Just few days to the Ekiti state governorship election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) dismisses as false alleged plot by the body to rig the poll in favour of one of the candidates in the election, writes MIKE UBANI
Except the unexpected happened, the electorate in Ekiti state will on July 14, 2018 go to the poll to choose a successor to the current governor of the state, Peter Ayodele Fayose, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The election will take place in about 2,195 polling units spread across 177 wards in the 16 Local Government Areas of the state.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 35 political parties would take part in the election, but the current configuration of forces on the ground show that the battle of who controls the state post-Fayose, would be fought among only three parties – the PDP, All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
While the candidate of the PDP Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, would naturally enjoy the advantage of running on the platform of the ruling party in the state, his main opponent Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, a former minister of mines and steel development in the President Muhammadu Buhari APC-led administration, is riding on the crest of the proverbial federal might.
Conversely, the candidate of the SDP, Mr. Yemi Aiyegbusi, a businessman, comes in as a political orphan given the fact that his party is nowhere found around the centres of power – the state or federal government levels.
But despite running on the platform of the ruling APC at the centre, Fayemi appears not confident of winning the Saturday, July 14 governorship election. He reportedly accused Governor Fayose and INEC of printing fake election forms with the aim of rigging the election in favour of the PDP candidate.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, by the Deputy Director-General of Fayemi’s campaign team, Bamidele Faparus, the former minister alleged that three top officials from the INEC headquarters, Abuja, held a secret meeting in the Ekiti state Government House, Ado-Ekiti, where they perfected plans to rig the election.
“Curiously, these three top officials hold strategic positions in election management. One is from the Administration; one is Stores and Distribution Department, while the other is an Information and Communication Technology top official.
“For the reasons best known to them, only the Government House was their exclusive port of call. APC was never in the picture.
“After this evil agenda, Fayose stormed the media to raise allegations that the APC was in Ondo State Government House to manipulate the ballot to give the APC an edge in the July 14 election.
“When Fayose is up to something sinister, he will accuse an innocent man of committing that evil. And so immediately he made the allegation, we knew he had concluded an evil agenda.” Faparusi alleged.
He further alleged that “documents already produced include stamps, PVCs, result sheets (Form EC 8A) and INEC accreditation forms.”
But in a riposte, the camp of the PDP said the allegations from Fayemi’s camp, could only be made by a group that is unsure of winning the governorship contest.
“Those banking on the federal might to foist themselves on Ekiti people are the ones now crying just to divert attention.
“We have been preparing for this election since 2016, and Ishaku Abo, was engaged as a consultant since then,” said the spokesman of Kolapo Olusola Campaign Organisation, Lere Olayinka.
He continued: “Whereas, Fayemi is just running around trying to market a battered image to the same Ekiti people that he maltreated when he was governor and did nothing when he was a minister.”
As if the APC and PDP are engaged in a competition to malign INEC, and portray the electoral umpire as incapable of doing a credible job, Governor Fayose, also alleged in a state-wide radio broadcast last week that Fayem hired four INEC officials to manipulate the results of the governorship election in favour of the APC candidate.
He said: “I am still raising the alarm again of the plan of three Abuja senior officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); Pasca Ukenwa, Deputy Director, ICT, Abdulrasak Agboola, also Deputy Director, ICT, and Kenneth Ukeagu, Procurement Officer of INEC – they are working with Fayemi in a desperate plan to rig the July 14 governorship poll in Ekiti.
“ Ukaegu is planning to get ballot papers for Fayemi while the ICT directors are planning to reload card readers for Fayemi.
“Ukeagu is assuring Fayemi that if he can reload the card readers, he would get the ballot papers for them. The three INEC officers are all working with Amina Zakari, another big shot of INEC in Abuja. Zakari was the one Anambra rejected with a claim that she would rig the last Anambra election in the state. Zakari is a professional rigger and I have no apology for that statement.
“All the APC plans to do is to rig the election but we will reject that. They got into power at the federal level because the process was transparent. I have told INEC not to rig for me because the people of Ekiti are solidly behind our candidate.”
But speaking on Thursday, July 5, 2018, during the second quarterly consultative meeting with the media, held at the INEC headquarters, Abuja, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, dismissed allegations against INEC to rig the Ekiti governorship election as mere figment of imagination of both the PDP and APC chieftains.
He promised that the electoral body will deliver a free, fair and credible governorship election in Ekiti state on July 14, pointing out that the “Commission has successfully implemented 12 out of the 14 activities listed in our time table and schedule of activities released on 5th of October, 2017.”
According to him, the two outstanding activities are to ensure that political campaigns end on the midnight of July 12, and the conduct of the election proper on July 14.
Apparently alluding to the allegations by the major contending political parties to rig the forthcoming governorship poll in Ekiti, the INEC chairman said: “People should stop seeing INEC as a political party or its officials as candidates. We are not a political party, and we have no candidate in any election. We shall continue to maintain our integrity as election managers.
“The claims that the Permanent Voter Cards are cloned, and the Smart Card Readers reloaded, are false. No such things happened, and no such things are happening.
“The Card Readers are only configured to specific polling units…and they are set to operate only on election days – from 8 am in the morning, and the Card Readers are manually shut down after accreditation and voting by the last person on the queue, or they automatically shut themselves down at 8pm.
“The Card Readers only operate between 8 am and 8 pm. At 8 pm, they are automatically shut down. And if for any reason we have to conduct election on the following day, the Card Readers have to be re-configured, so the idea of preloading a Card Reader days before the election is simply untrue.”
He said that in Ekiti state where the Commission will deploy Enhanced Smart Card Readers (ESCR), “the configuration has not even commenced”, adding that “it is impossible to preload the ESCR, let alone do so with cloned Permanent Voter Cards.”
The INEC boss explained that “electoral officials at the polling units on election day will cross-check the voter’s name on the register of voters’ which includes the voter’s photograph,” saying that the voter must be personally present to vote.”
He announced that the voters’ register has already been given to each of the 35 political parties fielding candidates for the governorship election, while appealing to the electorate to discountenance allegations of plots to rig the Ekiti poll leveled against the Commission by the APC and the PDP.
Meanwhile, there is a groundswell of opinion that majority of voters in Ekiti would vote for the candidate of the political party whose administration has tremendously and positively touched the lives of a greater number of people in the state.
It, therefore, follows that Fayemi would be judged by what he did to improve the lives of Ekiti people during his first missionary journey as governor of the state, while the electoral performance of the PDP candidate – Eleka, would be determined by the dividends of democracy so far provided by Governor Fayose, to the people of Ekiti state.