Published On: Fri, Jul 13th, 2018

Ekiti poll: Litmus test for free, fair election

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Fayose and Fayemi

By tomorrow, the people of Ekiti state will troop out in their thousand to perform their civic responsibility of determining who governs them for the next four years.
The political gladiators have campaigned and mobilized their teeming supporters and their fate would be determined by the thumbs of the electorates in the next twenty-hour hours or so.
The election is a straight contest between the incumbent People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s candidate, Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka and the candidate of the ruling party at the Centre, All Progressives Congress (APC) Dr. Kayode Fayemi. This is without prejudicing the fact that there are other candidates on the platform of our political parties jostling for votes at the same election.
There have been accusations and counter accusations of perfection of plots to rig the election from the incumbent and the major opposition elements angling to take over power.
Both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chairman of the Independent Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmood Yakubu have given their commitments to conduct a free, fair and credible election in the state.
The security agencies have also demonstrated their commitments to ensure security of the citizens as they file out at their different polling booths to cast their votes as they have massively deployed their men to do just that.
30,000 policemen and close to 20,000 Civil Defence personnel aside men of the Department of State Services (DSS) have been deployed to provide security.
But this seems not enough to assuage the fears of the people that the government would deliver on its promise of ensuring free, fair and credible election by Saturday. This doubt is being bolstered by political antecedents in the country where the ruling party at the federal level deploys great arsenal, including security forces, to ensure the victory of its preferred candidate.
There were revelations that the incumbent governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose, in 2014 benefitted from the deployment of state security apparatus to dispense terror and intimidation which helped him to displace his predecessor, Fayemi, who incidentally is the one now running against Eleka, his preferred candidate.
It was alleged that Fayose used the military and police to intimidate and overthrow Fayemi, who was the candidate of the APC, then in the opposition. Now that the table had turned, with Fayemi’s party controlling the levers of power at the Centre, it is only natural for the PDP and its candidate to think that what goes round would surely come around.
The massive deployment of security personnel, instead of being a source of assurance for free and fair election to them, has now become a source of nightmare, great fear and trepidation.
But, it behoves on the handlers of the Ekiti election to ensure that the wishes of the people prevail by ensuring the conduct of an election that is not only free and fair but is seen to be credible.
Allowing a candidate to take advantage of the federal might at this time in the nation’s political evolution would only set the country back as two wrongs can never make a right. All efforts must be made to ensure that votes cast by the people count.
The President has never hidden his determination to ensure that the will of the people prevails been a victim of crooked polls thrice in the past only to benefit from a free, fair and credible election which displaced his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, in 2015.
He acknowledged this much in his remarks at the APC mega rally in Ado Ekiti when he said “I came into office in 2015 through a free and fair election. In my party, the APC, we do not believe in manipulation of electoral processes. The will of the people must matter. And that is what we will uphold here in Ekiti – FREE and FAIR ELECTIONS. No manipulation of any form.” These emphases were his!
Therefore, all eyes are on the Ekiti governorship election to see whether the President would walk his talk. The world is watching to see whether the culture of electoral transparency which brought the President to power would be entrenched or not.
The power at the Centre must be seen as neutral by mandating the security agencies to stick to their primary task of providing security as the people vote the candidate of their choice tomorrow.
Any form of interference would send a negative signal to local and international observers as a prelude to what to expect not only in Osun state governorship poll billed to hold in a few months, but also at the 2019 general election. The effect of any manipulation of the outcome of Ekiti poll would be distressing.

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