in Saturday’s Ekiti gubernatorial election, Biodun Olujimi, representing Ekiti Central in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, expressed surprise with the situation.

According to Olujimi, “The turnout is massive, women are, of course, much more than men, but this turnout is very unusual.

“Maybe it is due to voter education; maybe it is due to the fact that we now insist that if you don’t have PVC, you cannot do so many things and that is working for us.

“People are now interested, people just want to cast their ballot and maybe; it is because this is a mid-term election where everybody believes they can have a voice. I think this is great.”

Also speaking on the situation, Oyebanji, the APC candidate, lauded the large turnout of voters for the election, saying it was indication of growing confidence in the electoral process by the people.

He said: “This is an improvement. I am happy that there was no case of apathy. The security build up has been impressive. So, the process has been fine.”

Meanwhile, this comes amid pressure on the INEC to extend the deadline for voter registration in the country.

Recently, the House of Representative had urged the commission to extend the closing date by 60 days and also provide more machines across the country for the registration.

The House mandated its committee on electoral matters to engage INEC to examine and proffer solutions to the shortage of registration machines and manpower.

Speaking recently, INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said the June 30 date was sacrosanct.

Situation room laments widespread vote buying

The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, a body of over 70 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) said it has received reports of widespread vote buying by political party agents across Ekiti State at the Saturday governorship election.

It said in many instances, voters were induced with money ranging from N4,500 to N10,000 by asking them to flag completed ballot papers as proof of voting in the specified manner in what they term “See and Buy”.

Situation Room which made the observation in an interim report signed by Ene Obi, convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room on Saturday afternoon strongly condemned the blatant violation of the electoral law.

The body called on called on the police Authority to apprehend those involved in voters’ inducement and maintain law and order throughout the process and beyond and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the on-going process is concluded transparently and credibly.

It commended INEC for improved logistics which is better than the experiences in both the Anambra state governorship election 2021 and FCT Area Councils Elections 2022 and acknowledged security operatives civil conduct.

The report read in parts: “At this time, Situation Room makes the following observations:

“General: The election has been generally peaceful, with voters conducting themselves in a civil manner in most of the polling units.

The redistribution of voters done by INEC still does not take care of the issue of large number of voters in some polling units as many new polling units had abysmally low numbers while older polling units remain overcrowded.

There were also polling units sited in private residences such as PU006 Omiragunsin’s House, Okemesi Ward 1, Ekiti West LGA and PU003 in front of Ezekiel’s House Iroro/Ita Alafia Iroro Imegun, Ward 3 Araromi Omuo, Ekiti East LGA.

Read also: Ekiti election sees large turnout in major cities

“Logistics and Commencement of Poll: Situation Room observed early arrival of Poll officials and election materials in 93percent of the polling units observed. Set up was done promptly and polls commenced before 9:00am in at least 88percent of the locations. This is an improvement of both the Anambra State Governorship Election 2021 and FCT Area Councils Elections 2022.

“Bi-Modal Verification Accreditation System (BVAS): Our observations indicate the BVAS was functional in at least 76percent of the voting locations. However, there have been many reports of delays and malfunctioning BVAS machines in some voting units especially those with many registered voters.

Examples of the locations where the machines malfunctioned are PU 002 Igbaletere by Mechanic Workshop, Ward 6 Ado Okeyinmi, Ado-Ekiti LGA where the Machine was going on and off intermittently, PU 007 LA Primary School Oke Afin, Otun Ward III and PU018 Igogo Ward II both in Moba LGA where the BVAS failed, and PU 014, Ward I Okemesi, Ekiti West LGA, amongst others.

Furthermore, INEC’s distribution of the BVAS devices was not proportionate to the population of registered voters by polling unit.

“Priority Voting: Situation Room notes that poll officials gave priority to PWD voters, elderly persons and pregnant women in most of the polling units observed.

However, citizens refused to recognise people with albinism as persons with disabilities (PWDs), thereby failed to accord them special consideration at the polling units. Also, voting cubicles were not easily accessible to PWDs.

“Presence, Conduct and Welfare of Security Officials: Security officials deployed for the election were diverse and cuts across Police Officers, Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) etc. Situation Room notes that security officials arrived the polling units on time and were civil in their conduct.

“However, the impact of their presence was not felt in voters’ coordination at most of the polling units. Also, the Police failed to halt the apparent vote buying witnessed by observers in virtually all the polling units.”

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