Ekiti decides – The Nation

  • At the end of the day, it’s an election, not war, tomorrow in Ekiti. So, let every partisan play by the rule; and security agencies enforce the law

The election is the apex of free choice in a democratic culture. Yet, in Nigeria’s rather evolving democracy, with a peculiar bizarre culture, election eves more often resemble preparation and mobilisation for war, and not a relaxed prelude to free and peaceful choice. Ekiti, due for gubernatorial polls tomorrow, is no exception.

The build-up would appear a virtual war. Thirty thousand police personnel are under deployment, with the full complement of armoured personnel carriers and allied security hardware. They will be under the command of a deputy inspector-general of police (DIG), assisted by an assistant inspector-general of police (AIG), backed by further three commissioners of police (CPs), at the base of the command chain.

This is not mentioning the DSS cadre, some of them, alleged to be wearing masks — a charge the Federal Government should swiftly investigate and correct, if true — according to a newspaper advert on the election by the “majority of Obas in Ekiti State”, on the platform of the Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers.

This epitomises militarisation, a contradiction in terms to free and unfettered choice, the essence of democracy. Yet, it must be admitted, it had always been militarisation to secure free choice, because of the wrong socialisation by political partisans, with their do-or-die mindset.

So, the build-up to Ekiti has been similar to the build-ups, in other out-of-season governorship elections, such as Anambra and Ondo; and strictly Ekiti is nothing new. Indeed, toning down security could well be tantamount to leaving the door ajar for electoral rape.

That would appear even a worse alternative, given that the Ekiti gubernatorial election cycle — and other states outside the four-yearly general election season — had resulted from grave electoral heists, leading to long electoral litigations, climaxing in the re-award of the elections to their rightful winners.

But there is a limit to thumping security to ensure safe elections. It only leads to an atmosphere of siege, which not a few argue, is tantamount to the paradox of forced choices. To gradually de-militarise election seasons, past suspects of electoral crimes must be tried; and those found guilty convicted. With more convicts from electoral crimes, the message would be clear to future felons: fiddling with the people’s vote is a serious crime that earns stiff and stern punishment.

Be that as it may, given this is the best the polity can offer, the security agencies had better buckle down to it. They should be firm but fair to all the contesting parties. That and only that can guarantee a free and fair election, in which even the loser would be proud the “nay” of his supporters has validated the “aye” of the majority. That is how democracy rolls.

In Ekiti, the major parties have been a disappointment, if ill-tempered bickering is the yard stick.  On both sides, there has been too much bellicosity and threats, that suggests there would be no life in Ekiti after July 14. Governor Ayodele Fayose, with his high drama and rather wild accusations, has been pointedly hysterical. His leading challenger, former Governor Kayode Fayemi, has been no less hard in his cold threats. Their mutual supporters have simply gone ballistic, pushing a doomsday scenario. Although Governor Fayose is not running, he is pushing his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola to succeed him on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Fayemi is the All Progressives Congress’ (APC’s) flagbearer in the election.

It is high time both parties cooled down. They have talked the talk, as fiery and emotive as they come, during electioneering. It’s time for Ekiti to walk the walk, in the sanctity of free and sacred choice. The high point of democracy is that the electorate, from the utility perspective, can never be wrong: they would enjoy, if they choose right; they would endure, if they choose wrong. Their electoral destiny is, therefore, squarely in their hands.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), supported by the security agencies, thus has a clear mandate: go the extra mile to ensure the election is free, fair and clean.

That is the only thing that can compensate for the dislocation of life, fast becoming a prelude to every election in Nigeria.

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