Most observers have tended to portray tomorrow's governorship election in Ekiti State as a kind of guinea pig for the 2019 general election. To a large extent, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would see the Ekiti poll as more than a dry rehearsal for next year's general election. The governorship poll would therefore afford the electoral umpire to test its systems and strategies to deliver a credible election.
However, the scary clips and reports that emanated from the state last Wednesday raised a lot of posers in the minds of most Nigerians, with many expressing reservations about 2019 election. Incidentally, Wednesday July 11 marked 220 days to the general election and tomorrow when registered voters in Ekiti troop to their polling booths to cast their votes, it would be exactly 217 days to the historical 2019 poll.
It would be necessary to recall that from 2017 to date, most of the actions and inactions of politicians in the country are geared towards considerations for the 2019 general election. Analysts point to the decision of President Muhammadu Buhari to retain some service chiefs in office despite the expiry of their tenure, as the most significant of those actions and considerations aimed at programming the 2019 poll.
Based on the foregoing, therefore, it becomes necessary to examine some crucial questions that tomorrow's governorship election in Ekiti State could help Nigerians to answer regarding the nature of next year's general election.
Place of security in elections
What happened on July 11 was seen as a replay of a similar ugly development in 2014 when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in control of federal power. By then Dr. John Kayode Fayemi was the incumbent and former governor Ayodele Peter Fayose, was seeking a return to the governorship from which he was unceremoniously sacked in 2006.
In the course of that election, police used teargas to disperse members of the ruling party prompting the then governor to question their objective. "I am the chief security officer of this state, whose interest are you protecting?" Fayemi had shouted at the police officers drafted to Ekiti for the election.
So, last Wednesday, the table turned. Fayose is the incumbent and former governor Fayemi is seeking a return to the governorship seat, from which he believes he was deprived of victory with federal might. But, although Fayose is not a candidate for the election, his preferred candidate is the flag bearer of PDP, which has become the opposition party at the federal level.
As if revenge is reserved, Governor came under teargas canisters as he emerged from his office to find out why the police were massed in the precincts of the Government House.That exchange raised national concerns about the nexus between violence and elections in southwest geopolitical zone. It was perhaps as a result of this negative profiling of election in the zone as an equivalent of war that a group of influential citizens under the aegis of Igbimo Ure Ekiti (IUE) addressed the press in Lagos, stressing that "election is not war'. In the text of the address signed by the national President, Prince Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi and General Secretary, Sir Remi Omotoso, IUE said, "we do not want Ekiti State to be a theatre of war in the unbridled, mad and selfish ambition to grab power and governance of the state at any and all cost."
In almost all instances of the skirmishes and violent displays before or during elections, the performances of police have always been at issue. It would therefore be seen tomorrow how far the security agencies of the country have imbibed civility and decorum in the provision of security during elections.IUE had alluded to this point when it said: "The earlier we began to instill confidence in the ability and capacity of the Nigerian Police Force together with other civil security agencies for the prevention, protection of lives and property preservation of law and order, including electoral laws, the better for our democracy."
Nigerians would most likely be on the watch out to see how far the security agents would comport themselves, especially against the background of the general speculation that President Muhammadu Buhari wants to use the governorship poll to get at his most vocal critic, Fayose.Although Fayose played himself into the arena even when he is not a contestant, the outgoing governor inadvertently created the impression that his deputy would be a pupil governor that would always retain his consultancy after inauguration.
State of preparedness of INEC
SOMEHOW the theatrics between the police and Governor Fayose on the one hand and the supremacy battle between the APC and PDP on the other seem to have obscured the centrality of INEC on national watch list in the Ekiti governorship poll.The INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, has promised that the commission would deliver credible election in Ekiti, stressing that right from distribution of election materials and accreditation voters will experience better voting procedure.
Right from Bayelsa State governorship election where it improvised the method of simultaneous accreditation and voting, INEC under Prof. Yakubu has conducted more elections than previous chairmen. Out of the 180 polls it conducted, including rerun and staggered polls, the courts upturned only two.When the chairman visited The Guardian last year, he pointed out that disruption of election through violence lead to inconclusive elections adding that his commission working at the possibility of announcing elections results 24 hours after the ballots are cast.
The idea of electronic transmission of election results, which is another initiative of the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu's administration, would come into real test tomorrow. It would also be seen how functional the Card readers have become with minimal failure rates, more so when the use of incident forms have proved a source of possible manipulation.
It has been noted that politicians always devise ways to circumvent the electoral process. The Ekiti election tomorrow would expose to Nigerians how far various innovative processes put in place by INEC were able to arrest the dynamism of rigging tactics of politicians.The issue of inducement is a novelty, which notoriety is gaining grounds gradually in governorship polls, particularly in Edo and Anambra States. Nigerians would want to know if the INEC chairman perfected his plans to involve the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in tracking politicians that might want to trade votes for cash.
In the event that the EFCC was procured to sanitise the electoral environment, it would also be seen how far the commission carries out that oversight without bias. In the end it would be evident to Prof Yakubu, that the battle against inducement of voters could only be waged with the support of voters and political parties.
Efficacy of PVC as conveyor of peoples will
THE campaign for voter registration and collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) were largely successful. But the Ekiti governorship poll, which comes seven months before the 2019 poll would reveal how efficacious that innovation, is as a conveyor of the true expression of the peoples will.The interest generated by the Ekiti State governorship poll gives the impression that the electoral process and outcome would determine whether next year's general election would reflect the power of the people or underscore the internal frustrations that necessitated calls for a review of the 2014 amalgamation.If therefore 2019 is a cross road for Nigeria, the election in Ekiti tomorrow will deliver the clue as to what path the nation will take.