Tomorrow, June 21, voters in Ekiti state, have chance to elect a new governor for the state, said to have the highest number of intellectuals in the country. The choice is really between incumbent Gov. Kayode Fayemi, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Ayo Fayose, himself a former governor who unfortunately did not complete his 4-year term because the state House of Assembly impeached him. He is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
More importantly, however, the poll will be a litmus test for Prof. Attahiru Jega’s INEC. How it handles this election in which the stakes are truly high will determine how much public goodwill and trust it will take into national elections due in February 2015. As for the police, it has its work already cut out. Its conduct in the build up to tomorrow’s poll led many to question its capability and capacity to maintain peace and order during and after polling.
The police authorities in Abuja have been saying all the nice things people want to hear. While sending off his men to Ekiti on Monday, IG Mohammed Abubakar warned them not do anything capable of “denting the credibility of the election and image of the police”. He added: “We’ve a very important assignment in Ekiti on Saturday and I expect from all of you a high sense of responsibility, civility, honesty and sincerity in the discharge of your duties.
“You are going to be watched by not only the police authorities, but also the people, civil society organisations, local and international election monitors, among many interest groups”, he stressed.
Unfortunately, Abubakar has no control over what his field commanders and the men under them can and will do. Proof of this was provided amply on Sunday, June 8, in Ado Ekiti, the state capital. That day, armed men of the Mobile Police(MOPOL) reportedly attacked a rally by the Fayemi Campaign, killing one person. What would appear to have sparked the attack was the sight of APC stalwarts sweeping the venue of the rally with brooms, the symbol of the party. The import was to remove the marks left in the sand by President Goodluck Jonathan who was in the state the previous day to campaign for the PDP candidate.
More than the police, it is INEC that has the bigger burden to discharge with regard to the Ekiti election. This Prof. Jega has said he would do. He declared recently that INEC would make the Ekiti poll the most credible ever. But many Nigerians do not trust INEC to deliver on the pledge of its head. And they point to the mess INEC made of the governorship election in Anambra state on November 16, 2013. One, the candidate of a major political party failed to find his name on the outdated voter register that INEC used. Two, voting materials failed to arrive on schedule in polling centres. Three, in over a dozen local government areas there was no voting at all. A terribly scandalised INEC was forced to declare the vote inconclusive and call a “supplementary” election in those areas a week later. Jega did very well to admit his men did a poor job in Anambra.
Well, Ekiti does give his INEC an undeserved second chance to make amends. He has given his word and on his honour too. But he must be seen to walk his talk for Nigerians to renew their faith in him and his INEC.