BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA
The Independent National Electoral Commission has released the time table for the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in both Ekiti and Osun States.
The time table shows that Ekiti state will go to the polls to elect a governor who will succeed the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, in June 2022 as he completes his constitutional two terms in office while Osun electorate will vote to give the incumbent Gboyega Oyetola, a second term, or make another choice in July 2022.
Both gubernatorial elections are coming on the heels of the Anambra gubernatorial election where the Electoral Commission introduced and tested some innovations that received both kudos and knocks from the politicians, electorates, political parties and observers.
The introduction of Biomodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) in the recently concluded Anambra gubernatorial election was a major focal point and political watchers believe the hitches recorded in that election can be improved on in the forthcoming elections in Ekiti and Osun states before the general elections in 2023.
Speaking with The Point, Convener of the Niger Delta Self Determination Movement, Annkio Briggs, said “On the recently concluded elections in Anambra state INEC was unable to deliver election materials, even if all the registered voters of 2,467,638 men and women came out to vote they would have been unable to vote. INEC is not fully independent of the government in power.
“INEC claims to be ready for electronic accreditations yet INEC’s BVAS machines failed, there was voters apathy based on fear for safety and the voters that came out were frustrated by INEC’s failures.”
The human rights activist expressed concern for future elections and INEC’s ability to conduct free, fair, credible and acceptable elections in 2023 as its independence is seemingly unclear.
“The concern for future elections should be if INEC cannot deliver electronically in one state election of 2.466, 638 registered voters only 253,388 were accredited, and over 34,000 police officers were deployed and thousands of other security personnel, the question is will Nigeria Federal Government deploy 1,020,000 police in 2023. I doubt if INEC can conduct, free, fair and acceptable elections in the future.”
“There were apprehensions before the Anambra election and also there are going to be apprehensions and tensions ahead of the Ekiti and Osun guber elections, that is given, however, I believe that when INEC and stakeholders get to that bridge they will cross it
Briggs also took a look at the Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial elections in June and July of 2022 and posited that a lot of variables will test the process.
“Those elections will be as tense as any other elections. There will be late delivery of materials, insecurity, and the APC will be determined to win elections just like any other party. The do or die attitude of politicians and political parties to elections even where clearly a political party is unpopular will remain a problem even beyond those staggered governorship elections.
“While I wish that Ekiti and Osun states’ politicians will allow their people choose through free, fair and acceptable elections and also wish the electorate will choose to establish their democratic right by getting their PVC and coming out to vote, the electorate should emulate the women we saw in Anambra state by shaming the vote buyers who disrespect them by putting a price on their votes.”
As for the 2023 general elections, Briggs expressed fears that agitations for self determination, restructuring, the call for a new constitution to replace the1999 constitution before the 2023 election in addition to the just demand that the Presidency must come to the South of Nigeria in 2023 cannot be wished away and that these will make the 2023 elections tension soaked.
“The electorate must make the decision to remain and that spirit of freedom to determine their future in Ekiti and Osun shunning candidates who are in the contest because their pay masters have instructed them to join the race for their hidden agenda,” she added.
Though she did not accuse any particular party or candidate, Briggs maintained that the electorate have the power to decide who governs them for the next four years and added that the Ekiti and Osu must shun vote buyers to discourage those starching money for vote buying in 2023.
In the same vein, the Executive Director, Adopt a Goal for Development Initiative and co-Convener Centre for Liberty, Dare Ariyo Atoyebi said the INEC deserves a commendation for a job well done in the recently concluded Anambra gubernatorial election though there were some shortfalls that can be corrected with time.
He said, “The Anambra gubernatorial election on November 6, in fact was a bash rain for the INEC. Of course there were hitches and there were issues but the poll actually reflected the general situation on the ground in Anambra state. The fact that there was voter apathy didn’t start with November 6. We must thank God that that election was peaceful and INEC summoned the courage to go ahead with it. There’s something we must do and that is to commend the courage of INEC staff and adhoc staff who went ahead with the election after all the pre-election tensions and troubles basically the killings. That is why the security agencies must investigate and fish out those who were behind those killings and heightening the security tension before the election. This is because the peace recorded during the election showed that it might not be IPOB who were behind the killings, it might be politicians.”
He also said the electoral umpires’ introduction of Biomodal Voters Accreditation System and other technologies such as transmission of result online, and for refusing to work with any of the players to manipulate results was commendable.
“In fact what we saw of Anambra state governorship election was the people’s choice and for the voter apathy, we saw that four years ago so it was not new to us as elections observers. Nothing has changed in terms of the attitude of Anambra people towards election and probably what stakeholders have to do is due diligence on how to get Anambra people involved in elections with the 2023 ahead.”
As the electoral time table shows that up next are the Ekiti and Osun states’ gubernatorial elections, Nigerians and the entire world have switched their focus on the South West states. Barely seven and eight months to go respectively, there are many questions regarding to the preparedness of all the stakeholders to make sure that the gains of Anambra election are replicated while the losses are addressed.
Atoyebi said “The BVAS technology is good one. Every technology has a downside even though that this new addition to our electoral process will require more attention in terms of people’s familiarity with it. This includes the INEC staff and adhoc staff in the deployment of BVAS but I want to say we are lucky as a nation, unlike in 2015 when the Card Reader was deployed generally without being tested in smaller elections but this time around the BVAS have been tested in Anambra state and will be tested also in Ekiti and Osun before the general elections in 2023.”
He noted that there were apprehensions before the Anambra state guber election and also there are going to be apprehensions before the Ekiti and Osun elections but believes that both INEC and stakeholders will do justice to that when the time comes.
“There were apprehensions before the Anambra election and also there are going to be apprehensions and tensions ahead of the Ekiti and Osun guber elections, that is given, however, I believe that when INEC and stakeholders get to that bridge they will cross it.
“The PDP has screened the aspirants and scheduled the primaries for late January, APC has released time table and is selling form already and the PDP is selling forms already in Osun state. All the political parties are doing what they are supposed to do within the confines of the released INEC time table, however, it’s going to give the INEC another opportunity to test their technology.”
Atoyebi said the main issue is not the introduction of technology by INEC rather, it is whether President Buhari would sign the Electoral Act Bill into law.
“Ekiti and Osun states’gubernatorial elections should be veritable grounds for INEC to consolidate the gains of Anambra but the need the need the commitment of all the stakeholders to achieve this. It is going to give the INEC another opportunity to test their application of technology but we are also hoping that the President will sign the Electoral Act amendments Bill into law in the next couple of days but the only thing is that if the President assents to the Bill, it will now be compelling on both the APC and PDP and even all the political parties to conduct their primaries based on direct primaries only.”
He said the two states will also serve as fertile testing grounds for the direct primaries and added that its success will go a long way to enshrine democracy in the hearts of the people and even eliminate voter apathy by encouraging them to troop out to vote for the candidates of their choice.
“We hope the political parties will learn from Anambra state by picking a popular candidates who will definitely try their hands out and try to get people’s appeal and the people of Ekiti and Osun will emulate the people of Anambra state.
“Definitely, in Ekiti state, Segun Oni is one of the most popular PDP aspirants, he is supporting someone as we gathered but it is left for the political parties to decide who is going to be their candidate. Governor Fayemi will definitely be interested in who takes over from him in the APC but in Osun, governor Oyetola will definitely want to seek for a second term and the PDP may want to give the ticket to Senator Adeleke again who was actually acclaimed to have won the last election but was rigged out. But this time around what happened in Osun that led to the process being manipulated might not happen again in 2022 because of the introduction of BVAS technology and online transmission and that is the reason for the President to sign the amendment into law to put paid to it so that we will all rely on the online results portal. In Ekiti too we hope it will be credible, transparent, fair and the best candidate will win.”
He maintained that apart from going to serve as testing grounds for the INEC technologies, Ekiti and Osun states’gubernatorial elections will also serve as testing grounds for the new electoral law.