BusinessDay

Ekiti poll to test INEC’s readiness for 2023

The gubernatorial election coming up in Ekiti State on Saturday is expected to test the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the 2023 general election.

In July 2018, when the last gubernatorial election held in the state, the exercise witnessed late arrival of materials, logistics problems and violence.

There were also alleged cases of vote-buying and voter intimidation. About 30,000 policemen were deployed along with hundreds of security personnel from other agencies.

Kayode Fayemi, who initially ruled the state from 2010-2014, returned as governor of the state in 2018. Fayemi, who was controversially defeated by his predecessor, Ayo Fayose, in 2014, is expected to complete his second tenure on October 16, 2022.

According to INEC, 16 political parties are presenting candidates for the gubernatorial election.

There are 16 local government areas in the state.

Read also: How credible Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun guber polls will affect 2023 election

Ahead of Saturday’s election, observers have expressed fear about INEC’s readiness to eliminate the bottlenecks that characterised Anambra State’s gubernatorial election in November last year or prevent a repeat of what happened on July 14, 2018 in Ekiti.

There are fears among stakeholders that issues such as insecurity, logistic failure, vote buying and voter apathy, which characterised recent elections in Nigeria in the last two decades, could recur.

The Ekiti gubernatorial poll will be the first election to be conducted under the current Amended Electoral Act, and the second state election to be conducted using the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System.

Observers say that the election would be a litmus test for INEC on how prepared the commission is for the general election next year, and would also be an opportunity to assess the role of security agencies and commitment of parties to electoral integrity.

Kunle Okunola, a political analyst, said: “The election would play a key role in making Nigerians have confidence in the electoral body. That is, how effective and efficient INEC in the Ekiti election would determine the level of trust and confidence Nigerians would have in the body.

“INEC should do everything possible to stop vote-buying during the election. The body should ensure that its machines are in good shape for the conduct of the election.”

Speaking in an interview with BusinessDay , Ajayi, who is the candidate of the YPP, expressed the optimism that the commission would deliver on Saturday.

“They’re promising free, fair, credible, safe elections but I wonder if their level of readiness to fulfil that promise as tension is very high. I am really not monitoring them closely. But I wonder if they’re ready for the many farmsteads in Ekiti,” he said.

Some of the leading candidates are Oluwole Oluyede of Action Democratic Congress, Biodun Oyebanji of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Olabisi Kolawole of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Segun Oni of Social Democratic Party (SDP), and Ranti Ajayi of Young Progressives Party.

There are two female candidates: Kemi Josephine Elebute-Halle of Action Democratic Congress, and Christianah Modupe Olatawura of Action Peoples Party.

Pundits and political watchers say that the contest would be a three-horse race between Oyebanji, Kolawole and Oni, a former governor of the state.

This would be so largely due to the candidates’ popularity, structure across the state, and their financial strength, which had become critical towards winning election in the current democratic setting in Nigeria.

However, just like any other election, it is expected that the smaller political parties and their candidates would go into an alliance with the bigger parties, whose candidates have a brighter chance of doing well at the poll.

The incumbent governor, Fayemi, is supporting the APC candidate, Oyebanji, while his predecessor, Ayo Fayose, is supporting his godson, Kolawole.

The involvement of the three political heavyweights, Fayemi, Fayose and Oni, has made the situation across the state tense ahead of Saturday’s election.

Read also: 6 parties to feature in Ekiti LG poll

Fayemi and Fayose, who were presidential aspirants in the recently concluded APC and PDP presidential primaries, are doing all they can to win the election for their respective parties ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Oni, who was once a member of the PDP and APC, had dumped the PDP for SDP after failing in his bid to win the PDP ticket.

Meanwhile, in the last few days, the election has been generating interest among observers, across the state and within Nigeria.

There is apprehension among stakeholders and political leaders on the outcome of the poll.

Unlike in the past, the campaign by political parties and their candidates have been relatively peaceful.

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