Lagos and Osogbo — The out-of-season governorship election in Ekiti State holds Saturday amidst palpable tension as the leading parties, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) upped their stakes, accusing and counter accusing one another of desperate attempts to win the poll by all means possible.
Leaders of thoughts, including the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, and the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr Paul Arkwright, have, however, called for restraints, warning against violence and calling on politicians to allow peace to reign.
Across the 16 local government areas of the state, the 842,731 registered voters are expected to exercise their civic duty of choosing the Number One Citizen. And what should ordinarily be a perfunctory civil matter has generated so much tension, and its impact is felt in other parts of the country.
The concern for Ekiti in the governorship election Saturday may not be misplaced going by its history of violence at elections, which predates the creation of the state on October 1, 1996.
As far back as when it was part of the old Ondo State, what constitutes Ekiti today was always a flashpoint that went up in flames and orgy of violence during elections. There is no gainsaying that the ugly turn of events was engineered by desperate participants in the electoral process, who prepare for elections as if they are combatants going to a war.
The glaring reality on the Nigerian political scene shows that politicians do not prepare for the possibility of losing in the electoral contest. Every participant assumes he is a winner and would cry to high heavens, alleging he was rigged out, even when it is evident that he was ill-prepared. The resulting clash of opposing forces of the government in power versus the opposition portends a danger that should be averted before it erupts into full-scale crisis.
Already, the tension in Ekiti reached fever-pitch midweek when Governor Ayodele Fayose was allegedly manhandled by the police.
Well-meaning members of the public have since condemned the action of the police, though the police denied the allegation. It behoves those that are directly involved in organising and conducting the election to ensure maintenance of law and order in order to secure a free, fair and transparent process to guarantee that the will of the people prevails at the end of the election.
Ahead of Saturday's governorship election, the Inspector General of Police (IG) Ibrahim Idris has deployed a total of 30,000 police personnel to provide security before, during and after the exercise.
Idris also moved the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of Operations, Assistant Inspector General of Police, four Commissioners of Police and eight Deputy Commissioners of Police to provide security for a hitch-free election.
The police boss equally ordered the deployment of two patrol surveillance helicopters, five additional Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC), 10 Armoured Personnel Vehicles and 250 police patrol vehicles in the state.
The APC appointed the Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, to head the party's 77-member National Campaign Council to ensure victory for the party's governorship candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. The PDP campaign committee is no less formidable with Governor Udom Emmanuel at its head.
In the old Ondo State (comprising of the present Ondo State and Ekiti States), which occasioned loss of several lives and destruction of property in 1983, the National Party of Nigeria's candidate, Chief Akin Omoboriowo, was declared the winner of the election, contrary to the overwhelming expectations of the electorate.
The electorate felt cheated and embarked on a violent protest. There was no peace until the Supreme Court of Nigeria made a declaration in favour of Chief Adekunle Ajasin of the Unity Party of Nigeria.
If democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people, it must be demonstrated that the ultimate sovereignty lies with the people. The safety and security of the people must be paramount. Therefore, there must be zero tolerance for rigging, to violence, thuggery, killing, arson, ballot box snatching and vandalism. Every vote must count. Ekiti is the litmus test for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to demonstrate its preparedness for the 2019 general election.
Participants in the electoral process must conduct themselves in an orderly manner and imbibe the spirit of peace and sportsmanship.
As at today, Ekiti is enveloped by serious anxiety. Shootings have been recorded. The National Broadcast Commission (NBC) has warned parties to desist from airing hate speeches, particularly by the two major parties.
Under the prevailing circumstance, the security agencies have to be alert to their duties to guarantee a free and fair atmosphere in which the Ekiti people can freely exercise their civic duty.
Ooni, British Envoy Warn against Violence
No wonder, therefore, Ooni Ogunwusi and British High Commissioner, Arkwright, at a meeting in Ile-Ife, Osun State warned against violence and pleaded for peace.
The Ooni specifically urged the youths of the state to refuse to be used as agents of electoral violence and criminality, saying they too had rights to occupy the public offices of leadership such as governorship or presidency in the nearest future.
"What I heard happening in Ekiti State during this electioneering period does not make me happy as their father. Enough of crisis, we do not want any crisis in Yorubaland, where there is violence, progress and tranquillity will be deprived. But where there is peace, there is progress," Ooni stated.
Speaking in the same vain, the visiting Arkwright who is also the United Kingdom's Chief Observer to Nigeria on the election, called for free, fair, credible and peaceful election Saturday.
The British High Commissioner appealed to all and sundry to remain calm and shun electoral violence, saying crisis could not add any value to the growth and development of the state.