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As the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State is held tomorrow, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared its readiness to hold free, fair and credible elections.
A credible poll depends on many variables and at the top of the list are the safety and security of voters, election materials, election officials and the freedom of voters to make their choice without hindrance, including financial incentives.
16 political parties are vying for the ballot for the gubernatorial seat of Oke-Bareke in Ado-Ekiti. Most parties have traversed the nooks and crannies of the state selling their candidates and manifestos to the people.
Prominent among the gladiators are Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress, APC: Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, SDP; and Bisi Kolawole of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
Others are Wole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress, ADC; Ruben Famuyibo of the Accord; Debo Ranti Ajayi of the Youth Party, YPP; and 10 others.
Mention should be made of the first female candidate for the governorship of the state, Erelu Kemi Elebute-Halle of the Democratic Action Party, ADP. From the whistle of this race, she was consistent and highly visible, standing her ground and pushing her way through the male-dominated race. Despite the fact that all members of her party’s executive, from constituency level to state level, decamped to the ruling party, she was defiant and always on her feet.
What is at stake in this election is important. It’s a three-horse race. The arrival of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, changed the calculations of what could have been a direct fight between the two traditional rivals, APC and PDP. The two parties had until then maintained an apparent balance of power, with almost equal supporters, but the reality on the ground today is different. Segun Oni’s SDP attracts followers and supporters from both parties and is currently a strong contender.
The gubernatorial elections of Ekiti and Osun precede the 2023 presidential election, and both will serve as a litmus test of the popularity and general acceptability of the APC’s presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; and it will also mean the political relevance of the outgoing Governor, Kayode Fayemi.
To highlight the importance of Ekiti’s election, no less than 14 APC governors accompanied Tinubu to Ekiti, for the final mega grand rally to campaign for the party’s gubernatorial candidate, at the exception of the National President and Party Secretary and other party bigwigs including former National President Chief Bisi Akande.
Segun Oni, former governor of the state between 2007 and 2010, has his last chance at the seat of governor, after failing to organize a return twice through APC and PDP before finding a home in the SDP.
Former Governor Ayo Fayose’s investment in this race is a fight for political relevance, since all politics is local, a successful enthronement of his protege in Ekiti, will mark a great comeback and a significant role in the presidential election of 2023.
The signs ahead of Saturday’s election are very worrying. Already two lives have been lost. A momentary peace, like the peace of a graveyard, permeated the state. Violent skirmishes and clashes between the three main political parties are recorded daily.
Since Monday, June 13, detachments of heavily armed soldiers have taken control of strategic areas and hotspots in the state, while combined forces, comprising men from the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps, police and of the army, constantly embark on patrols on the main roads. and state highways.
Undeterred by the tension in the state, the CENI told the people of the state that it was ready to hold credible elections.
Prof Mahmood Yakubu revealed on Tuesday that four National Commissioners and eight Resident Election Commissioners had been deployed to Ekiti State ahead of the poll.
He said 749,065 voters representing 76% of the 988,923 registered voters in the state have collected their Permanent Voter, PVC cards.
He said, “Let me assure political parties and voters that the task of electing a new governor will be left to the voters of Ekiti. We will not take any action that would put a party and candidate in an advantageous position. We will do everything in accordance with the constitution and the provisions of the electoral law.
“To underline how prepared we are, we have provided magnifying glasses and Braille ballot papers to visually impaired citizens, while Bimodal Voter Authentication System, BVAS, machines will be used for accreditation.
Similarly, Resident Commissioner of Ekiti INEC, Dr. Adeniran Tella said the Commission will deploy 10,269 personnel and 3,346 BVAS equipment for the election.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Usman Alkali Baba, was outspoken when he said that any threat to the country’s nascent democracy would not be tolerated.
Baba said 17,374 police officers would be deployed to provide security for the June 18 gubernatorial elections in Ekiti state.
The police chief said: “All 177 wards and 2,445 polling stations will be staffed with appropriate manpower. Let me say this, the mass deployment is not to scare citizens, but to protect the sanctity of ballots and the provisions of election law.
This excludes personnel from the National Security and Civil Defense Corps and other security agencies.
Baba dismissed the insinuation that the heavy security presence would create voter apathy saying it would instead ensure high voter turnout in the election
He assured voters that adequate security personnel are on hand to deal with any security threats that may prevent them from exercising their voting rights during the ballot.
Political observers fear that beyond the rhetoric, the election arbiter and security agencies will disclose the measures put in place to prevent the financial inducement of voters, a development that has gained momentum in the recent political trajectory of the country. They said if the practice is not nipped in the bud, it could affect the outcome of the election.

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