Today, eligible Nigerians will troop out to the polls to elect their governors and members of the state houses of assembly in 29 states of the federation. Seven states, namely Anambra, Bayelsa, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo and Osun, have had their polls at various times in the past. Elections will also hold in the six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
About 74 National Assembly polls declared inconclusive by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the February 23 polls are also to be conducted today across the country.
Today’s exercise is very crucial just as it will capture the interest of the masses because the contestants are closer to the grassroots. The elections, therefore, are expected to be fiercely fought unlike the presidential polls.
To fire up the electorate across the states, some state governments declared yesterday as a public holiday to enable voters travel to their respective towns and villages to cast their votes. The INEC has given the nation assurance that it would conduct a seamless exercise.
Having conducted similar polls in seven states of the federation in the recent past, the electoral umpire is coming into the exercise with the experiences it has garnered along the line. Given the high level of preparations across the 29 states in relation to the distribution of sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials to the various polling centres as at yesterday, the nation should expect an improved exercise compared to the presidential and National Assembly polls that were fraught with violence, electoral frauds and allied crimes.
Although the governorship and houses of assembly polls are confined to states, INEC and security personnel on electoral duty have a huge responsibility to ensure that conducive environment is created to make eligible voters feel safe to come and exercise their franchise without putting themselves in harm’s way.
It is worthy of note that some states have been identified as volatile locations ahead of the exercise. The security agents should be on the red alert to ensure that any security breach is nipped in the bud. Criminal elements and their sponsors that are hell bent on subverting the will of the people through perpetration of violence, vote-buying, vote-selling, ballot box snatching, etc., are enemies of our democracy. They should be kept at bay at all costs.
It is public knowledge that elections at the state level are often characterised by violence as exemplified by inter and intra-party bloodletting and outright destruction of properties in the build-up to the primaries to pick various political contestants.
If the pre-election exercise could be fraught with such danger, it goes without saying that the real contests will be dogged by violence. However, we are persuaded to believe that various peace accords signed by governorship candidates across the country will mitigate any tendency to precipitate mayhem during and after the polls by political thugs.
As we stated in our previous editorials ahead of the February 23 general polls, the recipes for violence resulting in avoidable loss of lives and wanton destruction of public and private assets are lack of transparency and the winning-at-all-costs mentality of the average Nigerian politician to whom politics is a big industry because it yields heavy returns on investments.
As it was at the presidential election, the battle at the state level will be fought between candidates of the two major parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with a sprinkle of challenges from a handful of candidates from other parties.
Finally, we want to restate that the electoral umpire should show neutrality and ensure that the polls are conducted seamlessly across various voting centres in the country in order to deliver transparent, credible, free and fair elections.
We also urge the voters to conduct themselves in an orderly manner while exercising their civic duties. We wish the Nigerian electorate peaceful and fruitful outings.