Matters Arising As Ekiti Goes to Poll, by Anthonia Onda

Matters Arising As Ekiti Goes to Poll, by Anthonia Onda

Editor's note: Anthonia Onda, an electoral observer at the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Ekiti state in this piece spotlighted some imminent concerns that might emerge at the polls as she reeled out some facts leading up to the election.

In a couple of days, the residents of Ekiti state will be electing another governor to pilot the affairs of the state in what has promised as a tense encounter.

Yet again, all eyes will be on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct a credible election.

Anthonia Onda, Yiaga Africa, Ekiti 2022
Anthonia Onda is a Senior Program Officer at Yiaga Africa who is currently in Ekiti to observe the Governorship election. Photo: Yiaga Africa
Source: Facebook

Indeed a credible election must reflect democratic principles of universal voting rights and political equality as reflected in the free expression of the will of the people as well as professional, impartial, and transparent preparation and administration of the election throughout the electoral cycle, which includes pre-election, election day administration, and post-election.

While the responsibility of conducting elections may lie on the election management body, critical stakeholders like security agencies and political parties must play their roles to ensure the process is transparent and credible.

The election is also an opportunity to review how the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, political parties, and other essential stakeholders in the electoral process are implementing the provisions of the new Electoral Act.

However, in the last couple of days, election observer groups like Yiaga Africa have raised emerging concerns that could impede the conduct of the Ekiti Governorship elections. Also, feedback from community outreaches has revealed that the people of Ekiti state are ready to vote, but security threats have increased in the final days leading to the governorship election in the state.

The environment seems to be getting tense with pockets of clashes leading to the breakdown of law and order witnessed and reported in some LGAs in the state. Another major contributing factor to the insecurity in the state and will influence the participation of citizens in the upcoming election is the high unemployment rate coupled with the ASUU nationwide strike.

This is because individuals have devised and taken up other means of livelihood which oftentimes involve illegitimate ventures for the sole purpose of survival. This has instilled fear in the hearts of individuals, which may deter them from exercising their franchise on Saturday, June 18, 2022. The safety of the electorate is critical to the achievement of a free, fair, and credible election.

While security concerns have remained a feature in Nigeria’s election, deployment of election technology is also becoming a regular characteristic in the process.

It is interesting to note that these two may have some level of connection, especially on election day if the commission experiences challenges in managing technologies as seen during the Federal Capital Territory Area Council election in February.

With the tense nature of the atmosphere, prospective voters and especially party agents can easily get agitated especially if the technological devices malfunction in their strongholds. The Ekiti state election will serve as another major litmus test for the general elections in Nigeria in 2023 with the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System and the passage of the new Electoral Act.

This will also provide an opportunity to assess the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) efficiency, as well as the commission's overall readiness to ensure smooth, free, and fair elections in 2023. Thus the commission has a very slim room for excuses come Saturday, June 18th.

Observation leading to the election has revealed a persistent and rising spate of voter inducement in the state popularly known as dibo ko sebe (vote and cook soup). This trend of vote trading has continued to devalue citizenship across the state as citizens believe that is the only dividend of democracy they may be entitled to.

Politicians seem to have mastered this tactic to the extent of conducting door to door campaigns to clandestinely implement their voter inducement strategy. This has triggered election observer groups like Yiaga Africa to predict that the June 18 poll may be decided by the highest bidder.

As June 18th approaches, poor participation due to poor publicity of the mock accreditation exercise conducted by INEC, imbalance allocation of voters to new polling units and possible logistics challenges, the effective deployment of the BVAS, and permanent voters card collection rate remain some of the emerging concerns arising during the pre-election phase that can influence the participation of the Ekiti people.

In this vein, the election management body should make proper arrangements and ensure that personnel deployed to administer election on election day are well trained, ensure early deployment of election materials on election day to the polling units to ensure early commencement of the polls as well as to ensure the poll officers conduct themselves in a non-partisan and professional manner throughout the process of the election.

Also, to ensure that citizens of Ekiti state participate in the election, security authorities should take steps in the management of election security to ensure that voters, candidates, poll workers, observers, and other actors involved in the election move around freely in the exercise of their rights, ensure they are not harmed during the process, as well as sensitive election materials are kept secure.

The security agencies should ensure that the personnel deployed are well-taken care of in terms of their welfare and payment of entitlements.

Intentional steps must be taken in the management of election security to ensure that voters, candidates, poll workers, observers, and other actors involved in the election are not harmed during the process while sensitive election materials are kept secured and accounted for. This will build the confidence of the citizens in the process and increase participation.

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