Any foreigner or Nigerian in the Diaspora who listened to the spokesman of the Nigeria Police Force, Mr. Jimoh Moshood, as he appraised the public on security arrangement for the Osun poll would think a fierce battle is raging in the state. But all that is scheduled to hold tomorrow in the ‘State of the Living Spring’ is an election to produce a new governor and the Deputy Inspector- General of Police (Operations), Mr. Joshak Habilla, has been deployed to take charge of all police activities. He is being assisted by an Assistant Inspector- General of Police, eight police commissioners, 40,000 personnel and critical units, including the Mobile Force, Bomb Disposal Unit , among others.
Everything points at police activities nationwide being shut down for what should be a simple civic duty. In other parts of the world, including African countries, elections are not allowed to disrupt social, economic and political activities. Here, not only is a whole armament including two patrol helicopters, 30 armoured personnel carriers and 300 patrol vehicles being deployed, life is practically shut down from 12 midnight tonight until after the election, as there would be no vehicular movement. This is a convenient point for all involved to begin plans to change this now all too familiar template. Nigerians are human and generally peace loving and do not need a militarised environment to cast their votes.
We call on the Federal Government, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies, the political parties and candidates, as well as the electorate to conduct themselves as decent people in accordance with the code of conduct. Almost 58 years after independence, and 19 years into the current democratic dispensation, we ought to have progressed beyond the phase where undue brigandage, politics of bitterness and barefaced manipulation of the process is the order of the day. In the build-up to tomorrow’s election, the usual brickbats, unfounded allegations against opponents and the electoral umpire and inflammatory statements were again being hurled across party lines. We call on the umpires and security agents to be neutral and professional in their conduct. They should not fall prey to politicians’ tricks; they should in fact realise that they would one day be made to account for their actions. Those who were illegally used to manipulate the Ekiti election in 2014 have since been exposed and dealt with. Those who used them are no longer in position to shield them from the long arms of the law.
All the agencies involved in conducting the Osun poll in the 3,764 polling units across the 332 wards in the state should realise that they are agents of state writing history and giving indication of how the 2019 general elections would go.
The 1.2 million registered voters owe themselves the duty of voting according to their conscience. The shameful purchase of votes that characterised the July 14 Ekiti governorship election should be checked, at least at the polling stations and in the full glare of foreign and domestic observers. We hope Nigeria would one day rise beyond any form of inducement to vote in candidates at elections. Almost four years after the 2015 general elections, and with many bye elections already conducted since then, the card reader machines ought to have been perfected. That they still did not work perfectly in the Ekiti election is an indication that something may be fundamentally wrong with the design and manufacturing. We hope, as Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman has indicated, they have indeed been overhauled for this exercise as a means of giving confidence to all stakeholders.
Whatever INEC and the security agents make of superintending the Osun governorship poll will signpost what to expect next year.