Rights groups commend INEC, Ekiti people on peaceful poll.
Says June 18 better than previous elections in Nigeria
By Samuel Ogunsona
The Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) has been commended for conducting a peaceful and violence free election held on June 18 for the Ekiti State gubernatorial race
According to the Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC) and the Civil Society Coalition for Mandate Protection, (CSC-MAP) the June 18 election was the most peaceful in recent elections held in Ekiti State and one of the best held in Nigeria though not without elements of corruption which remains a consistent feature in Nigerian political economy, not been restricted to Ekiti alone.
The groups said technical areas of improvements in democratic culture that deepen democracy during the June 18 election should not be overshadowed by the few low points of the election.
‘In the face of hitches, the June 18, 2022 election was a milestone. The incumbent Government sustained a conducive, peaceful environment, INEC was able to avoid technical hitches, the election materials arrived early, non-sensitive materials were deployed without hitches, no snatching of ballot papers and no ballot stuffing while the ad hoc and INEC staff conducted the election with the highest sense of responsibility. On election day, no death was recorded’, the two rights group said in its preliminary reports.
The groups in the report signed by its officials Fred Ojinika, Kudu Abubakar and Samuel Omotoyinbo said the outcome of the election reflected the aspirations of most of the registered voters in Ekiti State.
According to the groups, there was significant progress made by the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC) and the people of Ekiti State compared with previous elections.
“The election materials arrived early enough in almost all the 2,445 polling units across the 16 Local Governments and 19 Local Council Development Areas, (LCDAs). In all the 2,445 polling booths, there were reports of non availability of ink in only three of them, as observed by NHRC, which the INEC officials and ad hoc staff improvised by using ink from pen. This did not in any way affect the ability of voters to choose their candidates on the ballots” the groups which deployed 356 observers across the state said in its preliminary findings.
In previous elections, the NHRC and the CSC-MAP said Ekiti had dominated national discourse for the wrong reason adding that since 2007, elections in Ekiti have been characterized by violence.
“In 2007, some people were either killed or maimed. In 2014, the then incumbent State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi was nearly killed when a civilian not too far from him was shot by a police officer sent from Abuja by the then Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) controlled Federal Government. In 2019, Senator Bamidele Opeyemi also of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) was shot and wounded.”
The group said the 2022 June 18 election was a complete departure from the ugly past.
“There was no single incidence of violence and bloodletting, abduction, ballot snatching or killing on the day of the election. There was however the murder of a citizen few days before the election, an act allegedly traced to the Civil Defense Official protecting a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP).
The group said the Ekiti State Government also did not deploy Amotekun to be involved in the electoral process which remains a significant step by keeping the state security outfit from the platform of internal politics.
Generally, the atmosphere before, during and after the election was peaceful. The security officials, the Police, Soldiers and Civil Defense were less visible on the election day. While few of the soldiers mounted the highways, the armed police men kept a distant, polite watch on the polling units. There were no reports of violent human rights violations by state or non state actors unlike in the previous years.” The group commended the stakeholders the Ekiti State Government, INEC and other party leaders for their conducts during the election saying that there were no acts of aggression, intimidation or terror associated with the State Government or any of its officials.
“This is commendable. The June 18 election was the most peaceful election in Ekiti recent memory.”
On vote buying, the Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC) said it received information of vote buying by some of the participants which appears not restricted to a particular political party.
The groups said why there have been outcries, this immoral attribute is not new. It noted that prior the Ekiti elections, the same cash-for-vote was associated with the two mainstream political parties during their primary.
“In Ekiti State, it is also not a new phenomenon. For instance, vote buying was once institutionalized in Ekiti State under a former State Governor when bank accounts of voters were collected and credited with state funds before the election.
“That some voters took money to vote for their candidates should be seen within the broad context of the moral decline of individuals and the state across Nigeria which reflects the dramatic change in human orientation and sociology of Nigerians. It reflects the weak institutions that manage the country and the almost impotent is the mechanism for the enforcement of law and order.”
The groups said it should be noted that vote buying is an integral part of corruption in the electoral process which no single party or state can single handedly fight or eliminate adding that it requires a stronger Federal authority with a moral strength and courage of the voters themselves adding that the Federal Government today controls the institutions of law and its enforcement.
The group said in reality, while vote buying has been a custom in some parts of Nigeria, it is not an old practice in Ekiti according to many who spoke to NHRC and CSC-MAP observers. The groups said most people traced vote buying to the defunct National Party of Nigeria, (NPN) when Peugeot 504 GL was distributed by the then NPN controlled Federal Government to party chieftains which helped in the rigging of the 1983 elections in Ekiti state with consequent violent upheaval of the masses.
“It appears vote buying was reinforced in Ekiti in 2007, when the then Federal Government launched the slogan “Election is Do –or Die” which led to the day light robbery of voters in the entire South West states with the exception of Lagos State that retained its seat. Beginning from 2005, the concept of ‘Stomach Infrastructure’ was also elevated to state policy in Ekiti State. From this era, inducement of voters has become a norm. It is trite to expect June 18 to be significantly different from the moral malaise in Nigeria.”
It added that it appears political stakeholders adopt the strategy as a form of proportional response during elections in order not to be at the loose end of the stick.
“Dealing with the menace requires a national action plan and the political will and determination of the Federal Authority with the support of the people, the State and Local Governments. While vote buying is real, there is no saint among all the political parties. It should be noted that vote buying does not mean all the voters collected money to vote, there are profound and significant exception of thousands who voted according to their conscience” the right groups said. They said observations also revealed that the cash was given to existing party members, an indication that vote buying where they exist was largely intra-party and could not have significantly altered the results of the June 18 election.
As part of its recommendations, the groups said INEC should be commended for recording significant improvement in the June 18 Ekiti election. INEC should conduct NEEDS ASSESSMENT for polling booths accessibility across the state, while communities are encouraged to write to INEC for more polling booths before the next elections.
INEC was also urged to work with non-party actors to promote voters’ education in order to secure higher percentage turnout of voters in subsequent elections.
INEC was also urged to ensure that in subsequent elections, elderly people, nursing mothers and the physically challenged should be given preferences to enable them cast their votes due to their peculiar instances.
“Transmission of results of elections should be in further collaboration with more independent and government owned media in future elections while Communities and political parties should shun vote buying which undermines democracy. The Federal Government should strengthen law enforcement agents to discourage voter buyers and ensure those found are prosecuted” the groups said.