- By Jide Sanmi
Ado-Ekiti The State Independent Electoral Commission, (SEIC) has been commended for the peaceful local government election held on December 7.
The election took place in 16 Local Government areas and in 177 wards.
In a statement by the Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC), a coalition of 135 civil society and community based organisations, (CBOs), issued in Ado-Ekiti on Monday, and made available to Irohinoodua, the rights group said preliminary reports indicated that the election was free and fair, representing the true aspirations and expression of Ekiti people.
The group said local government elections are very important in sustainable development since it has a chain value on the standards of living of people in the rural arears.
“Local government elections are critical to the livelihood of indigenous communities. Most civil society concentrate on monitoring local elections while in reality, the local government elections are of critical concern to local people the local government being the first point of interaction between the government and the people”, the NHRC Assistant Secretary, Mr Taiwo Adeleye, Diran Obalola and Kudu Abubakar said in the statement.
NHRC had monitored the election in ninety percent of the polling booths representing over 145 wards of the 177 wards. The coalition said 160 monitors were deployed apart from 20 other Mobile Observers who drove across the state visiting the polling booths.
The group said it also monitored the campaigns of the actors on the political field in the build-up to the election saying that the campaigns were devoid of violence and brigandage as seen in Local and National Elections in some states.
“There is a significant improvement in the ability of states to organize local elections. Even though the ruling party in the state won almost all the overall results of the election, there was a conscious attempt to ensure a free and fair election in the state. There was no reports of violence which is significant,”
NHRC said contrary to assumptions that only the Federal Government can conduct a free and fair election, it has been proved that States are not incapable of running their political and electoral affairs.
“Free and fair elections are possible in States. The Ekiti State Local Government election is a further proof that it is wrong to assume that transparency in the electoral process is not possible with the SEIC. One is left with the impression that violence and brigandage are easier to perpetrate when external forces are involved.”
It regretted the violent incidence that took a human life at Ikere saying it was an isolated case caused by a few elements desperate to discredit the peaceful election.
The group said indications from the Ekiti LG poll showed that left alone, communities can manage their own affairs and chose their elected leaders out of their free, prior and informed consent.
“Ekiti State local government election conducted on December 07 has again proved that the future of democracy in local communities does not lay in the hands of a garrison system that has no respect for indigenous values and tradition.”
The group however said the LG election was not perfect and that some rooms for improvement are left. “The political parties need to do more about voter’s education. There is the need for political parties to show more commitment to mobilizing their people for greater involvement in the local government elections. There is also “Opposition Apathy.” The opposition parties in the state abandoned the campaign for the ruling party. This might either be due to political fatigue following the loss of the opposition in the last election, lack of enthusiasm or a general assumption that a ruling party would always win the local government elections.
“We urge political parties to show greater determination for participation in local government elections. Majority of the people live in rural areas. Local government administration is more impactful on the lives of indigenous people. It is also a text of the strength of the political parties among people in rural communities. It is important that the political parties should learn to take the local government elections more serious.”
The NHRC also advocated a SEIC that will be more inclusive of stakeholders like labour and professional organisations in the state.