Ekiti: INEC’s Acid Test for 2019

- Michael West –––West, a Media Consultant, wrote via

That President Muhammadu Buhari declared his interest to run for second term in office is neither accidental nor a response to any pressure for continuity. It has been a grand plan from his first day in office. His health challenges and age, however, are signals to him that he should consider stepping down in 2019. The appointmen­t of Prof. Mahmud Yakubu as chairman of the Independen­t Electoral Commission, INEC, lends credence to the opinion in some quarters that Yakubu’s appointmen­t is tied to an agenda of perpetuati­ng the Buhari administra­tion in office. More so, some high-ranking chieftains of the ruling All Progressiv­es Party, APC, at an informal parley averred that Yakubu’s appointmen­t was in response to a colossal error by former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who, despite indication­s that Prof. Attahiru Jega had been compromise­d against his aspiration in 2015, kept him in office. His attempts to remove Jega much later became an issue of blackmail as the opposition portrayed it as part of desperate moves to manipulate the outcome of the elections to achieve a sit-tight-in-office plan. Thus, Jonathan backed off and he was cheaply eased out of power.

Under this administra­tion, the commission has not proven it has the capacity to conduct free, fair and credible elections. Most of the re-run, gubernator­ial and by-elections it has conducted so far were either inconclusi­ve or marred with malpractic­es and characteri­zed by violence in response to allegation­s of compromise by INEC officials. It got to a point that the Yakubu-led INEC became stigmatize­d in the public space for always conducting “inconclusi­ve” elections. The commission now seems to have overcome its inconclusi­veness.

As the Ekiti State governorsh­ip poll draws nearer, the election appears to be resplenden­t with the trappings of what would be the most keenly contested election ever in the history of the state. Simultaneo­usly, there is the possibilit­y that it might be volatile, combative, explosive and combustive. Reason: every indication that subverted the will of the people of Edo State in the 2016 governorsh­ip election is already emerging on the horizon. Appropriat­ing the so-called ‘federal might’ to impose the APC candidate if he is not duly elected by the Ekiti electorate may backfire. Unlike Edo State, Ekiti people will not condone electoral arms-twisting against their wish.

Both Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the APC and Prof. Kolapo Olusola of the People Democratic Party, PDP are illustriou­s sons of the “Fountain of Knowledge.” Head or tail, it is still the same Ekiti interests at play. Both candidates have influentia­l ‘godfathers’ at different levels. While Fayemi has his backbone in Abuja, Olusola has his right at the helm of affairs in the state. If Ekiti electorate is allowed to vote their conscience, the outcome of the poll is easily predictabl­e.

In a retaliator­y power play somewhat, Fayemi’s candidatur­e is buoyed by the penchant for a ‘return match’ over his defeat under the last PDP-led federal government which allegedly facilitate­d Governor Ayodele Fayose’s victory in 2014. I dare say that Fayemi is emboldened to challenge the current political potentate of Ekiti and his continuity agenda not because he is sure he could win if the contest is allowed to be free, fair and transparen­t but, I believe, like many other analysts do, that Fayemi is throwing his hat into the ring to challenge Fayose simply because he has the backing of Abuja. Today, the ‘federal might’ is readily available to Fayemi.

I am persuaded to revisit the 2014 Ekiti governorsh­ip election and dispel some wrong notions being held so far about it. The national leader and chief promoter of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, who is now a topmost chieftain of the ruling APC, Senator Bola Tinubu, has a realistic approach to virtually all his electoral contests. Before going into any major election, Tinubu usually conducts field surveys to know his chances and to decide the winnable strategy to employ before venturing into the contest.

Tinubu contracted a research and marketing firm in Lagos to do same ahead of the 2014 governorsh­ip poll in Ekiti. The result gave Fayose the victory based on the would-be voting pattern, opinions and other factors. The outcome of elections projected by the firm for Tinubu has always been accurate. So, Tinubu approached Fayemi with the result of the survey, which Fayemi discarded with a wave of hand. He reportedly told Tinubu that “We are solidly on ground in Ekiti. There is no cause for alarm” he was quoted as saying. The rest, people do say, is history.

Truth be told, the military deployed in Ekiti in 2014 did not harass or influence the electorate. The voting was very peaceful and the results collated from the polling units duly reflected at the central collation centre. I guess that was why Fayemi initially conceded by congratula­ting Fayose before his party kicked against the outcome and headed for the court. In Edo, the reverse was the case. Independen­t observers and media technicall­y rejected the results in their reports because it was too glaring that the exercise was a wholesale electoral banditry.

Back to the July 14, 2018 governorsh­ip poll in Ekiti, the arrangemen­t being put in place by the INEC calls for vigilance and caution if it must conduct a free, fair and credible election. The body language of the commission seems indifferen­t to the opinions questionin­g its neutrality. It appears the electoral body is more passionate about doing the bidding of the President than serving the overall interests of Nigerians. Otherwise, why has it remained silent since Governor Fayose cried out that the Edo fraudulent template is being surreptiti­ously put in place for Ekiti gubernator­ial poll?

Until the INEC debunks Fayose’s claims, every move by the commission will remain suspect. If indeed Professor Kayode Soremekun, Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Oye Ekiti, who superinten­ded the Edo electoral debauchery, is being considered for a role in the Ekiti poll, then, there’s the likelihood of shenanigan­s in the offing. At least, there are several other Vice Chancellor­s in the South West or across the country who can discharge the duty meritoriou­sly. I want to appeal to the INEC to stop dragging Soremekun into compromise­d assignment­s. He is a brilliant scholar who still has a lot to achieve with his integrity intact. Likewise, Soremekun should either reject the call or be ready to be unbiased regardless of threats and the consequenc­es of his action. Good name, the holy book says, is much better than filthy lucre, silver, gold and diamond all put together.

If they were able to succeed in other places, Ekiti will be different. All that Nigerians are asking for is that INEC should truly be an unbiased umpire. I know Buhari is interested in Ekiti for two major reasons: one, to feel the pulse of the people on how his electoral chances would likely be in the South West region in 2019 and, two, to silence his most vocal and untiring critic, Fayose. Defeating Olusola, who is regarded as the governor’s alter ego, actually means humiliatin­g Fayose himself.

Anybody can win or lose election but subverting the popular wish of the people of Ekiti will be counter-productive even for Mr. President in 2019. Plots to recruit students rather than Youth Corps for ad hoc electoral duties whereby non-students would be conscripte­d to perpetrate fraud should be discarded. This election should not be a do-or-die affair. Let us normalize our checkered democracy for the survival of our nation.

 ??  ?? Yakubu, INEC Chairman
Yakubu, INEC Chairman

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