EMEKA NZE writes that the Ekiti state governorship election, another litmus test of the efficiency of the electoral management body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has come and gone, leaving a trail of wailers and hailers
Again, like every contest, the Ekiti governorship election has left a mixed grill of joy and sadness, some people grieving for failed expectations and some dancing for victory.
There also those sitting on the fence, making seemingly objective pronouncements and appraisals on what should or shouldn’t have been during the elections. In summary, some are hailing or while others are wailing and bashing either the security agencies, INEC or the party that carried the day.
The civil society groups, who observed the polls, during and after, released their statements, focussing their assessments on the punctuality or otherwise of officials and materials, the turnout of voters, the deeds and misdeeds of the electorate, as well as the conduct of security personnel and INEC officials during the polls.
Situation Room observation
Significantly, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, an umbrella coalition of over 70 major civil society organisations in the country, called on INEC to take urgent steps to remove polling units from private residences before the next general election.
The Situation Room gave the charge after the elections in Ado Ekiti after the election, while presenting their preliminary report.
Convener, Ene Obi and co-Conveners, Asma’u Joda and James Ugochukwu noted that siting polling units in private residences could substantially impugn the credibility of elections.
They also lamented the over-concentration of voters in certain polling units while others had fewer voters.
The development had led to situations in certain units where voting did not end until about 7pm, whereas in certain areas, voting ended before mid-day.
“With a network of observers deployed across the 16 local government areas of the state, the Situation Room, however, commended INEC for its prompt opening of polls and deliberate efforts to stem the tide of vote buying.
“Situation Room notes that INEC’s strategy of voters’ redistribution failed to address the problem of over concentration of voters in some polling units.
“A glaring example was the situation at Surajudeen School, Ado Dallimore (Ward 9), Ado Ekiti LGA, which had about five thousand registered voters shared between just two polling units. Some of the voters complained that their request for transfer of registration to their preferred polling units was not approved before this exercise.
“Consequently, INEC will need to double its efforts to improve on the turnaround time of the BVAS of one minute per voter for a seamless process on election day. Furthermore, INEC’s distribution of the BVAS devices was not proportionate to the population of registered voters by polling unit”, the Situation Room added.
On vote buying, the Situation Room observed that the issue of vote buying and selling has continued unabatedly.
“This follows a familiar pattern of similar incidences across the country, and in particular, the 2014 Governorship election in Ekiti State. The description of this phenomenon as “Stomach Infrastructure” in the 2014 election has evolved into a new nomenclature now described as ‘See and Buy’.
“The ability of Ekiti politicians to make light of such a grave violation of extant laws is most unfortunate. Situation Room strongly condemns this blatant violation of the electoral law”, it added.
“While the widespread presence of security personnel did not deter vote trading, Situation Room however commended the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC for the arrests of suspected persons involved in votes buying and hopes that these cases will lead to prosecution if the evidence is found to be germane.
Yiaga Africa’s verdict
YIAGA Africa another election observer group said the official results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the Ekiti governorship election, reflected the votes cast at the polling units.
The organisation said this in a process and results verification report released after the announcement of results.
The report was signed by Samson Itodo and Ezenwa Nwagwu, executive director, and board member of the CSO, respectively.
Oyebanji, former secretary to the state government (SSG), was declared winner of the Ekiti governorship election at 3:05am on Sunday after winning 15 out of the 16 LGAs in the state.
Oyebanji secured 187,057 votes, defeating his two closest challengers — Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) who polled 82,211 votes, and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who got 67,457 votes
In its report, YIAGA Africa said INEC’s results for the Ekiti state governorship election are consistent with its estimates.
“Had the official results been changed at the ward, LGA or state collation centres, the official results would not have fallen within the Yiaga Africa WTV estimated ranges. Because the official results fall within the estimated ranges, candidates, parties, and voters should have confidence the official results for the Ekiti 2022 gubernatorial election reflect the ballots cast at polling units on Saturday, June 18,” the report reads.
“It is important to highlight that the counting process at polling units was transparent and included representatives from the four political parties that received the most votes.”
YIAGA Africa also said INEC’s turnout result and rejected ballots for the 16 LGAs released are consistent with its estimates.
“Yiaga Africa is able to estimate that turnout is between 35.7% and 38.7% (37.2% ± 1.5%), while INEC’s official result is 36.47%. Similarly, Yiaga Africa estimates rejected ballots are between 1.8%and 2.6% (2.2% ± 0.4%) while INEC’s official result is 2.46%,” the report reads.
“Yiaga Africa encourages INEC to uphold the principles of transparency by publishing the total number of PVCs collected in Ekiti on its website. In addition, Yiaga Africa calls on INEC to audit the newly created polling units and ensure equitable distribution of voters to the polling units.
“Yiaga Africa commends the professionalism of the security agents who worked to maintain peace on Election Day. We commend the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the arrest of mercenaries deployed by political parties to buy votes. We urge the EFCC and security agencies to investigate and prosecute all citizens involved in electoral fraud, especially those involved in vote trading.”
Euphoria of victory
For the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Biodun Oyebanji who was declared winner, “it’s a new day for us in Ekiti…”
“The June 18, 2022, Ekiti governorship election was peacefully conducted in the state with a large turnout of eligible voters who freely voted for their preferred candidates and parties. Yesterday, Ekiti Kete spoke, and your collective voice was heard.”
While savouring the euphoria of his victory, he said, “My gratitude also goes to our security agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission for superintending over a free and fair exercise and for maintaining the peace in the state.”Wailers’ pre-election expectations
However, National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Dr Shehu Gabam whose candidate Engr. Segun Oni emerged the runners-up said: “We expected a very transparent election in Ekiti state, we expected election with human face, we expected election that is full of remorsefulness given our past record we have had in this country.
“Above all, we thought that the President and the Commander-in-Chief that has made several promises to this country that he want to leave a legacy of free and fair election, what we saw in Ekiti is the president chewing back his promise. What we saw in Ekiti was the worst of elections in the history Nigeria.
“We thought the last elections we saw in Kogi and Bayelsa states were mistakes but seeing the President, within a short period of time, celebrating his party for winning Ekiti state, was quite embarrassing to the country.
“We thought the President who is the Commander-in-Chief, who is the leader of the country and given so many promises he had made to Nigeria, would ensure that free election would be conducted in Ekiti state.”Number two, before the election we wrote letter to the President because he is the one deploying the security personnel at every election as the Commander-in-Chief.
“What we thought is that before the commencement of the election, the President and commander in chief will address the country, will address the stakeholders including security agencies and give them strict order to adhere to the rules of the election.
“There was noting like that. We saw a a President who said one of his legacies is to win Ekiti state which means the President had compromised the process already.”
The Social Democratic Party (SDP) leadership lamenting what it considered bane of the Ekiti polls said, the exercise ought to have favoured its candidate but was marred by vote buying which could not be checked by the security agencies present at the various polling units.
He said: “INEC is trying the very best to make sure that elections are being conducted under conducive atmosphere, materials were delivered as at when due but what we saw from the videos, from the pictures that were available to everybody, including the media, NGOs, the international community, was an election that was invaded by vote buying.
“Elections were conducted in the 16 local governments and so many security agencies were deployed. We saw a video where a ballot box was snatched and the security agencies were watching doing nothing about it. I was touched, I was marvelled, in couldn’t believe that we still live in this era.”
Danger of vote buying
“The danger is that next election that is coming majority of the people will not bother to campaign, they will concentrate in looting public treasury and those who have other criminal ways of making money will stock their money, just wait for election day, not bother about the process,they will just buy voters. There is no great danger to democracy than what we saw in Ekiti.
SDP in total rejection of results
“So we completely, comprehensively, reject the result of Ekiti state election and our legal team is assembling the best facts available. They are putting everything together, we are coming up with a position based on facts available to us and we will challenge it legally from bottom to top. We will not allow any inch to escape,” Gabam the SDP national chairman said.
On his part the governorship candidate of the party in the election, Segun Oni, agreed with the party chairman, adding that the county belonged to all and should be rescued from the hands of those seeking desperately to destroy it.
Oni said if democracy is allowed to be butchered, Nigerians would be the biggest losers.