Matters arising as Ekiti goes to poll | Dailytrust

Matters arising as Ekiti goes to poll

FILE PHOTO
FILE PHOTO

On Saturday, the residents of Ekiti State will be electing another governor to pilot the affairs of the state in what has promised to be a tense encounter. Yet again, all eyes will be on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a credible election. 

Indeed a credible election must reflect democratic principles of universal voting rights and political equality as reflected in the free expression of the will of the people as well as professional, impartial, and transparent preparation and administration of the election throughout the electoral cycle, which includes pre-election, election day administration, and post-election.

While the responsibility of conducting elections may lie on the election management body, critical stakeholders like security agencies and political parties must play their roles to ensure the process is transparent and credible. The election is also an opportunity to review how INEC, security agencies, political parties and other essential stakeholders in the electoral process are implementing the provisions of the new Electoral Act. 

However, in the last couple of days, election observer groups like Yiaga Africa have raised emerging concerns that could impede the conduct of the Ekiti governorship election. Also, feedback from community outreaches revealed that the people of the state are ready to vote, but security threats have increased in the final days leading to the election in the state. The environment seems to be getting tense with pockets of clashes leading to the breakdown of law and order witnessed and reported in some LGAs in the state.

Another major contributing factor to the insecurity in the state that will influence the participation of citizens in the upcoming election is the high unemployment rate, coupled with the ASUU nationwide strike. This is because individuals have devised and taken up other means of livelihood which oftentimes involve illegitimate ventures for the sole purpose of survival. This has instilled fear in the hearts of individuals, which may deter them from exercising their franchise. 

The safety of the electorate is critical to the achievement of a free, fair, and credible election.

While security concerns have remained a feature in Nigeria’s elections, deployment of election technology is also becoming a regular characteristic in the process. It is interesting to note that these two may have some level of connection, especially on election day if the commission experiences challenges in managing technologies as seen during the Federal Capital Territory Area Council election in February.

With the tense nature of the atmosphere, prospective voters, especially party agents can easily get agitated especially if the technological devices malfunction in their strongholds.

The Ekiti State election will provide an opportunity to assess the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS)’s efficiency, as well as the commission’s overall readiness to ensure smooth, free and fair elections in 2023. Thus the commission has a very slim room for excuses. 

Observation leading to the election has revealed a persistent and rising spate of voter inducement in the state popularly known as dibo ko sebe (vote and cook soup). This trend of vote trading has continued to devalue citizenship across the state as citizens believe that is the only dividend of democracy they may be entitled to. Politicians seem to have mastered this tactic to the extent of conducting door-to-door campaigns to clandestinely implement their voter inducement strategy.

As June 18th approaches, poor participation due to poor publicity of the mock accreditation exercise conducted by INEC, imbalance in allocation of voters to new polling units and possible logistics challenges, the effective deployment of the BVAS, and permanent voters card collection rate remain some of the emerging concerns arising during the pre-election phase that can influence the participation of the Ekiti people.

In this vein, the election management body should make proper arrangements and ensure that personnel deployed to administer election on election day are well trained, ensure early deployment of election materials on election day to the polling units and commencement of the polls as well as to ensure the poll officers conduct themselves in a non-partisan and professional manner throughout the process of the election.

Security authorities should take steps in the management of election security to ensure that voters, candidates, poll workers, observers, and other actors involved in the election move around freely in the exercise of their rights. The security agencies should ensure that the personnel deployed are well-taken care of in terms of their welfare and payment of entitlements. 

 

Anthonia Onda is a Senior Programme Officer at Yiaga Africa

 

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