Last Saturday’s Local government election in Ekiti state could be described as remarkable because of the peaceful and orderly manner it was conducted by the State Independent Electoral Commission. Segun James and Gbenga Sodeinde report.
Every election, they say, is important. More so when it comes to local government poll.
The reason for this is not far fetched because citizens know who is who and their capability and standing among the people and communities that make up the council area. Hence, election into the third tier of government has always been difficult, contentious and sometimes, bloody.
This is so because the council areas are the nearest to the people at the grassroots and it is very difficult to rig at this level, hence most state governments never conduct elections into this level of government.
This is why it was unprecedented last Saturday when in Ekiti state more women vied for various positions at the local governmentlevel. The list include seven female candidates for chairmanship; 16 candidates for Vice Chairmanship position and 33 candidates for the councillorship position.
The development, according to Governor Biodun Oyebanji, is not only heart-warming, but speaks to the fact that democracy is taking a firm root in Ekiti state.
Recall that pursuant to Section 5, Subsection 1 of the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission Law (Third Amendment) No. 13 of 2021, on September 29, 2023, the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission (EKSIEC) announced that the 2023 LGA and Local Council Development Area (LCDA) elections will be conducted on December 2, in the 16 LGAs and 22 LCDAs across the state.
On Saturday, 7th of October 2023, Ward Congresses were held to elect Chairmanship and Councillorship candidates.
Submission of the list of qualified and unqualified candidates to political parties and replacement of candidates by political parties was held between 6th and 10th of November, 2023.
Publication of names of electoral officers nominated by political parties and issuance of notice of polls took place on the 20th of November 2023.
On Tuesday, November 21, 2023, the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), kicked off their campaigns across the state at ward and local government levels ahead of the December 2, 2023 polls.
Thursday, November 30, 2023: Distribution of election materials by the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission for the LGA/LCDA elections commenced.
However, last Saturday’s elections into Local Government offices went smoothly and ended on a peaceful note across the State, though the exercise witnessed low turnout of voters in many voting centres
THISDAY correspondent who monitored the polls in Ado-Ekiti, the State capital and other major towns and villages, gathered that counting of votes went smoothly.
The exercise, covers the 16 Constitutionally recognized Local Government Areas (LGAs), and 22 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs), while 13 political parties participated while the timeline for the elections was between 8:00am and 4:00 pm in the evening.
Political parties on the ballot of the election include, Action Alliance , Action Democratic Party, African Democratic party Party, All Progressives Congress, Labour Party, New Nigeria People’s Party, People’s Redemption Party and Zenith Labour Paty
The local government elections, which were though greeted with low turnout of voters in many places, were largely adjudged violent-free across the 2,195 polling units in the state by the electorate.
The restriction of movement between 8a.m. and 2p.m, announced by both the state government and the police, was largely ineffective, as motorists and motorcyclists were seen moving around Ado-Ekiti and other towns visited.
Also at many popular markets, such as Oja Oba, Oja Irona and Oja Enu Odi markets in Ado-Ekiti, and other towns, traders were seen doing their businesses unhindered, while commercial motorcyclists were seen doing skeletal works across the capital city.
Some shops and filling stations in the capital city and other towns also opened for business activities as the polls lasted.
Speaking to newsmen after casting his vote at his family compound in Unit 003, Okelele, Ward 06, Ikogosi-Ekiti, in Ekameta LCDA, Governor Oyebanji, though confirmed the low turnout, commended the transparent process.
He described the election as free and fair, based on the peaceful reports he received from the field so far.
According to him, there had never been any reports of harassment or intimidation of individuals or parties so far by anyone, from any quarter across the state, saying this must have contributed to the overall peaceful atmosphere witnessed.
The governor lauded the electorates for fulfilling their civic obligation by coming out to exercise their franchise while also commending the State Independent Electoral Commission (EKSIEC) for their transparent conduct, urging residents to remain peaceful, even after the outcome.
He said, “local government elections can get better, as the most critical arm of government in respect of delivery government policy at the grassroots level”.
Oyebanji, said he was happy as a government that the election was taking place, in order to democratize the government at that level.
His words: “The people on their own will have the opportunity to choose their representatives at the local government level.
The turnout is a bit low, that tells me that we need to do more on voter education and sensitization.
“Local government election is very critical to the survival of any democracy, because it is the closest to the people. I commend all the people for taking interest in this election and I commend all officials involved for doing what is right and allowing the people to exercise their right without any form of harassment or intimidation”.
While commending the State Independent Electoral Commission and the security agencies in the state for the peaceful conduct of the election, the Governor said government would continue to prioritize voters’ education and sensitization across the state in order to foster a more robust democratic process and participation.
“I am happy that as government we are doing this, because local government election is the most critical arm of government with respect to delivering government policies at the grassroots level and it is very important to democratise government at this level because it is the closest to the people and the beauty of democracy is to have representatives at that level being elected by the people and am happy that we have done this in Ekiti State.
“I am also happy because the people on their own have the opportunity to choose their representatives at local government level and at the ward level. So far so good, the turnout is a bit low and that tells us we need to do more on voters’ education and sensitization.” Oyebanji asserted.
Announcing the results on Sunday, after the Returning Officers in all the Local Government Areas LGAs and Local Council Development Areas LCDAs took turns to present the results of the various council areas, EKSIEC Chairman, Justice Cornelius Akintayo (rtd) applauded Ekitikete for the peaceful atmosphere under which the election was conducted.
EKSIEC boss declared that the All Progressives Congress swept last Saturday’s Council Election in Ekiti State by winning all the 38 Chairmanship and 177 Councillorship seats.
He also commended the parties that took part in the election for their sportsmanship spirit as well as the staff who worked on the field, the security agents and the media for a job well done.