Security has been beefed up in Ekiti State as political parties battle for votes in the 2022 governorship election.
Analysts, however, feared that the exercise, which will be conducted across 2,445 polling units in the 16 local government areas in the state, might be largely influenced by apathy and inducement by the major political parties.
It was reported that 16 candidates are participating in the poll, which will be decided by 988,923 registered voters, out of which 51 per cent are women and 38.56 per cent youths (18-34).
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said only 749,065 voters collected their permanent voters cards for the election. However, a total of 403,451 votes were cast in the 2018 election, won by Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who recorded 197,462 votes against his main challenger, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) Kolapo Olushola, who had 177,927 votes. Thirty-three other candidates had 9,205 votes, while 18,857 votes were declared invalid.
The 2022 election is expected to be a tight race between the candidates of the ruling APC, Abiodun Oyebanji and a former governor of the state, Segun Oni, an engineer, who is the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). The candidate of the PDP, Bisi Kolawole, is also expected to mount a challenge for the coveted position.
Oyebanji, who is backed by the incumbent governor, resigned as secretary to the state government to contest the poll.
The Ikogosi Ekiti-born technocrat served as the secretary of the group that lobbied the late General Sani Abacha for the creation of Ekiti State in 1996. He also served as special assistant on legislative matters to the first civilian governor of the state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, before ending up as his chief of staff.
During Fayemi’s first term, he served as commissioner for integration before he was deployed to the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning.
Oni of the SDP will be going to the poll with the integrity of the profile he demonstrated when he was the governor of the state. However, he is not expected to have enough financial backing to challenge the two main parties – APC and PDP – in an election that analysts said might be decided by what locals call ‘dibo ko sebe’ (vote buying).
An Ekiti-based analyst, Kayode Opeyemi, said the outcome of the poll might be decided by vote buying as a result of the high rate of poverty in the country.
“We expect agents of the leading candidates to outdo one another in a bid to buy the votes of the people,” he said.
Fayemi, Oni trade word over arrest of supporters
Meanwhile, Oni yesterday alleged that security operatives were arresting his supporters to demoralise them ahead of the election.
He specifically warned the chief security officer to Governor Fayemi not to allow himself to be used to set the state on fire.
Oni, who spoke at the party’s secretariat in Ado-Ekiti, said his supporters were arrested and detained by the chief security officer to the governor.
However, Mr Yinka Oyebode, the chief press secretary to Fayemi, rubbished the claim, describing it as ‘a lie from the pit of hell.’ He argued that the chief security officer had no influence over the security architecture for the election, which he noted was even beyond the commissioner of police in the state.
He claimed that security operatives were picking up any identified threat irrespective of political parties or affiliations.
Police embark on aerial surveillance
In a related development, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), yesterday embarked on an aerial patrol of Ado Ekiti, the state capital as part of its confidence building measures. Men of the Force, alongside sister agencies, including the military, also intensified patrol of the state in a show of force in the capital and other major towns.
The NPF, which deployed over 17,000 operatives to provide security during the election, announced restriction of vehicular movements within the state, particularly along the entry and exit points with effect from 12:00am on June 18, to 6:00pm of the same date.
The Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Usman Alkali Baba, through the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Force CID, DIG Johnson Babatunde Kokumo, who is the election security commander for the Ekiti State gubernatorial election, said all necessary assets had been mobilised in partnership with other security agencies to provide adequate security and ensure free, fair and credible election.
The IGP assured the public of the readiness of the police to perform its statutory duty of protection of lives and property of law-abiding citizens of Ekiti State throughout the period of the election and beyond, while calling on everyone to support and cooperate with the operatives deployed and ensure a prompt report of any suspicious person or group of persons to the nearest police station.
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) also said it deployed 9, 747 personnel for the exercise.
Flashpoints in the state include ward 8 in Ado-Ekiti, Atikankan area in the state capital, Ikere Ekiti and Omuo-Ekiti East constituency I, where a by-election would also be conducted for the state House of Assembly.
Yiaga Africa expresses concern
A civic society group, Yiaga Africa, has expressed concern about the imbalance in the distribution of voters to polling units, noting that the INEC is yet to address the concern about oversized polling units.
The group said that based on INEC’s final list, there were 75 polling units with over 1,000 registered voters, 11 with over 2,000 voters and 1 polling unit with 3,429 registered voters. It also bemoaned the lack of adequate public information on the new polling unit’s location and the distribution of voters to these polling units.
The executive director of Yiaga Africa, Samson Itodo, in a statement issued in Ado-Ekiti, noted that the decision to deploy the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) would no doubt improve the quality and transparency of elections. He, however, said that “while the commission conducted a mock exercise in a few polling units to test the functionality of the BVAS, we are worried about the low public participation in the exercise.”
Applauding the decision of the INEC to refrain from storing sensitive materials at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) due to the allegation of partisanship levelled against its governor, he expressed worry about the perennial challenge of poor logistics plans, stressing that “in recent times, the partnership with the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) was soured by sabotage and greed.”
The chief security officer appealed to INEC officials, security agencies, political party candidates and their supporters, as well residents of the state, to work together to ensure the success of the poll.
Meanwhile, queues resurfaced at major filling stations in Ado-Ekiti and its environs yesterday. Fuel stations in most parts of the state capital were under lock and key while the few selling the product increased the price.
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