With over 30,000 security officials deployed in the rather small 6353 sq. km of Ekiti State, the place does look like a police state. I was not surprised when the APC Chairman of Ekiti State expressed the opinion to stakeholders that the security presence was so massive that ordinary people were feeling intimidated and terrorized.
The question on many minds is whether the huge arsenal of military equipment deployed to the State would not have been more profitably used in the North East where the insurgency has been galloping unhindered and people were being massacred and abducted at will. In the stakeholders meeting on Wednesday, the Inspector General of Police dressed in battle fatigues was as stern as possible.
He warned politicians that with their massive deployment and aerial patrol by helicopters, they are ready to nip any trouble in the bud. He warned government officials and VIPs that they cannot move with government vehicles or their personal security or thugs. Even umbrellas will not be allowed on the streets and “no stupidity will be tolerated” he added.
The Inspector General of Police [IG] also repeatedly warned that non-indigenes who are not involved with election administration would not be allowed into the state. This was a strange statement, as you do not have to be an indigene to vote, all that is required is that you are registered to vote in the State. In his response to the I-G, Ayo Fayose, the PDP candidate said that after the speech, he now has confidence that the police would do their work properly. He called on the I-G to withdraw the huge police contingent in Government House and that he himself is ready to give up his personal police protection for the duration of the election.
On Thursday, some APC governors coming into Ekiti to participate in their party’s final campaign rally were prevented from entry. This was a very strange behavior on the part of security agencies as parties have the right to invite their out of state supporters to their rallies. I do hope that the action is not a sign of blatant partisanship by the police. It would be unfortunate if that was what the Police I-G meant when he said he would stop non-indigenes from entry into the State.
In his own address at the stakeholder’s meeting, the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega assured parties and candidates that the election would be free, fair and credible. Party agents would be accredited to observe all phases of the process. Ballot papers and even ballot boxes are serially numbered to prevent rigging and called on stakeholders to discount rumours about illegal ballots coming into the State. He said that even if some people print theirs, they would be caught because they cannot get the serial numbers and other security features.
Both the APC and PDP asked Jega for certified true copies of the voters register and his response was that the parties had already been given electronic PDF copies of the register, which is an exact copy of the real register. It’s virtually impossible to give hard copies because there are millions of pages he explained. He also dismissed the rumour recounted at the meeting that the voters’ cards are being cloned. No one can clone the security features in the voter’s card he assured. The APC chairman asked for confirmation that some PDP elements had been arrested thumb printing and the Police I-G responded that some people had indeed been arrested and investigation was on-going so he could not confirm nor deny why they were arrested.
Recognizing that free, fair and violence free elections depend on political parties faithfully adhering to the provisions of the electoral laws and the code of conduct of political parties, the Centre for Democracy and Development, convened a high-level stakeholders meeting of political parties, Gubernatorial Candidates, Traditional and Religious leaders, civil society organisations and security personnel in Ado Ekiti on Tuesday. The purpose was to get gubernatorial candidates, in the presence of their traditional, religious leaders and other relevant stakeholders, to commit to an Electoral Pact to avoid all acts, including violence, improper conduct or illegal acts that could throw the states into confusion or chaos in Pre, Election Day and Post-Election phases of the election.
The meeting became necessary following the mutual recriminations and violent conflicts which had been occurring between the political parties in the build up to June 21st Governorship election. Indeed, the main parties appeared to have completely disregarded the Political Parties of the Code of Conduct signed by the Political Parties themselves in 2011 and 2013.
The parties present at the meeting recognized and acknowledged the immense responsibility imposed upon them in a democracy and committed to creating an enabling environment for the conduct of peaceful, free and fair gubernatorial election. They signed the pact of commitment to non-violence and strict compliance to their code of conduct and the electoral act. The pact was signed by INEC, the Inter Party Advisory Council, the Ajero of Ijero, His Royal Highness Oba Adebayo, the Alara of Aramoko, Oba Adegoke Olu Adeyemi (Co-Chair Nigeria Inter-religious Council Ekiti State Chapter), His Lordship Bishop Felix Ajakaiye (Co-Chair Nigeria Inter-Religious Council Ekiti State Chapter). The political parties also signed except the top three parties – the APC, Labour Party and PDP. I do hope that the this refusal by the parties of the three leading gubernatorial candidates – Kayode Fayemi, Bamidele Opeyemi and Ayo Foyose to sign is not a signal that they are going to engage in violent conflict.
Meanwhile, there is massive presence of civil society election observers groups including the Transition Monitoring Group, the Centre for Democracy and Development, the Situation Room and the Nigerian Bar Association. The massive interest in the Ekiti election is linked to the general belief that it would fore tale next year’s general elections. We are all hoping that the message that will flow out of the election would be assurance of free, fair and credible polls.
Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim, a senior fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, and also Chairman of Premium Times editorial board, is in Ekiti as an election monitor.