In Ondo, All Eyes on INEC

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After the Edo extraordinary progress, there is a new focus on the electoral body. Can it again deliver?

The governorship election in Ondo State coming up this Saturday is yet another opportunity for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to showcase its preparedness for the onerous responsibility it shoulders. With all the accolades the commission received on the conduct of the recent Edo State gubernatorial poll, it would be a shame for the Ondo election to end up in acrimony or marred by malpractices. If INEC is able to conduct the poll in such a manner that voters are able to exercise their franchise, all legitimate votes are counted and a winner eventually declared in a transparent manner, then the commission will begin to earn the trust of Nigerians.

Although the build-up to the Ondo election has not been as nasty as that of Edo State, the stakes are equally high. Like the Edo poll, this election also reflects the tragedy of political parties in Nigeria. The sitting deputy governor is contesting against his principal under a political party different from the one that gave him the office he still occupies. Invariably, while there are several candidates in the race, it is basically a three-horse race between the incumbent Rotimi Akeredolu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), his deputy, Agboola Ajayi flying the flag of Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Eyitayo Jegede of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The outcome of the Edo poll, generally adjudged to be free and fair, has rekindled hope that democracy is not too frail a plant to survive the Nigerian environment if the stakeholders resolve to doing the right thing. But there are those who believe the outcome may have resulted from the threat by both the United States and United Kingdom to impose visa ban on any politician found to have instigated violence and electoral malpractices. Besides, the revelation by President Muhammadu Buhari that he specifically directed the Inspector-General of Police to ensure that the election was free and fair also reaffirmed that it would take more than INEC to deliver on credible polls.

However, we expect the INEC to raise their standard by passing the test on logistics ahead of the conduct of the poll. In virtually all elections in Nigeria, the commission always falters on this issue. This was also the case during the Edo election as voting materials and electoral officers arrived late to some polling units while card readers malfunctioned in several places. We urge INEC to deploy the best of smart card readers and other devices to be used for the election while electoral officers demonstrate a strict sense of professionalism by arriving early at their duty posts along with all the requisite materials.

INEC should build on the template it used for the conduct of Edo election two weeks ago. The commission’s decision to open a portal which enabled electoral officers to transmit results of elections from polling units directly to the portal went a long way in frustrating forces who usually manipulate results at night. With results from polling station transmitted to the portal that was accessible to the general public, there was little or no room for election riggers. We therefore commend INEC for the initiative and urge the commission not only to sustain it on Saturday but also to improve on it until all avenues for malpractices are completely blocked in our electoral process.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding the posturing by the principal actors, one fact about the Ondo State gubernatorial election which also is true with all Nigerian elections is that it will not be fought on ideological platforms. But the tragic example of the Second Republic is also a reminder that Ondo State has the potential to explode from a mere spark over a simple political argument. Then, as now, the governor and his deputy were central characters in the election that pitched the duo as combatants against each other. What that suggests is the need for all stakeholders to recognise the importance of holding a peaceful and credible election and above all, respect the choice of the electorate after the ballots are counted.
May the best candidate win.

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There is the need for all stakeholders to recognise the importance of holding a peaceful and credible election and above all, respect the choice of the electorate after the ballots are counted