Fortes and foibles of 2022 Ekiti governorship poll


The Independent National Electoral Commission announced the timetable and schedule of activities for the just concluded Ekiti governorship election on June 16, 2021. By that schedule, the off-cycle, off-season poll was to hold on Saturday, June 18, 2022. It held as planned. Unlike in 2018 when there were 35 candidates, last Saturday, there were 16 candidates that contested the election with the All Progressives Congress’ Abiodun Oyebanji coming top. According to the Returning Officer for the election, Prof Kayode Adebowale, who is the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, the APC candidate scored 187,057 votes to defeat its closest rival, Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, who garnered 82,211 votes, and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (67,457 votes) and 13 others.

Factsheet on the 2022 Ekiti governorship election shows that there are three senatorial districts, six federal constituencies and 26 state constituencies across the states. There are 16 local governments area, 16 candidates, 177 wards, 2, 445 polling units and out of the 989,224 registered voters, 749,065 voters representing 76 per cent collected their Permanent Voter Cards. 346 Bimodal Accreditation System were deployed by the commission. INEC also mobilised four national commissioners and eight resident electoral commissioners to oversight the election.  The tenure of the incumbent governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, will end on October 15, 2022.

A few unique things about the 2022 Ekiti governorship election are that it is the first election to be conducted by INEC under the new Electoral Act 2022, as well as, the Regulations and Guidelines for the Conduct of Elections, 2022. It was also the second time INEC will be deploying the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System device state-wide after the November 6, 2021 Aanmbra governorship election. Ahead of last Saturday’s poll, INEC conducted a mock accreditation exercise across the three senatorial districts of Ekiti in order to test the efficiency of the new accreditation device. In Ekiti, the Commission also activated its result viewing portal so that citizens can follow through with the results of elections at the polling units.  Although the only female candidate in the election, Engr Kemi Elebute-Halle, had a poor showing at the poll, it is heart-warming that the Deputy Governor-elect is a lady, she’s Mrs Monitade Afuye.

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Many accredited journalists and observer groups including the electorate have lauded the just concluded poll as being free, fair, inclusive, credible and peaceful. INEC was commended for getting the logistics right as most polling units were open by 8:30am when the voting exercise commenced. The Centre for Democracy and Development said its data from election observation from Ekiti State indicated that 86 per cent of INEC officials arrived at their polling units by 8:30a.m. BVAS was also said to have worked optimally although few people could still not be accredited. It is also heart-warming that INEC was able to provide assistive devices for persons with disabilities and that priority voting was accorded to the elderly, nursing mothers, pregnant women and PWDs.

Ekiti is notorious for election violence but thankfully all that is waning now. However, there was still a loss of life recorded ahead of the poll when Tope Ajayi, a member of the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria who is also an APC supporter was murdered on June 11 in Itaji Ekiti when APC and SDP supporters clashed.

Although it is said that INEC is yet to get the redistribution of voters into the polling units right, unlike in Anambra and FCT Area Council elections where the commission said there will be no deployment into some polling units because they have no voters, there was no such thing in Ekiti. However, there is lopsidedness in the redistribution exercise. Instead of having a maximum of 750 voters per polling unit, some PUs still have between 2,000 and 3,000 registered voters. The commission was also unable to publish final data on the number of people who have collected their Permanent Voters Card at the polling unit level. In terms of voters’ turnout, out of the 989, 224 registered voters, only 363,438 were accredited representing 36.74 per cent. This is not abysmal like that of the November 6, 2021 governorship polls in Anambra where a paltry 10.24 per cent voter turnout was recorded, however, it is not still satisfactory.

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A number of factors are responsible for low voter turnout at elections. They include people’s disinterest in elections. Majority of the electorate believes that it’s a game of the elite and that the outcome is predetermined. The inability of elected representatives to deliver on their campaign promises does not also help matters. There is also fear of violence and the lockdown of the state or country due to election also created logistic challenges for those whose polling units are not close to their residences.  I have consistently advocated that if we are interested in turning things around, there are a number of measures we need to take as a country. This includes amending our electoral law to allow for multiple voting methods such as early voting, out-of-country voting, voting by proxy, voting by prisoners who are not on death row as well as mail-in ballots. There’s also a need to extend the voting hours from the current six to 12 hours as in the United States of America and Egypt. If we can’t get it to that length of time, we can start with eight hours.

The most talked about issue, which overshadowed the success of the Ekiti 2022 governorship poll, is the widespread vote trading. It seems the ugly phenomenon has become institutionalised. Arising from my on-the-ground observation of the poll in 2018, I wrote on this page an article titled, Ekiti ‘see and buy’ election bazaar. It was published on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Rather than abating, the situation is getting worse. The Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, which observed the election, said in a statement that it received reports of widespread vote-buying by political party agents across the 16 LGAs in the state. “In many instances, voters were induced with money ranging from N4,500 to N10,000 by asking them to flag completed ballot papers as proof of voting in a specified manner in what they termed ‘See and Buy’.

Expressing his grievances during the collation of the governorship election results in Ado-Ekiti, a party agent from the Action Democratic Congress said, “What happened yesterday was vote-buying centres and not polling unit centres.”  According to PREMIUM TIMES in its June 19,  2022 publication, incidents of vote-buying, particularly by agents of the three major parties—APC, PDP, and SDP—were reported during the election. The party agents induced voters with cash ranging from N1,000 to as high as N10,000 to vote for their candidates. The newspaper observed cases of voters arriving at polling units and meeting with party agents for the bribe before joining the queue to cast their ballots.

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In all the media interviews I granted on this issue, I have repeatedly underscored the need to make scapegoats of those who were arrested for this offence. It is both an economic and political crime to engage in vote trading. It has been criminalised by Sections 121 and 127 of the Electoral Act 2022. Under the law, both the giver and the taker are complicit and could go in for 12 months’ imprisonment or N500,000 fine or both.

 I learned the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arrested 15 persons in Ekiti for vote-buying, we should start with diligent prosecution of these ones. I should say that since this has gotten to an epidemic level, in future, mobile courts should be on the ground to prosecute both buyers and sellers of votes elections starting with the July 16, 2022 Osun State governorship election. In addition, anti-corruption agents should make this a covert or sting operation by being in mufti without any form of easy identification apart from their Identity Card. This is the best way to make mass arrests. Arrest, investigation and prosecution of vote traders should be accompanied by civic education and public enlightenment on the menace of the evil trade and its negate impact on democracy and good governance.

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