By Nseobong Okon -Ekong
Voters in the Ekiti State governorship election have exercised their right to vote, under an atmosphere that was largely secure, calm and peaceful.
In all the polling units visited in seven local governments including Ado, Oye, Irepodun-Ifelodun, Ikere, Ilejemeje, Ijero and Ido-Osi, agents of the umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), voters, security agents, the media and election monitors were seen participating in the electoral process without any hindrance.
Each of the polling units had the presence of a police team comprising five unarmed personnel. The INEC officials were clearly distinguished in their uniforms. The voting area was also secluded to ensure privacy for voters and at a distance from the accreditation point.
However, armed soldiers were observed mounting roadblock and sometimes patrolling major highways. Other armed personnel of security agents including the Police, the DSS and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps moved around the state to keep would-be trouble makers at bay, but they observed the INEC electoral guidelines which forbids armed personnel coming close to a voting area.
Commenting on the security situation, an independent election monitor, Mr. Chapp Jumbo Jonathan, Coordinator, Values Reorientation Initiatives and Advocacy, observed that earlier reports on the social media were scary and did not at all corroborate the largely peaceful nature of the election. He said, “Going by the image painted in the media, you would have thought that Ekiti State would go up in flames today, but we are on ground and everything is going well. There is calm and peace everywhere.”
Another civil society organisation, Yaga Africa Watching the Vote led by its Executive Director, Mr. Samson Itodo, noted, “This has been a very impressive election, in 79 per cent of the polling units, INEC officials arrived at 7.30am. We have 541 observers on ground. We are going to jndependently verify the result of today’s election.”
Impressed by the determination of the people to end the cycle of violence during electoral process in Ekiti, Mr. Obinna Nwaka, director, Political and Democratic Matters of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), commended the synergy between the agents of the political gladiators in the Ekiti governorship contest. “I think we witnessed a new Ekiti. They have sent a loud and clear message to youths in other parts of the country:. Don’t kill your brother over political differences.”
In the same vein, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Thomas Arkwright, said, “the most important thing is that people are allowed to vote and be seen to have done so in a secure environment and that is what seems to be happening.”
Ekiti has an ugly past steeped in electoral violence, pre-dating its excision from the old Ondo State. A couple of violent incidents were recorded during campaigns leading to the 2018 governorship election, which led many political pundits to predict that 2018 governorship election may spark another round of violence.