7th April, 2014
The race for the governorship election in Ekiti State is getting to the peak. All political parties contesting the elections have chosen their candidates and are now asking the electorate for their votes. The campaigns have also reached frenetic level as the date of the election fixed for 21 June this year approaches.
But before voting commences, we think it is necessary to give a charge to the candidates and their supporters as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. This, for us, is important if we must achieve a good electoral outing and not make ourselves a laughing stock in the international community as it happened several times in the past.
Contestants in the polls should work hard to imbibe the spirit of sportsmanship. From campaigns through the voting period itself, candidates should exercise restraint in the choice of language. Violence of whatever hue must be discouraged. Indeed the culture of do-or-die which became a baggage to our electoral success must be discarded. Winning at all costs despite the method only dents the quality of the mandate, it doesn’t add value to the society. It is important that contestants, together with the political parties allow the will of the electorate to prevail, as they are the arbiter in this issue.
Decorum should be maintained so the polity is not heated up above limit. The memories of the not-too distant past in Ekiti and other states, where thuggery, ballot box snatching and other electoral offences held sway are still fresh. It won’t be good seeing that ugly part of our history repeat itself. We must move on completely away from the path of violence to peace.
As the umpire in the contest, there is need for INEC to live up to the billing of its name and mandate. The case of Anambra where we witnessed a shambolic election in which many voters were disenfranchised in November 2013, should not repeat itself in Ekiti. Many commentators believe that the Anambra vote rigging was stage-managed by INEC to give an edge to a particular party and candidate. Now, INEC has the opportunity to correct that anomaly. The way to go is to ensure that materials and personnel arrive at the polling units as at when due. Such voting materials must be adequately protected. Voting, collating and announcement of results must be done in the designated places and in the presence of officials concerned to avoid the heckling that trails fraud-related allegations.
It is not only the candidates and INEC that have a role to play in the Ekiti election. The Federal Government has a crucial but neutral part in this. The temptation to interfere in the election must be resisted. The quest to ‘capture’ an opposition state into the fold of the ruling party at the centre shouldn’t even be contemplated. We have seen the havoc that leaders foisted on the people can wreak on governance. Ekiti witnessed a load of it in the past. It must not return to that nightmarish era. INEC deserves a freehand to conduct the elections. This will go a long way to reduce the tension and post-election cases that usually trail our elections in this country.
While the other components need to try their best to ensure a free and fair election in Ekiti, the electorate have the sacred mandate to ensure that their votes count. They must protect their votes and provide a conducive environment and support to INEC to make sure the election in Ekiti this time is hitch-free.