In an editorial we ran on June 20, a day before the governorship election in Ekiti state, we said that “…the poll will be a litmus test for Prof. Attahiru Jega’s INEC. How it handles this election in which the stakes are truly high will determine how much goodwill and trust it will take into national elections in February 2015”. Our concern, we believed, was a reflection of the national mood, which was one of skepticism, as a result of the mess INEC made of the gubernatorial poll it conducted on November 28, 2013 in Anambra state.
We were also concerned about the conduct of the police in the build up to the Ekiti election which, we observed, “led many to question its capability and capacity to maintain peace and order during and after polling”. Well, Inspector General of Police Mohammed Abubakar and his men proved the doubting Thomases wrong. The 126,000 Mobile Policemen he sent to Ekiti managed to ensure that the poll passed off peacefully.
As for INEC, it has every reason to celebrate a stellar performance. And its officials are making quite a show of it. No modesty at all. First, unlike in the Anambra debacle, an updated voter register was used in the Ekiti election; election materials and poll officials arrived at polling units earlier than the stipulated 8am. The Commission, we understand, used 8,433 staff to conduct the election. For the first time, INEC took its voter education campaign to “groups prone to violence” such as okada (motorcycle) riders and National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). The aim was to dissuade them from being used to “foment trouble or find recourse in violence”.
INEC surprised even itself in terms of its methodical preparations and meticulous implementation of its plans. For instance, different ballot papers were printed for all the 16 local government areas of the state and so were result sheets. This effectively checked movement of ballot papers from one area to another in an attempt to steal votes. Also, ballot boxes were serially numbered to make it impossible for anyone to “snatch and stuff” them.
There is something else surprising about the Ekiti election – the gallantry of the loser and graciousness of the winner. Outgoing governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), lost the election in all 16 local government areas of the state. He took only 120,433 of the 350, 366 valid votes or 33.41 percent. His main opponent, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Mr. Ayodele Peter Fayose, received 203, 090 votes (56.34%). When Fayemi realized that he had lost the election, in spite the power of incumbency at his disposal, he promptly called the winner to congratulate him on his victory and promised to make the succession seamless.
“I have just spoken with my brother, Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, congratulating him on his victory. In a few hours from now, I would be meeting the Governor-elect to discuss the future of our dear state and how we would work together to institute a smooth transition programme,” he told journalists the Sunday following the election. In accepting defeat, a rare thing in this country where incumbents do not lose elections, Fayemi has made a strong statement, which is that elections need not be a do or die affair. We commend both candidates for making the Ekiti poll the beauty that it was.
As for INEC, we advise it to not over-celebrate its “shining star”. There is much work to do still. Osun is not too far off. And there will be national elections next February. INEC says Ekiti “provides an inkling of what to expect in 2015”. We wait to see.