Ahead of the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State, KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELEwrites that major political players have agreed to play by the rules of the game despite being suspicious of one another.
The issue of electoral violence has become a recurring decimal as the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State approaches, but key players in the political sector have stressed the need for politicians to play according to the rules of the game in order to achieve credible and acceptable election.
Despite the fears raised by some governorship candidates at a sensitisation workshop organised for political parties and stakeholders by the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, on Wednesday, keynote speakers, including officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, noted that Nigeria’s development was tied to fraud-free elections.
Candidates of 18 political parties will participate in the election. They include, Bankole Ajayi of the Accord party; Opeyemi Akinyemi (Action Alliance); incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi (All Progressives Congress); Opeyemi Bamidele (Labour Party); Ayo Fayose (Peoples Democratic Party) Adekola Ayo (Social Democratic Party) and Adeniji Philip (UDP).
Governor Fayemi and Bamidele did not attend the event, but they sent representatives. Fayose, Ajayi, Akinyemi, Ayo and Philip who did, took time out to express their worry over the growing trend of violence ahead of the election.
According to Fayose, the use of thugs may play out on the day of the election. He, however, warned that any PDP member caught in the act of violence should be made to account for his action.
The PDP candidate accused security agencies of not doing enough to check the excesses of thugs leading to the widespread violence. Fayose also raised the alarm that there was so much suspicion in the air, alleging that virtually all the hotels in the towns and villages in the state had been reserved for thugs ahead of the election.
“There is so much suspicion in the air, thugs are being hired, and all the hotels have been booked in the towns and villages. The INEC cannot be blamed if the election fails because it should be the role of the security agencies to check the excesses of unruly politicians.
“However, the winner of this election will emerge despite the threats, maiming and other kind of violence if it is God’s plan,” he said.
The situation was not different for the AP candidate who said the state had been bedevilled in electoral violence in the last couple of weeks.
The INEC Commissioner in charge of the South-West, Prof. Lai Olurode, who represented the commission’s chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, lamented that the recent by-election in Kano and Ondo state had been marred with violence.
He noted that the objective of the stakeholders’ workshop was important for the commission because it address issues dear to INEC.
Speaking on the fears raised by candidates, the states Commissioner of Police, Mr. Felix Uyanna, accused key leaders of parties of fuelling political violence.
Specifically, he disclosed that while the police had constantly met with stakeholders since the commencement of campaigns on the need to avoid violence, leaders of the APC, PDP and LP had been involved in large-scale violence.
Uyanna said, “Political party leaders are the cause of violence. It is sad that some of them have not taken our advice to avoid violence. Leaders of APC, LP and PDP have been involved in large-scale violence. So far, 70 persons across these political parties have been arrested.”
Disclosing measures to be taken to checkmate the excesses of politicians on the day of election, the police commissioner said that about 13, 000 policemen will monitor the exercise.
He also said each of the 2, 195 polling units will be monitored by three policemen each, while other top ranking officers will take charge of the collation centres and other strategic places.
In his opening remark, the convener of the workshop and Special Adviser to the President on Inter Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, said the presidency was aware of the highly charged political atmosphere in the state.
Obi noted that the essence of the workshop was for all party associates and stakeholders to rub minds on how to ensure a crisis-free election in Ekiti, adding that it was time for the key players to evolve machinery to educate supporters on the need to adhere to the rules and regulations guiding election.
He said, “The state belongs to all of you and the election is for all credible voters whose vote must count, but there can only be one winner. All candidates must therefore ensure that their supporters are thoroughly informed that in any election, there must emerge only one winner.
“The citizens have the right to choose in a free and fair election. For an election to be free and meaningful, an election precondition is that the political environment should be free of intimidation. It must have honest balloting and counting administered without fraud and individuals have reasonable opportunities to stand for election.”
The convener also stressed that the perception of many scholars and the larger society is that electoral fraud have contributed in no small measures to the underdevelopment of the country.
He said the Federal Government has continued to put in place structures that will elections in the country are free of rancour, manipulation and foul machinations.
For instance, Obi said, “There are ongoing institutionalised political reforms including the current National Conference; the Independent National Electoral Commission is being provided with necessary funding to safeguard its independence as part of the structure to ensure impartiality in election refereeing.”
Chairman of the one-day workshop and former Minister of Police Affairs, Gen. David Jemibewon (retd) advised contestants to accept defeat in the spirit of sportsmanship.
He added that the June 2014 election in Ekiti must conform to the United Nations resolution that recognises the responsibility of government in ensuring free and fair elections.
Jemibewon said political parties have the onus of ensuring peaceful atmosphere before, during and after election.
“The party executives have the duty of ensuring that they guard their utterances during campaign, they should abide by the code of conduct of the parties and refrain from inciting supporters. The people must be allowed to be the deciding factor, they must choose their leader,” he said.
In a paper titled ‘Democracy and the politics of election’, keynote speaker, Dr Eddie Iroh, urged political leaders to take examples from nations like South Africa, Ghana and some other African nations that had successfully conducted election without reported cases of electoral violence.
The keynote speaker pointed out that the last South African election was tagged ‘born free’ because for the first time since independence, the voting population included a great number of South Africans, blacks and white, who were born at the end of Apartheid.
“This young population, voting for the first time, changed the political demography of South Africa. It may not have changed the outcome of the election but a new voice was recognised to have entered the political space, and political parties had to take account in their narrative,” he stressed.
Iroh drew the attention of political leaders in Nigeria to the fact that by 2019, young crops of political leaders who were born after the military regime will be qualified to be voted for, stressing that it would be wrong to bequeath politics of violence to these emerging Nigerian leaders.
Iroh queried, “Have we considered this and the impact it will have? What legacy are we building for them, legacies which view politics and probably how they will vote? Are we still going to tell them the same old story?”
He urged stakeholders in the June 2014 governorship election in Ekiti to lay the right foundation for the youths.
Pointing out the relevance of the Ekiti governorship election, the Consul-General of the United States Embassy in Nigeria, Mr. Jeffery Hawkins, said the outcome of the exercise and that of the subsequent one to be conducted in Osun State will set the standard for the 2015 general elections.
He said, “This issue of electoral violence must be expunged once and for all from the history of the Nigerian elections. If you as a party believe that election is key, then you should do everything possible to play by the rules of the game. Nigerians want and deserve peaceful and credible elections in Ekiti and Osun states. Do everything in your power to meet these expectations.”
In concluding his presentation titled: Democratic sustenance for democracy through peaceful partisan politics, guest lecturer, Ayokunle Fagbemi, highlighted some factors that could facilitate the much desired Eldorado.
According to him, every stakeholder including political actors, electoral management body, security and law enforcement agencies as well as civil societies must enter into preventive peace building mode.
“This must be through series of actions that contributes to peace building initiatives aimed at stopping things that can undermine peace. All the stakeholders must engage in purposeful acts of preventing, mitigating or transforming partisan political conflict and consciously generate peace, concord and accord,” he opined.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the workshop, political parties and stakeholders, had among others, resolved to promote free and fair election by ensuring mutual respect and tolerance.
The workshop was the fourth in the series and it is similar to those organised earlier in Benin (June 2012), Akure (September 2012) and Awka (October 2013) for Edo, Ondo and Anambra governorship elections respectively.
This article was first published in The Punch on June 02, 2014.
Last modified: June 2, 2014